American Psycho: Rich White Men Get to Do Everything

Intro by Maria

For this week’s episode, Brandon and I talk about the 2000 film called American Psycho. The movie takes place in the 1980s, and the central character is Patrick Bateman, a seemingly typical Wall Street executive who deals with mergers and acquisitions. But it doesn’t take long for us to realize that he actually isn’t so typical; in fact, you could say that he deals in MURDERS and EXECUTIONS, because we soon find out that Bateman is an actual, real-life killer. 

The movie lays into this, and it was controversial (the book was too) because it can be terribly violent. We follow Bateman as he struggles with his deteriorating mental health and slowly succumbs to his psychosis—he becomes THE American Psycho. And he can’t seem to stop killing people—particularly women—until he finally breaks down, after being chased by police, and confesses. 

Still, after he confesses, we realize that perhaps Bateman is typical after all. He is rich and white, and has a Wall Street job. He is what society deems as worthy of living, and so no one penalizes him for his murders or his sins; no, at the end, people are willing to overlook this because of his status in society. 

Sound familiar? It is yet another movie about the myth of the American dream and growing rich and being successful in this country. It is another movie that sends a strong message about toxic masculinity and capitalism. It tells us society is broken, and Brandon explores this by talking about how society benefits people who have money and wealth and some of the psychology behind that.

But that’s not to say this movie is without its problems. It uses mental illness as a vehicle to tell a murderer’s story, and given the stigma behind mental illness, that probably isn’t the greatest or nicest thing to do. Still, we can’t help but love this film and its scathing portrayal of American society and our American psychosis. So join us to hear this and more on this next episode of Peculiar Picture Show.

Show Summary

General: A Smart Take-Down of Capitalism Based on a Controversial Book

B: First time seeing this movie—smarter version of Fight Club and American Beauty; good job articulating the trouble with capitalism

M: Based off Bret Easton Ellis’s novel by the same title; adapted screenplay written by Mary Harron (director) and Guinevere Turner; controversial—many people think film is anti-feminist; Ellis’s novels are usually somewhat connected with similar characters and themes 

Like: Intelligent Commentary on Reagan-Era Economics and Toxic Masculinity

B: Smart; from a musician standpoint—every album he thinks is better is actually the album where people would say “they sold out,” which says a lot about his character—the mass produced mainstream music; left me thinking for a while, and I felt like I had to “solve” the mystery, but then I realized that isn’t the point, and it doesn’t matter because society allows Patrick Bateman to exist because he makes a lot of money

M: Themes: toxic masculinity, misogyny, consumerism, yuppie culture, conformity, the 1980s; satire; ending for me is more about the fact that someone like Patrick Bateman could get away with all these horrible things because that’s how society has framed white, rich men; humor; Bateman is a music dork, and the type of music he likes says a lot about the type of person he is; Christian Bale’s acting; entertaining; escaping themes and being stuck; mistaken identity

Dislike: No One Speaks Up About Misogyny

B: Wished there was just one character to speak up about misogyny, feminism, so that the message is slightly clearer since Bateman is portrayed as tragic

M: I have a hard time with this segment; I dislike it when people just write this film off as violent or anti-feminist without watching it 

Mental Health: Mental Illness as a Plot Device, Self Worth Deriving from Net Worth

B: Annoying that this is mental illness as a metaphor; some things certainly didn’t help mental health; psychology of how our social worth derives from how much money we make and how much we put into society; society is broken 

M: Title has a lot to say; problematic with equating psychosis, a real thing, with being a killer, but I don’t think the writers were doing that—this film is not about mental illness (or so it seems); movie has a lot to say about toxic masculinity, and we have so many episodes on this 


B: In another movie, him getting away with everything would be seen as a triumph for that character, but honestly, I see him getting away because people don’t care as a crushing moment for him because it was his last shred of humanity reaching out and saying, “No, I don’t want to let go of my humanity. I’m scared of losing myself here.” And then society is just, like, “Nope, don’t give a fuck.” And that was this permission he needed to get rid of the last of his humanity and society had finally won.

M: The fact that the movie makes you think that [Patrick Bateman] could get away with something like that—that he is obviously killing all these people and everything at the end with the helicopters—to think that you can think twice about it says a lot about how society treats privileged people.

Next Movie

Carrie (1976)

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