American Psycho and Social Criticism. Illusion or Reality?

Term Paper, 2013

11 Pages, Grade: 1,0

Abstract or Introduction

The filming of Bret Easton Ellis’ bestseller novel American Psycho caused a major scandal after its publication in 2000 (Lee Brien). It covers the story of the serial killer Patrick Bateman, who enjoys a good reputation everywhere in Manhattan. Bateman is a young, athletic, handsome, successful, and stereotypical 1980s yuppie, who you are able to see in magazines, journals, advertising for Calvin Klein or Hugo Boss, and on Wall Street. On the other hand, he murders, rapes, tortures, mutilates, and cannibalizes his victims, but his cruel acts remain undetected. At first sight, Patrick’s behavior seems very irritating because he neither provides the audience with any reasons for his murders, nor with any psychological insight into his character to justify his actions. Taking a closer look, his behavior and violence are an expression of the materialistic, superficial nature of the American society to which Bateman wants to belong “and into which his sickness and inhumanity do actually ‘fit’” (Horsley 222).
Although a lot of Bateman’s brutal actions are shown, at the end of the movie the audience comes to question if all these murders really happened because some inconsistencies in his story become apparent e.g. Bateman outlines the murder of a man, who at this point was not even in town. Therefore, the question is raised as to whether the murders are real or just a product of Bateman’s imagination, and if they are real, is the society so over the top that not even the crime matters and he is able to escape unpunished?
In this paper, this question and especially what the murders are about to express either way will be analyzed in view of social criticism. Therefore, first of all, American society in the 1980s will be outlined to help the reader better understand the contemporary historical background to which the movie refers. Subsequently, the amoral materialism in American consumer society pictured in American Psycho will be described to clarify the social circumstances Bateman lives in. Accordingly, Bateman’s cruel actions will be analyzed and its truth content will be discussed to later on conclude that this kind of society is not able to fulfill his life and by the help of violence Bateman wants to escape the conformity of America’s superficial society.


American Psycho and Social Criticism. Illusion or Reality?
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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458 KB
American Psycho, Illusion, Reality, murders real, society, 1980s, bret easton ellis, materialism, media, film, movie, brutal, violence, america
Quote paper
Lena Groß (Author), 2013, American Psycho and Social Criticism. Illusion or Reality?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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