I have just finished watching American Psycho and I must admit I feel blown away. In the aftermath of Cath Davies’ Goddesses and Monsters study group, there couldn’t have been a better time to watch this masterpiece of a film that is so fuelled by almost every single thing we discussed over the course of the five weeks. While it is still fresh in my head, I really wanted to write about some of the moments that stood out to me most.
I watched the film with two friends who love and appreciate the film. They explained to me their take on the film, one being the one that I have adopted and feel to be the most accurate. Jumping straight to the end of the film, where Paul’s apartment is clean and spotless and the landlady wants nothing to do with Paul or Patrick, there is the idea that consumerism and capitalism can engulfed New York and the world so much so, that the characters cover up all of Patrick’s murders, as this saves energy, explaining and most importantly, money. A friend explained to me that they believed the reason the landlady denied knowing about Paul and the reason she so promptly asked Patrick to leave and not to cause any trouble was because the idea of a murder taking place in the flat would have decreased its worth and potential buyers likelihood of moving in. Patrick also confessed to up to 40 murders in a voicemail to his lawyer, who completely brushed it off the next day when they met in person. If we remain with the consumerism theory, it would be much easier for Patrick’s lawyer to not have to defend him against a confession for 40 murders, and since he was the only one Patrick confided in, it would be easy to act as if nothing had happened. Patrick’s lawyer is insistent that Patrick cannot be right about killing Paul, as he says he had dinner with Paul in London after the time Patrick says he was murdered. This is confusing and ignites many different theories. It would be easy to apply the ‘it was all a dream theory’ here, however after the complexity and issues tackled in the rest of the film, I do not believe this theory is what was intended for the finale of the film.
Of course, an interesting topic of the film to me was the treatment and role of women. I could probably write for hours about this! The first time I felt this was going to be a theme was when Patrick confidently tells his receptionist to never wear her outfit again, an outfit which consisted of a trouser suit. He insists instead she wear a dress or a skirt and high heels, definitely high heels, because he likes high heels. This shows elements of Freud’s theory of castration fear, as Patrick draws attention to and fetishes over the woman’s feet and shoes instead of her genitals. Castration fear is evident throughout the film, at other times when Patrick’s girlfriend asks what he wants for his birthday but requests that he does not ask for her to get a boob job like last year, he fantasises over the heads and hair of women, and he has two women perform oral sex on each other, whilst never actually performing it himself yet expecting it to be done to him. Patrick requests a blonde prostitute, and puts particular emphasis on the fact that she must be blonde. When she arrives and joins another blonde prostitute he has picked up in his chauffeur driven car, he rudely comments on how she is not blonde enough, and gives both women a name which he tells them they will answer to. Patrick Bateman dehumanises the women and degrades them to a name and a hair colour. He requests that they ask about him and his life and he boasts of his job and apartment. Whilst having sex with them, he pays no attention to the women and spends the whole time looking at himself in the mirror and flexing his muscles, or recording them having sex and then watching himself. He pays so little attention to the women, that when he tries to pick one up on a different night she comments on how she had to go to hospital last time, though we the audience, experiencing the scene through Bateman, were not aware of any discomfort or pain in any of the participants. Patrick Bateman only kills blonde women, suggesting an fixation on blonde hair and a fetish for blonde women. In one scene, after killing a blonde model he took home from a bar, Bateman is seen in his office stroking a lock of blonde hair across his face, before stuffing into his shirt pocket when someone appears at the door. This is resonant with the theory of the grotesque and Freud’s theory of the uncanny – hair as a relic can be endearing and nostalgic however, in certain circumstances it is made creepy and grotesque by the manner in which the relic is treated and the way in which it is collected. This is similar to the way in which the villain in Charlie’s Angels treats the lock of hair he rips from Natalie’s head during a fight scene. Patrick choose uninterested, distracted, unintelligent women as he knows they will fail to notice and understand his lack of emotion and empathy with the human race. Patrick notes near the start of the film that he keeps his boring job because he wants to fit in and seem normal. Patrick knows he is different, and is doing what he can to avoid other people noticing. On multiple accounts during the film, Patrick opening tells countless characters that he has killed people, is having murderous thoughts, and more of the sort. He is brutally honest with everything that is asked of him, though it is rare that someone listens and responds directly to what it is that he has said.
It is a conversation between Patrick and his colleagues that was one of the things I was most excited to write about. They have a conversation about women, in which they all agree that women that have good personalities are ugly, and women that are good looking have next to no personality or sense of humour. When someone jokingly suggests that if a woman has a good personality, that is all you need, they all retort that a ‘good personality’ for a woman is having a good body, satisfying all of your sexual needs whenever you wish without complaint and knowing when to keep her mouth shut. It is a regular occurrence during the film to note the appearance of a woman or the state of her physique, something clearly important to Patrick as he goes through he daily routine at the start of the film (part of this routine being exercising to pornography each morning). None of the women in the film have strong personalities, roles or purposes in the film, other than being provided for sex or observation.
There is so much more that I could write about this film, and hopefully will after watching it again and thinking more thoroughly about the theories discussed in Goddesses and Monsters. I can’t get this film out of my head and my brain is already buzzing with dissertation ideas.