Mary Harron’s American Psycho

An identity in crisis is no longer a personal phenomenon. It’s a sympathetic dilemma, sure but one that includes a person as well as the external world. The trick of possessing an ‘identity’ is that it lets you believe that you are its sole proprietor. The truth is that it’s anyone but you. The certainty of identity is, in itself, an illusion. The concept doesn’t exist unless it’s validated by others who believe in that very same fantasy.

Enduring the image of you remains undisputed. However, when someone else acknowledges your identity; crowning you with an ensemble that they think is more fitting and understandable – things start to become messy. American Psycho, through the lens of a powerful, rich, handsome man, Patrick Bateman, is not psychotic at all.

Patrick Bateman’s possessions are his set of values, his morality, his tools of conduct. An emphasis on the male facial products, at the start of the film, feels too rigid, too consequential. 
However, the scene soon paves the way to a soliloquy. This, for me, nullifies the importance of those very beauty products. You hear this next, “There’s an idea of a Patrick Bateman. Some kind of abstraction, but there is no real me. Only an entity… something illusory. And though I can hide my cold gaze and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can sense our lifestyles are probably comparable, I simply am not there.”

American Psycho mocks the superficiality of Patrick Bateman’s identity. The symbolic envy of business cards, the absurd appointments in supposedly elusive restaurants, the unsettling apathy; this forms the motif of the film. The film is blood-thirsty but it deviates away from the stereotype of a murderer. Bateman’s mania is rushed, impulsive, and careless. Besides the chainsaw or the ax, there’s also a scene where his phallus seems to be a symbolic choice for a weapon. It’s not how he kills that makes this film gripping. It’s the anonymity of his character; an identity that hides in plain sight.