Tuesday, September 29, 2015

i like to dissect girls

Derr (2013) argues "'feminism' is not simply the absence of 'sexism'" which is good news for American Psycho, directed by Mary Harron and written by Harron and Guinevere Turner. Even though it's satire, it is difficult to suggest that American Psycho--

(For the record, unless I say otherwise--and I might later--I am referring to the film, not Bret Easton Ellis' novel. I have never read more than a few pages of the novel once upon a time in the 90s.)

--is not chock full of sexism. Still, Harron has defended the film as feminist. von Busack (2000) argues though, "American Psycho is feminist only at the level that it suggests that men can be vicious and selfish..."

(von Busack smartly critiques the film version by pointing out that the satire of the novel gets its power from being close to the 1980s--the novel came out in 1991--and "The only way to give American Psycho teeth would be to set it in the present. We can mock the fashions and the music of the '80s, but has corporate culture changed all that much in the past 13 years?" I would respond with two particulars: 1) who's mocking the fashion or music of the 80s? That stuff is golden, and this film puts them both on amazing display, 2) extend that count of years to the present, of course; we've got good reason to assume that men like Patrick Bateman are still in corporate offices dealing in brand names, impossible-to-get restaurant reservations, and mindsets in which they might as well be killing people the way their damaging the world... And, I didn't mean to turn that into a political statement.

Then again, isn't everything a political statement.

And, I didn't mean to turn that into a trite bit implying importance that isn't here. Apologies.)

Suggesting men are horrible isn't inherently feminist, of course. It's far too simplistic for that. Personally, I figure you need more of a comparison between men and women to get into something as big as feminism, anyway. The women in American Psycho are so underrepresented as far as screen time... Actually, everyone is, except for Patrick Bateman. Everyone else is just someone he's using or someone he might kill. (Except for Detective Kimball (Willem Dafoe) and Jean (Chloe Sevigny), who are the only ones to come close to believing Bateman might have actually killed anyone.)

Turner tells Dazed:

I very much think it's a feminist film. It's a satire about how men compete with each other and how in this hyper-real universe we created, women are even less important than your tan or your suit or where you summer and to me, even though the women are all sort of tragic and killed, it's about how men perceive them and treat them.

Classic mistake--assuming that putting men down is the same as raising women up. Like those folks who reply all lives matter when they hear black lives matter.

(Getting political again. Apologies.)

But anyway, Turner continues:

It's funny to me because so many women have not seen the film because they assume it's a horrible slasher movie and that always hurts my feelings.

It's funny to me, as a fan of slasher films and of Clover (1988, 1992), and who spent last October explaining over and over how slasher films are feminist, that Turner assumes slasher films are in opposition to feminism... Then again, it's not unreasonable to think that women (or men, for that matter) might think as much. Even if it is unreasonable to think as much. If you get the distinction, there.

The film may be anti-men, but that doesn't make it feminist. Jean doesn't do enough, nor does "Christie" (Cara Seymour), and the rest of the women in the film are just as vapid and materialistic as Bateman or the other men. In fact, the irony of the film (or maybe the heart of the satire) is that Bateman seems to be the only character--

(we might include Jean or Kimball if they had more screentime or their storylines went further and this turned into something more... Hollywood with the two of them teaming up to stop Bateman's murderous spree)

--who really pays any attention to other people and is the only one who seems to actually be capable of telling all the Pierce and Pierce vice presidents apart. Well, I suppose Christie can tell there's something off about Bateman from the start. But, she dies. That old lady by the ATM can clearly see there's something off about Bateman (when he puts a gun to a cat), but she dies. Jean sees Bateman's notebook of violent drawings but the film ends before anything can come of that. Kimball's investigation goes nowhere. And, Bateman is still where he was at the beginning of the film when it ends. He will still use women. He will still kill them. He will still very much be part of the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.

References

Derr, H.L. (2013, November 13). What really makes a film feminist? The Atlantic. Retreived from http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/11/what-really-makes-a-film-feminist/281402

Taylor, T. (2014). How American Psycho became a feminist statement. Dazed. Retrieved from http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/20751/1/how-american-psycho-became-a-feminist-statement

von Busack, R. (2000). A feminist 'Psycho'? metroactive. Retrieved from http://www.metroactive.com/papers/cruz/04.19.00/americanpsycho-0016.html

2 comments:

  1. I would rather meet a real serial killer in a dark alley than watch this movie! It sounds like a horrible experience involving horrible people. Personally I cannot understand any movie or any work of fiction that is not, at bottom, an idyll or a romance. Now it might be a baroque romance, set in a world of dark and grim beauty, but if there isn't even a flicker of any desire to dwell in the world of the film, I don't get it. The same applies to Se7evn, which I watched and which horrified me. A bad world may be worth saving...but not worth making movies about.

    Sorry for the (apolitical) digression!

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  2. The movie is worth watching. It basically resurrected Bale's career and is a good example of taking a rather unfilmable novel and making a great adaptation of it.

    Part of the appeal is that the film nails the soullessness of the characters involved and in the case of Bateman, the hollowness of their lives, to the point of madness and hallucinations (Bateman's ability to keep the players straight makes his hallucinations of the murders all the more vivid and ironic).

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