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There is an idea of a Patrick Bateman, some kind of abstraction—but there is no real me; only an entity, something illusory... and though I can hide my cold gaze, and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable: I simply... am not... there.
~ Patrick Bateman's infamous soliloquy.
Patrick Bateman is the titular main protagonist of Bret Easton Ellis's 1991 controversial novel American Psycho and its film and stage adaptations, as well as a posthumous antagonist in the metafictional mock memoir Lunar Park. He lives in 1980s Manhattan and works at Wall Street. The very image of a yuppie, he is obsessed with his health, cleanliness, appearance, money and music collection; however, he has a darker side, as he is also a serial killer, rapist, cannibal, and necrophile.
Patrick Bateman was born in Long Island to wealthy parents, and lives in Manhattan's Upper West Side in an expensive and exclusive apartment; Tom Cruise is one of his neighbors. His father is long dead and his mother resides in a sanitarium, and his younger brother Sean (the anti-hero of Ellis' 1987 novel The Rules of Attraction) attends Camden College in New Hampshire.
Bateman is a stockbroker at Pierce & Pierce, but does little actual work, instead spending his time going to trendy restaurants, bars and clubs, using cocaine and picking up prostitutes—many of whom end up being his victims.
Bateman kills men and women, the latter for sadistic sexual pleasure and the former because they anger him and make him feel inferior. At one point in the novel, he kills a child just to see if he will enjoy it (he does not). His murders involve brutal and often complicated torture; at one point, he forcibly inserts a Habitrail into a woman's vaginal tract (which he loosened with acid) and lets an oversized rat loose in it so it will literally devour her from the inside out.
In the film
At one point, he met Paul Allen, who works at another firm. He lures him to his apartment, where Bateman kills him with an axe because he was handling an account that Bateman wanted. He then disposes of the body, breaks into Allen's apartment, packs his clothes into a suitcase, and rerecords the answering machine's greeting to say that Allen has left for London. Later, he picks up two prostitutes, giving them his name as Paul Allen, brings them to his apartment, and has sex with both of them, while videotaping it. Just as they are about to leave, he opens a drawer full of sharp tools, takes out a coat-hanger, and growls "We're not finished yet." The prostitutes are bruised and bleeding by the time he lets them leave.
A few days later, he picks up one of the same two prostitutes, phones up a lady friend of his, and brings them to Paul Allen's apartment. He drugs their wine and gets them to make out. He then cuts up his friend with a chainsaw and sticks the body parts in the closet. He ends up chasing the prostitute out into the hallway and she makes it down the stairs ahead of him. Bateman drops the chainsaw over the edge, which hits and kills the prostitute.
Several nights later, Bateman is at the ATM when it flashes the message "FEED ME A STRAY CAT". He picks up a stray cat and pulls out his gun, but an old woman sees him and cries out. Bateman drops the cat and shoots down the old woman. Two police cars roll in with sirens blaring, and Bateman unloads his gun at them, causing the cars to explode. Bateman flees to his office, where he calls up his lawyer and leaves a message confessing everything.
Bateman awakes the next morning and is surprised that the cops are not looking for him. He goes to Allen's apartment, only to find that it is completely empty and up for sale. He goes to work and then goes for a drink with some coworkers. He meets his lawyer there, who compliments Bateman on his great "gag". When Bateman insists that he killed Paul Allen, his lawyer balks, saying that Allen called him from London the night before. Bateman has an epiphany: that the punishment and notoriety he craves will forever elude him, and he is trapped in a meaningless existence—"THIS IS NOT AN EXIT".
Bateman meets his end in Lunar Park when a fictionalized version of Bret Easton Ellis writes his death as being burned alive on a boat due to feeling haunted by the character.
In the non-canon sequel to the movie American Psycho 2, Rachel Newman killed Bateman when she was 12 after he had attacked and killed her babysitter.
I have all the characteristics of a human being: flesh, blood, skin, hair; but not a single, clear, identifiable emotion, except for greed and disgust. Something horrible is happening inside of me and I don't know why. My nightly bloodlust has overflown into my days. I feel lethal, on the verge of frenzy. I think my mask of sanity is about to slip.
~ Patrick Bateman.
Bateman spends much of the novel detailing the accouterments of his lifestyle, including expensive designer clothes and stereo equipment and his extensive workout and body beautification routines. He is vain, narcissistic, materialistic, and shallow; he cares for nothing but his own gratification and, by his own admission, has no real personality beneath his attractive exterior. In the film, he claims that his only emotions are greed and disgust.
He is also virulently racist, misogynistic, murderous, torturous, homophobic, and anti-Semitic, but feigns concern for equality and "traditional moral values" for the sake of his public image of modernity, or simply out of the misguided notion that this would render him more agreeable. It does not: his peers ridicule him behind his back, his equally shallow fiancé Evelyn is cheating on him, his own lawyer calls him a "bloody ass-kisser", and people outside of his social circle call him "yuppie trash".
A running joke throughout the story is that Bateman is, on the surface, virtually indistinguishable from his friends, to the point that they mistake him for someone else.
The only person in his life he has anything approaching feelings for is his secretary, Jean, who he knows is in love with him and who he passively accepts that he will probably marry one day. Even then, however, it is made clear that he sees her not as a person, but more as a beautiful object not to be destroyed. He also constantly neglects her feelings for him and talks down to her throughout the novel.
When Patrick was driven to insanity, he began to shake and seemingly feel remorse for his murder spree, which is soon shown to be little more than fear.
In the film
Look at that subtle off-white coloring, the tasteful thickness of it. Oh my god, it even has a watermark.
~ Patrick reacts to Paul Allen's business card.
Patrick: You like Huey Lewis and the News? Paul: Yeah... they're okay. Patrick: Their early work was a little too new wave for my taste, but when Sports came out in '83, I think they really came into their own, commercially and artistically. The whole album has a clear, crisp sound, and a new sheen of consummate professionalism that really gives the songs a big boost. He's been compared to Elvis Costello, but I think Huey has a far more bitter, cynical sense of humor. Paul: Hey, Halberstam? Patrick: Yes, Allen? Paul: Why are there copies of the Style section all over the place? Do you have a dog? A chow or something? Patrick: No, Allen. Paul: Is that a raincoat? Patrick: Yes it is! In '87, Huey released this, Fore, their most accomplished album. I think their undisputed masterpiece is "Hip to Be Square", a song so catchy, most people probably don't listen to the lyrics. But they should, because it's not just about the pleasures of conformity, and the importance of trends; it's also a personal statement about the band itself! Hey Paul! [Paul turns around and gets cleaved with an axe by Patrick] Try getting a reservation at Dorsia now, you f-cking stupid bastard! You f-cking bastard!
Evelyn: You're inhuman! Patrick: No, I'm in touch with humanity.
~ Patrick and his fiancé argue.
I have to return some videotapes.
~ Patrick Bateman's famous catchphrase.
There are no more barriers to cross. All I have in common with the uncontrollable and the insane, the vicious and the evil, all the mayhem I have caused and my utter indifference toward it, I have now surpassed. My pain is constant and sharp, and I do not hope for a better world for anyone. In fact I want my pain to be inflicted on others. I want no one to escape. But even after admitting this, there is no catharsis; my punishment continues to elude me, and I gain no deeper knowledge of myself. No new knowledge can be extracted from my telling. This confession has meant nothing.
~ Patrick realizes that he is trapped in his own personal hell.
He is prone to hallucinations and fits of psychosis, and the film leaves it ambiguous whether the plot actually occurs, or is simply a figment of his crazed imagination. For instance, at least some of the rampage occurring at the end of the movie is likely conceived by Bateman, as an ATM would never ask someone to feed it a "stray cat", and a single pistol would never be able to explode two police cars. Also, at the end of the movie, Bateman's lawyer does not take his confession seriously, despite Bateman's seriousness, and the horrendous details Bateman specified on phone. Despite this, there is no concrete proof that Bateman did never murder; for example, the murder of the homeless Al is realistic and highly plausible. Whether if all homicides depicted in the adaptations are his sadistic fantasies, if some of them are true while the others are in Bateman's head, or if every homicide is true, remains unknown.
It is more likely, however, that the murders indeed happened and that the ambiguity instead stems from the extent to which Bateman's environment is aware of his crimes and whether they were covered up deliberately or simply out of cluelessness; this may at least apply to the novel version, which is more so themed around the apathy and dehumanization of overly consumerist and materialist environments (such as 1980s yuppie culture) that would bring about whatever mental illness and/or personality disorder Bateman may be afflicted with in the first place.
According to Bret Easton Ellis, he himself was a disgruntled, socially alienated consumerist not too unlike Bateman and had been enveloped in such a lifestyle to the extent that it was the source of his inspiration and knowledge of yuppie culture while writing the novel, thus making leeway for the work and its commentary to be all the more scathing. Fittingly, he was also the same age as the character in the process of writing it.