Do you remember Patrick Bateman? Drugs, sex and death in the novel that marked a generation

Few fictitious names of the contemporary literature. However, Patrick Bateman viciously permeated the neural circuitry of a generation of readers, perhaps unaware of reading ‘American Psycho’ the last novel of the 20th century and the first of the new millennium. The reasons are multiple, but before explaining them it is convenient to contextualize them to understand it better.

In the 1980s, the dream of a generous society towards a more or less just distribution of wealth was cut short. The folder to the glorious thirty was conjugated, at the end of the previous decade, with the emergence of a trilogy of power ready to counterrevolve the West. In October 1978 Juan Pablo II He became Pope of Rome. In May 1979 Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party won the UK election after one of the most well-designed campaigns in recent history. Finally, in November 1980 Ronald Reagan he became president of the United States of America. The conservative momentum made an appearance with unusual strength, more brutal if possible due to the fragility of the Soviet Union, resistant to the onslaught of the Cold War, increasingly insecure in the concealment of its own agony.

In the middle of that strange and decisive decade, the figure of the Young Urban Professional began to expand internationally, heterosexual men brimming with arrogance and youth dedicated to the financial sector. His galaxy was a warning for navigators, broken a priori with the Black Monday of Wall Street in 1987, when in a single day more than half a billion dollars were lost on the New York stock market.

In the middle of that strange and decisive decade, the figure of the Young Urban Professional began to expand.

Cinema and literature gave a good account of the phenomenon. We can go without many complications to classics such as ‘The bonfire of the vanities’, novelistic debut of Tom Wolfe, or ‘Wall Street’ from a Oliver Stone in a state of grace, well supported in acting by Michael Douglas, winner of the Oscar for best actor for his portrayal of broker Gordon Gekko, unscrupulous in pursuit of each and every one of his goals.

Both the book and the tape appeared in 1987. That same year, Bret Easton Ellis He was still savoring the honeys of the success of his debut feature, ‘Less than zero’, where he recounted with hair and signs the parties of the Californians’ father’s children. They defined it as MTV-era prose and its impact seemed, at first glance, unmatched, something confirmed by the not-so-warm reception of their second work, ‘The Laws of Attraction.’

The Los Angeles Writer He was barely twenty-two years old and as cheeky as possible. He had to give another blow to the table, and this came with his transfer to New York, the perfect setting to develop a character so powerful as to mark his entire career, until the rest of his creations were almost irrelevant.

Bateman’s faces are yours

In 1888 Jack the Ripper He sowed panic in the East End of London and legend attributes a letter to him in which he affirmed that the 20th century began with him. Patrick Bateman could be its contemporary incarnation from violence, assumed in our daily lives both by its constant television broadcast and by its transformation from multiple angles.

‘American Psycho’, needless to say, it is a literary artifact, yes, with an extraordinary composition. Its fifty-nine chapters play with the fact of not giving the reader rest with the mission of breaking with that depth of the long fragments, outdated by the modern demand for infinite downloads to keep the attention. In this sense, this logic fits perfectly with the spirit of its time, always faster due to a series of compromises transmitted to perfection in the vice president of mergers and acquisitions of the investment firm Pierce & Pierce, a nod to Sherman McCoy, Protagonic role of the ‘Bonfire of the Vanities’.

Bret Easton Ellis (EFE)

Graduate and Master of Harvard, at twenty-six he has everything he yearned for in the capitalist imaginary, from youth to wealth, from prestige to the gift of attracting the female sex and earning the envy of the male for his choice of clothing. Reality, however, collides with the inner self, and here the fact of finding ourselves before a narration in the very first person allows us to know much better, from the criticism exercised by Easton Ellis, an unfortunate being, prey to insecurities corrected with an integration absolute to the prevailing canons of his era.

Bateman is a victim of consumer culture and is hooked on a dizzying spiral of commercial brands

Bateman is one more victim of consumer culture. Addicted to the tv show Patty Winters, lives hooked from dawn to night in a dizzying spiral of commercial brands. Upon waking up, in one of the most famous passages, he goes to his mirror, where we understand how his routine is that of a metamorphosis to go on stage from the premises of a psychopath, well sheathed in his mask of supposed normality prior to Internet, in this sense less sophisticated, due to technological imperatives, than the anonymous hero of ‘Expansion of the battlefield’, of Michel Houellebecq, with a disappointment not even alleviated by the Minitel, a precedent of the network of networks.

Neighbour of Tom Cruise, his work dynamic is one of perpetual stress from competition, symbolized by his anger at having a less luxurious business card than one of his colleagues. You can dine in the fanciest restaurants, sleep with the most attractive girls, and earn the admiration of your peers for your trading, but any detriment to your stardom is an affront to remind you that you are not the only one capable of all those highly publicized victories. in the exaltation of a voracious individualism, propelled in this case to a paroxysm by a deadly lack of empathy with his fellow men.

The fantasy killer

This very accelerated train, well aligned with drugs and sex in abundance, veers into a paradox. Contemporary capitalism is insatiable. You can have everything, but it’s still not enough. Bateman channels the prohibition to boredom with murders where boredom with himself intervenes as factors, reflected in how he ends up with some of his work doubles, or hatred of the poor, minorities and women. To enhance the effect, Easton Ellis wraps his crimes in a double rhythm, at first slow, almost ceremonial, to later reach a frenzied crescendo, prototypical of a man adrift, a consumer of his supreme defect, as if it were holding him down and not could escape the unhinged thrill of inflicting death in the planet’s capital, where you never sleep and the corpses are anecdotes well captured in the daily press.

Capitalism is insatiable; Bateman channels boredom with murder

Patrick Bateman’s rituals, like the famous description of musical hits, are another derivation of his unease with his own skin. His awareness of being in an audience where he must meet certain requirements give him a mechanical aura, like a wrestler perched on the cusp from the slippery floor of having to satisfy himself so as not to lose bow before the continuous wheel of changes and novelties. In the end, to show him as a mere psychopath is to settle for a very linear exegesis of the plot and the construction of an archetype, blurred in the last bars of the book by the doubt if they have taken us for a ride by breaking the narrative pact. For more than five hundred pages we believed in a serial killer and perhaps, just perhaps, we are facing an obscene fantasy, yet another proof of helplessness for not being able to specify what is traced in the brain.

The limits of representation

It would be easy not to give so much coba to ‘American Psycho’ on its thirtieth anniversary. The serial killer is a model of American mass culture, fortunate enough to catch on the rest of the planet. Some critics saw the novel as a modern adaptation of Gothic literature. The castles of yesteryear would be the skyscrapers of today and tomorrow. The fear of the gloomy atmosphere of the past would be the fear of not having a handle in the contemporary world or navigating through shopping, paripees and a lot of pornography, one of Patrick Bateman’s great hobbies.

In April 2000 the film version was released, directed by Canadian Mary Harron and starring Christian Bale. The popular success of the film has gone beyond the cinemas and has configured, if you will, an understandable symphony with the novel, where Bateman, in case you doubted it, cannot do without the audiovisual, in part for feeling inside a movie and depending on television like a sick person, another nod to its merger with the rest of the citizens, since then Americans spent an average of seven hours a day hooked on the silly box.

American Psycho Trailer

In another fragment of the novel, Easton Ellis locates Bateman at the zoo, where he cuts a boy’s neck. Years ago, the writer was lucky enough to spend a Sunday afternoon with the Italian director Matteo Garrone in his Roman domicile. After a game of poker, we sat down to talk and he told me his idea of ​​his cinema before ‘Gomorrah’. The script was expendable if he drew each of the scenes. He had showcased it in spades through his 2002 film ‘L’imbalsamatore’, where he filmed one of the most incredible black chronicle stories of turn-of-the-century Rome. His next project did not come to fruition because of the harshness of what happened in the reality of the periphery and his willingness to tell it. In 1988 a dog cleaner locked a boxer in a cage to take revenge for the mockery and psychological abuse of the boxer, with whom he associated to perpetrate a robbery, without receiving financial compensation for his participation in it.

Pietro Negri, This was the name of the famous Canaro della Magliana, he dedicated an entire afternoon to deliberately dismembering his nemesis while snorting grams and grams of cocaine. When night fell, he engulfed his opponent’s body and burned him in a wasteland. After his arrest, he did not express any regrets. Garrone regretted not receiving support to produce his next film, another coincidence with Easton Ellis, composed and without an editorial for a brief period of 1990, when the most rugged sections of American Psycho came to light, until generating the resignation of Simon & Schuster to its publication.

Easton Ellis was composed and without an editorial when the most rugged sections of ‘American Psycho’ came to light

In the case of the Italian filmmaker, Fandango Films did not see anything clear about the visual translation of such a wild ‘fatto di cronaca’, in concomitance with the discards of Mary Arron in his ‘American Psycho’, where the slaughter of the zoo boy was absent from the footage since the invisible debate on the limits of representation, non-existent in literature for granting this art the gift of imagination to readers, the cinema being conditioned by the explicit visual field, not even safe if we applied the methods of the French theatrical golden age, when death and sex remained out of scene.

Something metamorphosed in the West during the first decades of the 21st century, so much as to elevate Patrick Bateman to legendary status and give Matteo Garrone carte blanche for ‘Dogman’, whose premiere in 2018 did not raise any kind of scandal because of what was told, brutal in the ink and much smoother on the screen, the director surrendering to the few restrictions of his trade.

Patrick Bateman came to stay. In the series ‘Dexter’, his protagonist uses that alias to get the drugs with which it subdues its prey. This wink is one of many, since the vice president of Pierce & Pierce has transcended the fictional to insert himself as a corrosive icon of the century, something also anticipated in the pages of the novel, drenched in the young man’s idolatry towards him. Donald Trump, god of his decalogue, the only aspiration to continue immersed in the nightmare.

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Do you remember Patrick Bateman? Drugs, sex and death in the novel that marked a generation