Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thursday's Thugs: The Dark Side of 80's Excess

Not long ago I talked about the sociopath next door. This week in Thursday's Thugs I would like to take that a step further and talk about a fictional sociopath that represented a generation.

The "Me Generation" that came to power in the 1980's wallowed in excess. Yuppie sensibility was at its height. American culture was about style, glitter, flash, power and pizazz. In my opinion nobody captured the dark side of the self-indulgence of the generation better than Bret Easton Ellis in American Psycho. Ellis's Patrick Bateman has all the outward trimmings of a yuppie hero; young, handsome, athletic, and filthy rich. He has climbed to the top of his wall street firm. His life is filled with parties, powerful deals, and all the trappings of success. He was just the sort of man the culture idealized.

Patrick just has one little quirk. For him, the rape, torture, and murder of prostitutes and homeless people is his hobby. He will occasionally expand his hobby to include a cop or even a child, but mostly he sticks to people who won't be missed. If you haven't figured it out by now, Patrick is a raving lunatic. He is very good at keeping up appearances and does a fantastic job of epitomizing manhood in the 1980's.

Taking a close look at Patrick Bateman forces readers to take a look at the dark places inside their own souls. Outwardly he has everything. Inside, though, the American psycho is tormented by his own hollow existence. His life, his success, everything the world admires about him leaves him numb. For him, murder is the only release from the banality of his empty life. It is the quest for something, anything, that will allow him to feel.

Money can't by Bateman happiness, but for a long time it allows him to get away with murder.

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