American Psycho (first half)–Group 2

American Psycho is, at least in part, a parody of the manners of affluent young professionals in NYC. What is one moment you found funny and why? If you found not a single moment amusing, why do you think that is? A failure in the novel? Your incapacity to see the humor? The general offensiveness of much of the language and people in the book?

5 thoughts on “American Psycho (first half)–Group 2

  1. Annabella Twomey

    As Elizabeth pointed out, Middlebury is somewhat of a pipeline to the Wall Street/finance world and it is no secret that this novel embodies certain Wall Street characteristics and stereotypes to a point of accuracy. In some ways, since there is a large Middlebury/finance/Wall Street overlap, there are some aspects of the “hustle and bustle” and “rise and grind” themes that are not only present in Wall Street, but in certain facets of Middlebury life and daily competition. (This is not to suggest I strongly relate Middlebury to the Wall Street environment of American Psycho in any way, because I don’t, but in the parts of Middlebury that are perhaps affiliated with the finance scene, I see some of those similar characteristics, though nowhere near as extreme.)

    A moment that I found very funny/ironic is Patrick Bateman’s rant/launch into his solutions for a seemingly perfect world after Price asks what more pressing problems are at hand (15). It is a very long paragraph to paste here, but it starts with…”Well we have to end apartheid for one. And slow down the nuclear arms race, stop terrorism, and world hunger,” and the rant continues until he ends it with, “Most importantly we have to promote general social concern and less materialism in young people,” (15-16). He is met by disbelief as none of his friends actually acknowledge what he’s saying, comment on it, and Evelyn changes topics and offers dessert. I found this rant funny because he basically lists all of the world’s, or mainly America’s, social, political, and economic problems in a long summary and lists things we “need” to do to solve them. While he offers good perspective, and some points in the solutions that I’m sure many people agree with, it is funny that he himself is suggesting this because he embodies none of the perspectives he’s offering. He himself is materialistic and sexist and elitist, yet he recognizes those things as problems in society. It is all very ironic, because he is not actually going to do anything to address any of these problems, but he lists them nonetheless. It is sort of reminding me of some courses I’ve taken at Middlebury where we sit debating many of the world’s problems and offer up broad ideas of things that “need” to be done. But we ourselves are not currently going to make these massive world changes (although we might one day). I’m not faulting Middlebury curriculum for having these discussions because I think they’re valuable, interesting, and do inspire people to make real world change. I just thought the comparison was interesting.

    Also a side note: I haven’t done so much research into Breat Easton Ellis other than the information provided by the slides, but was anyone else curious with how he became so well-versed in Wall Street classist information? Yes, he created characters and is a good writer in my opinion, but he is mentioning places, things, (as the slides discussed) specific brands, restaurants, clear indicators that he knows what he’s talking about and has either experienced it, or NYC life to some degree. I’m not saying every aspect of this is accurate, but it’s clear that his soul-sucking, materialistic depiction of Wall Street hit home for some people, so I’m curious if he did any extensive “research.”

  2. Carl Langaker

    I don’t want to point to one specific moment – rather, I want to discuss the trend of namedropping in the book, particularly so with objects. Bateman is massively familiar with brands that are tied to high-status and wealth, and to him it is as if the more of these things he can possess, the better he is. For instance, I found myself chuckling at the way he’ll never just refer to his credit card as what it is, namely, a ‘card’ – rather, he is adamant about always referring to it as his “American Express Platinum Card”. The way he just has to include ‘platinum’ is so betraying of his character; it reveals his desire to be affirmed and recognized by everyone around him (also note that before pulling out his card, he is sure to mention “my gazelleskin wallet (Barney’s, $850)”). Another example is generally his vast knowledge of high-class brands, such as Ralph Lauren, Valentino, Rolex, Oliver Peoples, Cristal, which he always is sure to point out regardless of whether it is him wearing the items or somebody else – being in the know, the inside circle of the upper-class, is pinnacle for Patrick Bateman. It very much plays into the social sphere in which he is in, where everyone is competing with one another, trying to have the most luxurious and high-class lifestyle.

    Something else I find interesting (and occasionally quite funny) is the use of italics in Bateman’s dialogue. A notable example is his discussion with the homeless man, Al. While the final outcome of their talk is excessively grim (Bateman first stabs Al in the eye, and then repeatedly in the stomach), the prelude to this is simultaneously cruel and humorous. Bateman exhibits a shocking lack of empathy and understanding, such as when he asks the homeless man why he simply doesn’t get himself a job. Here the use of italics add a sense of arrogance to his voice, as we the reader really hear where he is stressing his sentences. For example, Bateman asks “Listen. Do you think it’s fair to take money from people who do have jobs? Who do work?”, and later criticizes Al’s smell, saying ‘“The stench, my god (…) You reek,” I tell him. “You reek of … shit”’. Here the reader is struck by how cruel and lacking in social-awareness Bateman is – the italics really deliver this notion. I can so easily visualize his whole face cringing as he criticizes the poor homeless man. These are used throughout the book, and help form Bateman’s mega-arrogant and delusional character.

    I also want to point out my favorite scene from the movie, which is just as hilarious in the book: the business-card scene. Bateman’s immense pain upon realizing his card is not the nicest is hysterical, particularly because we see his morale gradually sinking. This descent starts with “A brief spasm of jealousy courses through me when I notice the elegance of the color and the classy type”, followed by ““Nice,” I croak, but manage to nod”. Bateman places so much of his self-worth into how his business-card is viewed by his peers, that him not having the best one is like a slap in the face – “I’m looking at Van Patten’s card and then at mine and cannot believe that Price actually likes Van Patten’s better”. The way they all have basically identical cards, yet are competing, exemplifies the flashy and competitive nature between these young men who are all virtually the same, which I think is a great social commentary.

  3. Elizabeth Srulevich

    Over a quarter of Middlebury students end up working in financial services or consulting after graduation, which is why most of us might recognize, or perhaps even are, this caricature of the Wall Street worker presented in the novel. Maybe it’s this familiarity that makes the novel that much funnier.

    Some moments in the “Dry Cleaners” chapter made me laugh because of their proximity to my liberal arts school reality. When Bateman visits the “Chinese dry cleaners” for the first time to complain about his blood-soaked clothes that were sent back to him with “flecks of someone’s blood” still on them, he’s shocked by the distance he needs to walk to the dry cleaners because “previously [his] clothes were always picked up after a phone call from [his] apartment and then were delivered back within twenty-four hours” (81). At Middlebury, there’s a service where students can leave their laundry bags in front of their door, and then pay to have someone collect their clothes, clean them, dry them, and then fold them and return them back in a day’s time. I’ve seen students use this service — with massive nylon bags dotting the hallways on a weekly basis — even when there was a laundry room just a few floors down from where they lived. Bateman’s laundry fiasco is just a dramatized, more absurd version of what I saw as a student, which only makes it funnier.

    Another moment in this chapter that I found funny is the same one Andreya mentioned, when Bateman darts out of the dry cleaners at the end of the chapter and mistakes a Columbia student reading Sartre on a stoop for a “very pretty” homeless girl, dropping a dollar into her full cup of coffee. I wonder if Ellis was referring to the common habit of the elite fetishizing the poor. This Columbia student reading a French theorist while wearing what was probably second-hand, baggy clothing (the understated uniform of the intellectual) most likely looked like something only a homeless person could wear in Bateman’s label-obsessed eyes.

  4. Andreya Zvonar

    At the end of “Dry Cleaners” Bateman drops a dollar into the coffee cup of a Columbia student, mistaking her for a homeless person. He proceeds to apologize and then hurry off into a cab, hallucinating on his way to Hubert’s. I found this scene particularly funny because one can imagine what this girl may have looked like – a typical college student living on a budget who does not have a keen interest in chique style or appearance. I dress like this and can imagine myself in her position. In particular, I have a favorite pair of old sweatpants and a sweatshirt that I wear almost every day. Aside from this surface comedy, the scene is important in the grand-scheme of the novel because it shows Bateman’s slow descent towards delusion. He isn’t hallucinating during this scene, but right after in the cab he is. Nevertheless, both moments come off as completely ludicrous. This suggests that he isn’t aware of how often he is daydreaming.

    Furthermore, it is important to note that Bateman is the narrator. Due to this first-person narration, we only see the story from his perspective. That is, because Bateman does not necessarily understand his own rationale, neither can the reader. The reader is left to infer based on Bateman’s actions. To me, this makes the story interesting to read. We get to ask ourselves: what on earth made him think that girl was homeless? I also find this novel interesting because many of our peers at Middlebury go on to take high-ranking business jobs in New York City, so one is bound to make associations between those he knows and the characters of the novel.

  5. Michael Taylor

    I found Evelyn’s dinner party early in the novel to be pretty well populated with funny scenes, but none so on the nose as Bateman’s impromptu exposition about the problems facing America in response to Price’s erroneous reference to events in Sri Lanka. Like a teleprompter gone haywire, Bateman begins speaking paragraphs about his disparate, often contradictory policy ideas regarding what to do about America. His final batch of suggestions are particularly (and very darkly) humorous in the context of the novel:

    “… we can’t ignore our social needs either. We have to stop people from abusing the welfare system. We have to provide food and shelter for the homeless and oppose racial discrimination and promote civil rights while also promoting equal rights for women but change the abortion laws to protect the right to lift yet still somehow maintain women’s freedom of choice. We also have to control the influx of illegal immigrants. We have to encourage a return to traditional moral values and curb graphic sex and violence on TV, in movies, in popular music, everywhere. Most importantly we have to promote general social concern and less materialism in young people.” (Kindle location [re: my last post, beware the technocracy] no. 280-295)

    The irony of Bateman’s extemporization speaks for itself, and I think it does a pretty good job of skewering the empty political dialogue of late-20th century America (“just say no!”). Given the numerous references to the Trump family throughout the novel, though, one wonders with a certain (“non-zero number”) amount of discomfort if Bateman’s political satire may just well apply through today. My own view is that Biden has restored a semblance of integrity, contra Bateman’s joke, but it doesn’t take a detective to find factions of American politics that still sound eerily similar to the fictional Bateman of 40 years ago.

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