Anatomy of a supervillain in cult comedy-horror ‘american psycho’ (2000)

Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), a wheeler dealer on Wall Street slays and slaughters for no reason. As his quality of life advances, his loathing of it gets increasingly extreme. Bateman’s character is a futile narcissist representing toxic masculinity ever-present in popular culture and politics. His lack of self-confidence stems from his internal mayhem that develops from society’s judgments. Bateman has immaculate enunciation of American English, speaking articulately as if a Politician, saying all the right things with correctness: women’s rights, human rights, anti-racism; his eloquence is a disguise for his “cranberry juice” stained bedsheets – yelling obscenities at Asians running a dry-cleaning business and threatening a female bartender behind her back. Film director Mary Harron’s strategic use of the voice-over is necessitous in signifying Patrick Bateman’s bemused personal life. The voice-over is a form of communication between Bateman and the audience; his façade to the world is revealed. Bateman’s voice-over allows the audience to eavesdrop with voyeurism, witnessing his truest essence behind closed curtains. The narration is tranquil; delivered with an even-temper. The film never explains the root cause of what stems Bateman’s lunacy; it would reduce the shock value and taper its effectiveness as a Horror-Comedy. Bale’s performance in the role is intentionally monotonous; his dreary exterior represents the vacant inner existence of a depraved soul.

Christian Bale at pay phone in a scene from the film ‘American Psycho’, 2000. (Photo by Lion’s Gate/Getty Images)

The business card exchange scene serves as a sparring ceremony between a crew of men with vacuous minds. The cards are removed and drawn like swords presented on a battlefield. The metal case holders open like gun cartridges. The envy of Bateman’s face in an extreme close-up reveals his abhorrence and inner loathing for an enemy’s finer card. Moreover, when Christian Bale wore the Bat-suit as a shield of armor in The Dark Knight Trilogy (’08-’12), his pin-striped business suit in American Psycho serves the same purpose. His skin care regime, vigorous exercise and fine Italian suits are layers of protection from society; epitomizing the communal burdens compelling him to wear a façade as a masquerade for his darkest demons. Even when Bale’s Bateman commits an atrocious murder, he wears a plastic, see-through raincoat over his business suit; unable to bare and unveil what lives underneath; detached from society yet attached to his persona – The Dark Knight.

Christian Bale in a scene from the film ‘American Psycho’, 2000. (Photo by Lion’s Gate/Getty Images)

American Psycho has a sub-character of music. The universal messages written in songs are there to teach humanity empathy and the meaningful lyrics are vicariously delivered through critical monologues. The contrast of massacres, lust and ‘80s music intertwine throughout the picture, adding a layer of amusement and comedy. Bands and artist’s like New Order, Whitney Houston, Huey Lewis, Robert Palmer, Phil Collins, Genesis, et cetera – Bat(e)man delivers monologues like a musical critic. The contrasting soundtrack of ‘80s New Wave and Rock ‘n Roll serves as a routine throughout the film; a formula written in the screenplay; a bizarre contrast of dialogue juxtaposed with visuals. The music isn’t interconnected with Bat(e)man’s life as a murderer; it serves as a backdrop that represents a genre that was ubiquitous with the era in the film.

Reese Witherspoon in a scene from the film ‘American Psycho’, 2000. (Photo by Lion’s Gate/Getty Images)

The monstrous villain, Patrick Bateman, isn’t the great white shark from Jaws (1975), but its teeth are replaced with his business suit. This villain’s sword is his business card. He owns a real Rolex; a loaded gun. He engages in a strict morning routine of 1,000 crunches – a bulletproof vest. He applies various facial creams and cleansers; a Freddie Krueger mask. He dines out at New York City’s finest cuisines – a façade. He’s not alone; accompanied by fellow Wall Street hustlers; clean-cut, pin-stripe wearing smokers engaging in anti-Semitic and misogynistic banter. The supervillain, Bat(e)man, is engaged to Evelyn (Reese Witherspoon), but can’t find time off work to get married. The prolongment of a wedding serves as a convenience since infidelities and affairs run rampant within the crew of colleagues and their respective spouses. Suited and booted, Patrick Bateman struts on Wall Street and wreaks havoc. The opening credit sequence primes the audience, coinciding extreme close-ups of food with slaughter: raspberries emulating blood; strawberry sauce dripping on white plates; slabs of meat being cut with steak knives; images foreshadowing the carnage that will come; the meaningless confession and utter indifference of American Psycho (2000) – Wall Street suits inflicting inner turmoil upon society with a backdrop of ‘80s New Wave and Rock. Ultimately, what the Bat(e)man’s of the contemporary world inadvertently neglect to consciously comprehend is: you can be masculine without being toxic.

Christian Bale drags a body in a bag out of a building on West End Avenue on the upper west side of Manhattan for a scene for “American Psycho.” April 19,1999. (Photo by Lawrence Schwartzwald/Sygma via Getty Images)

American Psycho grossed $34,266,564 on a $7 million budget. It’s available On Demand in 4K UHD.

American Psycho Theatrical Trailer

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