Toxic masculinity is a trait of men in which they are pressured by society to act in a certain way that is bad for them and for society as a whole. In the past, there have been a lot of movies that talked about toxic masculinity. From Fight Club by David Fincher to American History X, the topic of toxic masculinity has been a hot topic of conversation. This has its fair share of discourse the movie American Psycho as well.
There are many reasons why American Psycho stands out from the crowd when it comes to toxic masculinity and how it is portrayed on screen… First of all, it’s a feminist film that takes a satirical look at how society affects men and then how men affect society. Also, American Psycho is an excellent case study of how the male mind works. This is mostly possible because of how Mary Harron works. Her gender gives her a level of objectivity that a male director might not have had.
Breakdown from Paper
It’s interesting that Marry Harron had to overcome obstacles. During the pre-production phase of the film, both Harron and the writer of the screenplay, Guinevere Turner, were fired. Oliver Stone then took over as director. Stone was interested in putting Leonardo Di Caprio in the role of Bateman instead of Christian Bale. Gloria Steinem, a feminist journalist, talked Leonardo Di Caprio out of taking the part. She said that it would break the hearts of his teenage fans to see him beat and kill women on screen, which was a lucky coincidence. Gloria Steinem told DiCaprio to drop out, so he did, and Stone did the same. Mary Harron got the project back in the end, and the rest is history.
The Film is Based on Bret Easton Ellis’s 1991 Novel American Psycho. The film was based on Ellis’s 1991 novel of the same name. Ellis himself said that the novel was about empty consumerism and how it affects the male mind. Ellis found himself on a constant treadmill of consumerism, where being an alpha male was the only solution to all of life’s problems and the constant pursuit of consumerism was a vanity signal, an invitation to the top one percent club of men, and a boost to the fragile ego of an insecure man.
Ellis’s book was pointlessly more violent than the movie. It showed Bateman as a reckless individual a.k.a psychopath with no motivation who wanted to kill women and anyone who looked at him the wrong way. Roger Ebert, a famous critic, said that “Harron turned a book about men’s bloodlust into a movie about men’s vanity.” Harron and screenwriter Guinevere Turner wanted to get to the bottom of what made men embrace masculinity so much that it became harmful, rather than just focusing on a trait or a show.
Harron and Turner were able to show the full range of emotions a toxic man can have, from caricature-like craziness to childish insecurity, because they had a different and unusual point of view.
The Female Gaze and Toxic Masculinity
If Ellis’s book was a bloody murder spree, then Harron’s adaptation can be seen as a satirical clinical case study of the male ego. From a biological point of view, men are not as emotional or expressive as women. Because of how their brains are wired, the movies men make about being a man either don’t deal with the issue directly or only do so on a very basic level.
In the movie American Psycho, there is a scene where Patrick Bateman and his coworkers are looking at each other’s business cards and judging them based on the font, the quality of the paper, and the colour. This scene is funny because it has sexual undertones, with the business pointing to phalli. Even though they were among the top one percent of men in the world, the bankers showed a lot of fear and blind obedience.
Harron doesn’t come out and say that toxic men are bad. Instead, he uses humour and satire to get across an important message about the fragility of the male ego.
The ideas in American Psycho are still valid in Modern Men
“American Psycho” might be the most pessimistic look at modern society since “Taxi Driver.”
Nihilism is the idea that life doesn’t have any point. But this doesn’t mean that nihilism leads to bad behaviour in the end. How someone acts after coming to terms with nihilism is up to them. I’d bet that both the saddest and the happiest people on earth are nihilistic.
This is where the ideas in “American Psycho” are the scariest.
Patrick Bateman, the main character, acts like a strong, handsome businessman, but he is very insecure on the inside.
He loses his mind because of pressure from his peers and criticism about the status of his fucking business card. The key word here is “status:” Patrick’s card is worse than his rival Paul Allen’s. American Psycho shows that if modern men want to get ahead in the world, they have to climb a meaningless corporate ladder that has no deeper meaning in the end.
Individualism doesn’t belong in the modern business world. So, this makes the modern man angry, cynical, and, in the end, want to support Patrick Bateman, the man who is destroying the system. The “perfect” capitalist man isn’t something to strive for; it’s something to destroy.
You can also work on style points after a while.
As important as a club tie and a firm handshake
A certain look in the eye and a smile that comes easily.
People you lie to have to believe you, so that when they turn their backs on you, you can stick the knife in.
— Pink Floyd’s Animals
But the scariest thing about “American Psycho” is its last message.
Modern man doesn’t win, even if he wants to destroy the system. Every single one of Patrick’s coworkers is so full of themselves that they wouldn’t even know him if he admitted to killing people.
I imagine it being like this:
Bateman: Hey. I killed Jared Leto and I liked doing it. Doesn’t that stink?
Businessman: No problem, Steve. Also, have you seen my new business card?
Even though this is a clear exaggeration of a real conversation (and who knows how much of an exaggeration it is), it has a lot of truth to it.
It makes me wonder these things:
How many of your relationships aren’t just about getting something from them?
How many people really care what you say and do? Are you just a face in the crowd to the people you call friends?
How Social Media outlook is Portrayed in American Psycho
American Psycho also has a lot to say about narcissism.
The way Bateman talks about his own life sounds just like how “influencers” on social media talk today:
If my face is a little puffy in the morning, I put an ice pack on it and do stomach crunches. I can now do one thousand. After I take the ice pack off, I use a lotion that cleans deep pores. In the shower, I use a gel cleanser that works with water, then a honey almond body scrub, and on my face, I use a gel scrub that gets rid of dead skin cells.
— Patrick Bateman
What do social media influencers bring to the world besides this vague, overused idea of “fame” and “celebrity”?
How come we want it so much?
We must be out of our minds. We’ve got to be.
“American Psycho” makes the case that more people are at risk of becoming lonely, empty, consumerist narcissists who only care about “reality TV” or social media. And since mental health is getting worse and now 1 in 5 people say they have problems with their mental health, I’d say that our lack of connection with each other is slowly killing us.
Patrick Bateman isn’t a hero. But at the end of the movie, he does call for a more primal way of living, one that cares less about Kim Kardashian’s next makeup line and more about any kind of human connection.