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“American Psycho”: Plot and Main Ideas


American Psycho is a film made as a critique of the materialistic American society, the incompetence of law enforcement, and misogynistic violence.

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Working as a black comedy, it combines elements of horror with more light-hearted aspects to lampshade the world around it. Additionally, the film exists as an interesting cultural artifact in terms of criminology. The image of Patrick Bateman, a confident, competent, and utterly violent serial killer, remains a primary point of reference for most people. Serial killers are less prevalent in the real world than in film, often making the latter the only source of reference for regular people (Jeddi, 2016). Therefore, a common perception of the subject as a whole depends much less on personal or real-life experience than on the effects of media.


American Psycho, a 2000 black comedy/horror film, is a significant piece of cultural legacy in terms of how people understand crime and criminals. Historically, the subject of mass murderers in media has always been a combination of allure and rejection, drawing from many psychosocial trends (Latora, 2020). In American Psycho, the audience follows the life of Patrick Bateman, an affluent and charismatic investor who has a darker, sinister side to his personality. The finale of the movie leaves both the viewers and the main character himself dumbfounded regarding the reality of his crimes.

Like many pieces of media before it, the piece explores a character of a serial killer. Patrick Bateman exists as a reflection of the society he was born (Martin, 2019). According to the director, the main character was created as a way to highlight the alienation and misogyny of the 80s, when many young men tried to find emotional fulfillment in status symbols and career success. This problem, much like the heightened presence of serial killers, is a product of American culture itself. The capitalist focus on producing value commodifies happiness as something to be bought, leaving people spiritually or morally hollow, unable to overcome adversity and form meaningful connections.

Theoretical Analysis

The film concerns the phenomena of serial killing, which has recently become a larger source of social concern. More captivating than regular crime or murder, many works of art have touched upon this topic. This may be due to a variety of factors, including the public fascination with the concept of “otherness,” taken to its extremes. Interest in this type of crime might also stem from the over-saturation of violence in popular media and the increasingly mundane understanding of crime (Beck, 2017). Serial killer stories manage to provide a unique kind of thrill to the audience. Previous lecture discussions touched upon the fact that crime media influences the way people understand real-world crime (Helfgott, 2019). Subjects like the threat of crime or the ability of law enforcement to respond to crime have also been widely shaped by popular media (Kania). Most notably, violent crime and the nature of the crime as an immediate threat to others are often over-represented (Kania). Similarly, the images of serial killers in the public consciousness are primarily constructed through the film (Holesha, 2018). The ability of characters resembling Patrick Bateman to evade the law while successfully committing acts of violence and blending into society brings into doubt the capabilities of the justice system itself.

In addition, one can understand the film through a feminist lens. The portrayal of serial killers as primarily targeting women underlines real trends and statistics of violent crime. According to FBI statistics, women account for 70% of all serial killer victims over the period of 1985 to 2010 (Bonn, 2014). Vulnerable groups of people and minorities are more likely to be targeted by violent crime, and the lack of subsequent accountability contributes to an existing image of a killer mastermind (Lee & Reid, 2018). The depiction of a killer in the film is primarily a criticism of violence against women, as well as the inability of law enforcement to stop it.


Overall, American Psycho remains an important cultural artifact in society. Many of the film’s plot, characters, and themes still strike as true despite their framing. Created as a critique of the ’80s, its portrayal, messaging, and satire are still able to resonate with the audience. In addition, the image of a serial killer, as shown and reinforced by movies such as American Psycho, has created a public image of a criminal.

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Reference List

American Psycho. (2000). Directed by Mary Harron DVD. International. Columbia TriStar Film Distributors International.

Beck, J., 2017. Why people are fascinated by serial killers. The Atlantic. Web.

Bonn, S. (2014). Serial killer myth no. 5: All victims are female. Psychology Today. Web.

Helfgott, J.B., 2019. No remorse: Psychopathy and criminal justice, Praeger, an imprint of ABC-CLIO, LLC.

Holesha, C., 2018. Perceptions of Serial Killer Status and the Impact of Pop Culture Crime Dramas. University Research Symposium.

Jeddi, M. (2016). TV and film portrayals of serial killers compared to Real Life Cases. GRIN. Web.

Kania, R. (n.d.). Media’s influence on the perception of criminal justice. Crime & Justice Research Alliance. Web.

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Latora, M.M., 2020. Netflix and Kill: A Framing and Uses and Gratifications Comparative Analysis of Serial Killer Representations in the Media. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

Lee, J. & Reid, S., 2018. Serial Killers & Their Easy Prey. Contexts, 17(2), pp.46–51.

Martin, G., 2019. Crime, media and culture, Abingdon: Routledge.

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