American Psycho: A Love-Hate Reading
Reading American Psycho and watching its titular movie adaptation was a pain for me.
Transgressive novels give me some unpleasant experiences by just imagining everything I have read came to life. I just hate it when I realize that the narrator and Tyler Durden from Fight Club are the same person all the time the narration runs. And again, this American Psycho is no exception for me too. I just hate the ending.
The way I enjoy a literary work maybe is not as simple as other person. I started reading particular literary work by not putting myself as critical as I would, but rather I put myself as an ordinary reader (or viewer in case of watching movie). That’s just the way how I enjoy literary work, I enjoy it with full experiences before continuing it into the next critical part. Then, after enjoying it as ‘guilty pleasure’ (because literary works at first glance are meant to entertain us, the reader), I can come up with critical point of view based on my knowledge on particular approaches or theories.
Well, I’m not discussing this matter in form of serious literary criticism, but rather, I just want to talk about it bold and mild.
I read this novel when I was still in Depok, the place just outside of our beloved capital city Jakarta. In fact, my position was only about 1 km from the border gate between Jakarta-Depok. Some of you may know that I got ‘capital punishment’ for a lifestyle I hate to see, but I was so curious whether I could experience it or not. That time was so colorful and challenging, yet I regretted it somehow that I hate it (until know), but maybe I didn’t try with enough effort to understand the whole things on it.
I saw a reflection of myself in Patrick Bateman. Though I’m not yuppies (Young, Urban, Professional) like him, but I saw that I hate the life just as he is. I think he hates his lifestyle, forcing him so much to bear such unforgiving torture. He just killed a person just because of name card? What a jerk, but at least he wasn’t manipulating himself (which would be my biggest disappointment in the end of the storyline). If you hate that kind of life, just enjoy it or do something contradicted on it. What Bateman did choose? No, he is not becoming a dark knight like Batman who hates crimes in big cities (grudge from the past in that case), instead, he commits way hell disgusting, sadistic, dirty, and unpleasant things you could ever imagine in life. Well, this novel gives everything in detail, I really mean it, in detail! Yeah, Patrick Bateman was not Bruce Wayne though.
On a funny trivial note, Patrick Bateman was played by Christian Bale in eponymous adaptation, whom also happened to play Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.
Return to this psychopathic redneck, so called Patrick Bateman. No matter I hate this b*stard, I love his characterization. He faced the glamour yet hypocrite lifestyle by adding violence as the best ingredient. Violence is needed to fight against that kind of alienation. You are alienated in metropolis, urban, glamour, blink-blink, selfish, consumptive, immoral (well, they have their own moral code though), and in Bateman case, brutalities are the solution.
He is not a kind of person who accepts everything and let it go. It is sad and ironic judging from his social position that he is in the upper-state of wealth many people tried hard to gain, the thing most people dream to have. A perfect life that he himself thought that is not perfect at all. The problem is, he never really tried to understand and critical towards his own life. He thought it was OK to be wealthy, and it was OK too to become sadistic. And he thought it was OK to be calm, and it was OK to be rough.
I don’t want to go into that detail, but somehow I felt I was in Bateman position too. I was so synical facing lifestyle most people dreamed, it tortured me a lot. But I can see through its dynamism that Bateman didn’t reach. We all know that social-economic determinations create that kind of life. I don’t know whether Bateman realizes it, but I bet he knows. He is a smart person. And somehow, though I hate it, at least I really wanted to see it and experience it myself. Well, my wish was granted a little, and that’s not enough to judge it fairly. And indeed, maybe I will never understand urban lifestyle at all.
The ending disturbed me a lot, because everything is just illusions. So, it just Bateman had schizophrenic disorder all the time? Now it is not Patrick Bateman, just Bret Easton Ellis being an a**hole all the time. All the time, we have been served by a storyline of Bateman as he is so paranoid to his life. I feel the irony came to me in the end, expected for unexpected result for this psychopath, what I got is just another symptom of psychological disorder.
Well, that is a love-hate reading. I love this novel so much and I can’t complain much about the ending since that’s the best to sum up everything happened in the storyline. And love writing this too, I feel I’m not burdening myself as lecturer here, rather as a casual reader who wants to experience it all.
(Originally published October 24, 2011 on Multiply)