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 American Psycho: a reflection.

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PostSubject: American Psycho: a reflection. Sat Sep 17, 2011 4:28 pm

This is an old piece I just found, written when I was around 17, I think (forgive me my grammatical/cognitive errors, I was young). Anyway, let it spark some conversation.

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“There is 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 even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable... I simply am not there.”

What does self-awareness matter? It doesn’t change anything. In American Psycho, Patrick Bateman is a perfect manifestation of that elusive dichotomatic form that plagues most of reality. The way he thinks and the way he acts are perfectly opposite; that is until, he actually acts upon his thoughts. So I can comfortably speak of how he acts and how he thinks, but to what do I refer when I speak of how he is? That’s a fundamental question about a person’s identity that I’ve often wondered. Is it a combination between his thoughts and actions? No, that can’t be right; they’re beyond comparable. Is it thought and motive alone? No, because no one can ever really know motive and that would leave us with a rather nihilistic outlook on knowing someone. So it’s action, then? No, because you’d be hard-pressed in finding someone to agree with the notion that Patrick Bateman is a good person. So what then? I have no idea. But that’s beside the point. Maybe when action becomes so far removed from thought, your identity kind of dissipates with it. “You can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours, [but] I simply am not there.”

I got a somewhat different message from what the movie intended, I think. I think that Patrick Bateman hoped that maybe there was some objective meaning to living. I mean, he obviously didn’t think there was anything objective about life, and he obviously didn’t act as if there were. But that’s the whole point, really. He murders a lot of people. But there’s something behind that. He’s trying to prove something to himself, I think. It’s not that there’s no meaning in life, so he kills anyone he wants; it’s that he kills anyone he wants to prove to himself that there’s no meaning in life. If life was completely meaningless then he could, indeed, get away with working as a respectable Wall Street Broker while thriving in the brutal and unabashed destruction of any life he deems fit. He could get away with this, and he does, actually. He does get away with it. But I think that he hopes otherwise. He acts as if no one cares, to prove to himself that no one cares. But therein lies the crucial distinction. He has to prove to himself that no one cares, which means some part of him thinks otherwise. What he really wants to do is prove to himself that there’s something wrong with the way he acts; maybe someone will catch him; maybe he’ll realize that life does have an objective worth; maybe his principles will undergo complete reform; maybe he’ll come to understand why he really acts the way he does. Maybe. But this doesn’t happen, of course. He learns a lot about himself. And in the end, he actually achieves complete self-awareness. But nothing happens.

American Psycho, I think, is a movie about a man that cannot come to terms with the completely subjective nature of his reality. Instead, he seeks reprieve in the notion that there is no meaning and that all of humanity is completely and irrevocably apathetic. He seeks to destroy meaning wherever he can, lest it signify his failure as a person. He seeks to prove himself right, but what he really wants to do is prove himself wrong. And when he achieves that proverbial self-awareness, nothing changes. He is still as empty as the reality that he constructs for himself.

At the end of his story, Bateman utters one of the many transcendental phrases that speckle the movie, which are probably traces of the novel that I’ve yet to read. “All I have in common with the uncontrollable and the insane, the vicious and the evil, all the mayhem I have caused and my utter indifference toward it, I have now surpassed.” He equates insanity with the inability to control yourself. So, for Bateman, identity is all action. Think and intend whatever you will, as long as you act in a respectable manner. A wretched thought, actually. Anyways, he suspects that he has surpassed it all. After all, he can admit to it, which means he must have learned something. Something must have changed. “But even after admitting this, there is no catharsis. My punishment continues to elude me and I gain no deeper knowledge of myself; no new knowledge can be extracted from my telling.” The punishment that he had half expected for the whole of his adult life continues to elude him. Maybe it’s not there, after all. He can come to terms with the fact that he’s utterly insane and utterly indifferent toward that insanity, but it doesn’t signify anything. He gains no deeper knowledge of himself, because there is no deeper knowledge to be gained. That is who he is, and learning it doesn’t change anything. So what does it matter which concept defines a person’s identity? It doesn’t. “This confession has meant nothing.”
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PostSubject: Re: American Psycho: a reflection. Sat Sep 17, 2011 7:35 pm

Is action the essence of an existence?

If so then the fiction character in the movie is struggling to assess what the limits of his activities are, or should be, in the absence of a God.

Why would he not kill, if there is nobody there to define him and he is his activity?

Perhaps it relates to Dostoyevsky's dilemma in Brother's Karamazov, expressed through Ivan:
In the face of a world full of murder then the act of rebellion would be to either perpetuate it by being good, changing nothing, or killing as an act of retribution, thusly adding to the misery.

About Ivan...
Camus, Albert wrote:

The man who could not understand how one could love one's neighbor cannot understand how one can kill him. Caught between unjustifiable virtue and unacceptable crime, consumed with pity and incapable of love, a recluse deprived of the benefit of cynicism, this man of supreme intelligence is killed by contradiction. "My mind is of this world," he said; "what good is it to try to understand what is not of this world?" But he lived only for what is not of this world, and his proud search for the absolute is rpecisely what removed him from the world of which he loved no part. -

From The Rebel

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PostSubject: Re: American Psycho: a reflection. Sat Sep 17, 2011 11:32 pm

What is fantasy one day at some point becomes acted upon in becoming reality.

I always felt that if they ever made a sequel to that movie he would kill for real beyond his fantasies of doing so. Eventually his fantasies would consume him where he would act upon them.

This reality that we take entirely for granted started with somebody's thoughts or ideals which through enacted creation became the "real" which we equate with it.

Almost everything in civilization is a manifestation of somebody elses thoughts whether they are living still or deceased having existed prior before us.

Thoughts become transfigured from one generation to the other through the artifacts of writing.

Quote :
In the face of a world full of murder then the act of rebellion would be to either perpetuate it by being good, changing nothing, or killing as an act of retribution, thusly adding to the misery.

It wouldn't be either of them really now that I think of it.

None of those options would change anything at all.

The world will exist as it always has with or without you in your participation.



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PostSubject: Re: American Psycho: a reflection. Sun Sep 18, 2011 12:41 pm

The truth about the world, he said, is that anything is possible. Had you not seen it all from birth and thereby bled it of its strangeness it would appear to you for what it is, a hat-trick in a medicine show, a fevered dream, a trance bepopulate with chimeras having neither analogue nor precedent, an itinerant carnival, a migratory tentshow whose ultimate destination after many a pitch in many a mudded field is unspeakable and calamitous beyond reckoning.

Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy.
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