MOTW: Top Five Quotes from "American Psycho"

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A wealthy New York investment banking executive hides his alternate psychopathic ego from his co-workers and friends as he escalates deeper into his illogical, gratuitous fantasies. Starring Christian Bale, Reese Witherspoon, Willem Dafoe, Chloe Sevigny and Jared Leto.
Photo Credit: Lions Gate Films
March 12th, 2013

MOTW: Top Five Quotes from "American Psycho"

-- There's something about a deranged protagonist that makes for a memorable story and catchy quotes. If you need any proof of that statement, consider Showtime's hit series "Dexter." The quirky serial killer is loved by many, even though his voice-over narration displays a dark, offbeat view of reality. Still, Dexter quotes are emblazoned across the Internet, and many people even find a common ground with their own life in those odd bits of character. That same phenomenon is at work in Mary Harron's crime-drama, "American Psycho."

"American Psycho" stars Christian Bale as Wall Street pretty-boy Patrick Bateman. Bateman works for his father's company and lives a life of lavish wealth. What no one realizes is that Bateman is damaged goods. Materialism, envy, and hatred drive him to ever-increasing madness and homicidal activity. His actions and reactions illustrate that he is either soulless or so damaged that his soul is no longer discernible.

At the same time, Bateman's character has moments that hit home for viewers. Like Dexter, Patrick Bateman vocalizes feelings that many people relate to but would be too afraid to put into words. For example, when his supposed fiancé asks him about their past, Bateman replies, "We never really shared one." Viewers stuck in shallow relationships can relate to the statement. Many people wake up one day to realize they don't really know their significant others at all.

Other times, Bateman's character is so far gone that the average person would struggle to relate to him. In one scene, Bateman tells his lawyer, "I think you should know: I've killed a lot of people." He goes on to clarify this statement with details about twenty to forty killings, including one in which he tried eating the victim's brain. As Bateman lists past murder weapons, including a dog, a nail gun, and a chainsaw, the viewer is reminded that this character really is a monster.

In fact, it is possible that anyone who encountered such a monster in real life would be hard-pressed to believe the person was for real. One moment in "American Psycho" particularly demonstrates the point that people are likely to hear what they want to hear, especially when the alternative is so grim. A stranger asks Bateman what he does. Bateman replies that he is into "murders and executions." Oddly, the stranger asks whether Bateman likes his work, stating, "Most guys I know who are in mergers and acquisitions really don't like it."

As with most deranged characters, Bateman is not without a personality or emotion. In fact, it is likely that his misplaced and poorly handled emotions are what drive him to nightly madness in the first place. In one voice-over, the character reveals his skewed response to the outside world when he talks about arriving at a restaurant. He says, "I'm on the verge of tears by the time we arrive...I'm positive we won't have a decent table. But we do, and relief washes over me in an awesome wave."

One of the key quotes in "American Psycho" comes about when Bateman explains a small piece of his relationship with the rest of the world. He is discussing Whitney Houston's song "The Greatest Love of All," but in typical fashion, he has skewed the meaning to fit his own emotional concepts. He says the song provides hope that people can better themselves and goes on to explain, "Since...it's impossible in this world we live in to empathize with others, we can always empathize with ourselves." Although most people would consider that statement to be selfish, almost anyone would secretly agree with it from time to time. Everyone has experienced that stark moment of loneliness when it seems all other people are foreign and nothing connects. The difference is that most people take it no further, and very few people let it drive them to psychotic behavior.

The fact that a character like Bateman can be so deranged, so monstrous, but still be slightly familiar to most viewers is what makes "American Psycho" work. The American audience likes a good train wreck on the big screen, but there has to be something viewers can identify with, even in the darkest of villains. In the end, Bateman is seeking what all people are seeking: a better world. The fact that his ideas of better don't jive with normal concepts is beside the point, and it is both frightening and heartbreaking when Bateman realizes in the end that there is no better world for him. The dark movie ends on an even more shadowed note as Bateman relinquishes what little humanity he has left.