Hostname: page-component-594f858ff7-pr6g6 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-06-09T02:49:27.382Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": true, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "corePageComponentUseShareaholicInsteadOfAddThis": true, "coreDisableSocialShare": false, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

The Generic American Psycho

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 March 2008


Following Elizabeth Young's 1991 analysis of the controversy surrounding the publication of Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho, this article discusses the efforts of the makers of the 2000 film adaptation to “rehabilitate” the novel. It explores the recognition of Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner that Patrick Bateman was constructed from the literary debris of a variety of “debased” genres, how they responded by constructing a specifically cinematic Bateman and how, in doing so, they renegotiated the “pigeonholes” of genre fiction originally used in hostile reviews to dismiss Ellis's authorial intent.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2008

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


1 Elizabeth Young, “The Beast in the Jungle, the Figure in the Carpet,” in Elizabeth Young and Graham Caveney, Shopping in Space: Essays on American “Blank Generation” Fiction (London: Serpent's Tail, 1992), 85–122, 88.

2 Naomi Wolf, “The Animals Speak,” New Statesman and Society, 12 April 1991, 33.

3 Stephen Holden, “American Psycho: Murderer! Fiend! Cad! (But Well Dressed),” New York Times, 14 April 2000, E1.

4 Roger Rosenblatt, “Snuff This Book! Will Bret Easton Ellis Get away with Murder?,” New York Times Book Review, 16 Dec. 1990, 3.

5 Ibid., 16.

6 Alberto Manguel, “Designer Porn,” Saturday Night, July 1991, 46.

7 “Junk” was one of the epithets applied by Rosenblatt, and appeared in numerous other “reviews” including John Leo's opinion piece on “Marketing Cynicism and Vulgarity” in U.S. News and World Report, 3 Dec. 1990, 23. Brad Miner of the National Review apparently found “artless” and “degrading pulp” to be more appropriate (Brad Miner, “Random Notes,” National Review, 31 Dec. 1990, 43). It is worth noting that all of these statements appeared before American Psycho was actually in print.

8 Quoted in John Berry, “American Psycho is not the Problem,” Library Journal, January 1991, 6.

9 Manguel, 46.

10 See Julian Murphet, Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho: A Reader's Guide (London: Continuum, 2002), 68.

11 Miner, 43.

12 Wolf, “The Animals Speak,” 33.

13 Terry Teachout, “Applied Deconstruction,” National Review, 24 June 1991, 46.

14 Manguel, 46.

15 Pagan Kennedy, “Generation Gaffe,” Nation, 1 April 1993, 426.

16 Quoted in Joshua Klein's “Interview: Bret Easton Ellis,” The Onion, 17 March 1999, now archived at (accessed June 2005).

17 James Gardener, “Transgressive Fiction,” National Review, 17 June 1996, 56.

18 Quoted in Kauffman, Linda, “Reviews: American Psycho,Film Quarterly, 54, 2 (2001), 45Google Scholar.

19 Dennis Cooper, “More than Zero,” Artforum, March 2000, 29.

20 Interviewed in Roger Cohen, “Bret Easton Ellis Answers Critics of American Psycho,” New York Times, 6 March 1991, C13.

21 Christopher Sharrett, “American Psychosis,” USA Today (Society for Advancement of Education), July 2000, 67.

22 Bret Easton Ellis, “View to a Killer,” from official film website, now archived at (accessed June 2005).

23 Quoted on official film website, now archived at (accessed June 2005).

24 Quoted in Randall King, “Guinevere Turner Does Double Duty as Victim,” Winnepeg Sun, 14 April 2000, 24.

25 Fay Weldon, “Now You're Squeamish?,” Washington Post, 28 April 1991, C4.

26 Interviewed in Sarah Kendzior, “American Psycho Drama,” Fangoria, April 2000, 40.

28 Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho (London: Picador, 1991), 284; Murphet, Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho, 75.

29 “Bringing it to the Screen” on official film website, now archived at (accessed June 2005).

30 Interviewed in Jeff Sipe, “Blood Symbol,” Sight and Sound, July 1999, 8.

31 Ellis, American Psycho, 217.

32 Emma Forrest, “Laugh Til You Die,” Daily Telegraph Weekend Magazine, 1 April 2000, 57.

33 Sharrett, “American Psychosis,” 67.

34 Peter Bradshaw, “Nightmare on Wall Street,” Guardian, 12 April 2000, 2.4.

35 Justin Wyatt, “The Formation of the ‘Major Independent’: Miramax, New Line and the New Hollywood,” in Steve Neale and Murray Smith, eds., Contemporary Hollywood Cinema (London: Routledge, 1998), 74–90, 81.

36 See interviews in Kendzior, “American Psycho Drama,” 41 and 82; and Nocenti, Annie, “Adapting and Directing American Psycho,” Scenario, 5, 4 (2001), 153–59, 187–90, 187Google Scholar.

37 Kauffman, “Reviews,” 41; Kim Newman, “Reviews: American Pyscho,” Empire, May 2000, 46.

38 Richard Porton, “Review: American Psycho,” Cineaste, Summer 2000, 44. Jonathan Romney similarly missed the novel's “authentic babble of nightmare” (Jonathan Romney, “Retro Psycho,” New Statesman, 24 April 2000, 47).

39 Interview in Robert Love, “Psycho Analysis,” Rolling Stone, 4 April 1991, 49.

40 Ellis, American Psycho, 90.

41 Ibid., 15.

42 Interviewed in Nocenti, 154.

43 Kennedy, “Generation Gaffe,” 428.

44 Jaime Clarke, “An Interview with Bret Easton Ellis,” (accessed July 12 2005).

45 Interviewed in Nocenti, 188.

46 Ibid., 189.

47 Murphet, Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho, 76.

48 Mark Jancovich, Horror (London: Batsford, 1992), 104.

49 Strangers on a Train was actually scored by Dmitri Tiomkin, but since Hermann provided the classic scores of Vertigo, North by Northwest and, of course, Psycho (itself referenced musically and visually at the very start of the film), Cale presumably found his compositions to be more immediately evocative of Hitchcock.

50 For discussion of Hitchcock's dissection of Thornhill's masculine identity see chapter 1 of Steven Cohan's Masked Men: Masculinity and the Movies in the Fifties (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997).

51 Tim Lucas, “DVD Review: American Psycho,” Video Watchdog, 65 (November 2000), 40.

52 The DVD release removes any doubt, as the “chapter” title for this sequence is “Chainsaw Massacre Pt 2.”

53 Murphet, 43.

54 Ellis, American Psycho, 350.

55 Rand Richards Cooper, “Committed,” Commonweal, 19 May 2000, 21.

56 Porton, “Review,” 43.

57 Jonathan Romney, “Retro Psycho,” 46–47.

58 Kauffman (“Reviews: American Psycho,” 41) directly repeats Young's observation that “no book since Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses had been so poorly read.”