Specific films can do more than entertain with violence alone in the slasher and thriller genres. One such example is 2000’s American Psycho, which is just as much a commentary on the upper class and materialism as it is about a man slowly losing his grip on reality and resorting to murder. Throughout the film, Patrick Batemen’s deranged thoughts and actions only get weirder and weirder until eventually reaching a true breaking point. But one theory believes that the mass murderer only killed one person, leaving his body count nothing more than a hallucination.
In the film, Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) is a big-shot businessman who isn’t content in his day-to-day lifestyle of status, looks and trying to look and be the best among his peers. But rather than intake a vacation like anyone else, he instead finds a deeper meaning in taking lives. The first kill shown in the film is a homeless man doing absolutely nothing wrong. But the second comes when Bateman kills his coworker Paul Allen (Jared Leto) in his apartment. From that point on, it appears that Bateman can’t stop taking lives. Still, Reddit theorist baconara believes that Paul Allen was the only actual death in the film, creating a deeper narrative about the upper class in the process.
The main hint that Allen may be the only true victim in the film comes when Batemen confesses to his lawyer. Rather than being arrested or taken seriously, his lawyer takes his confession as a joke and tells him he had dinner with Allen only ten days ago. Because of his demeanor, it’s believed that the lawyer was paid off to cover up the situation and act as if nothing happened with Bateman’s father’s help. According to Bateman’s girlfriend Evelynn, his father is incredibly wealthy and likely encountered a similar situation in his youth. As a result, him covering up a murder isn’t a big deal. In fact, it’s probably just a minor inconvenience.
If true, this speaks to a greater issue with the wealthy and how, more often than not, they can sidestep legal punishment for any crimes because of their status or financial status. It also further drives home how unstable Patrick really is as he lived out an entire narrative in his mind where he killed multiple people violently and can’t seem to escape his torment. Yet, no one will let him face the punishment he feels he deserves. This is likely because it’s easier to cover up his actions than drive his family name through the mud in a murder case.
But while the theory is clever, there are some holes that make it lie in the middle ground rather than staunchly in fact or fiction. For example, the homeless man that is Bateman’s technical first kill came before Allen’s death. Therefore, Bateman likely killed two people rather than the one posited. The book and film’s message also contradicts this idea as the main goal is to show the vanity of the upper class and those that care more about status rather than people. This is demonstrated by Patrick’s lawyer not recognizing him during his confession and Bateman’s friends not even realizing that Patrick is visibly sweating and under copious amounts of stress. As a result, Patrick has to have killed these people because the grander his actions and the less those around him notice, the more the point is driven home.
American Psycho is a film that takes the idea of screaming loudly, but no one is listening to new heights. While it’s unlikely that Bateman only killed one person, it’s interesting how the message can change so intensely depending on the explanation chosen. Nevertheless, after over two decades, it’s a testament to the film that audiences still find new perspectives and ideas surrounding the story and its characters.
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