I went into Saint Laurent on an impulse. Narcissism overruled logic. I was a willing casualty of consumerism—exactly the type of person who Kanye West raps about on "New Slaves." Even when I'm fully aware of the futility of my acquisitive behavior, the influence of vanity cannot be underestimated. I spent $600 on a pair of pants before texting a friend: "Am I Bateman?"
People are afraid to acknowledge the arrogance within themselves. But it's there. We all share an implicit motivation to advance that's fueled by greed and disgust. We're taught to suppress these feelings, but they're the truest ones we possess. Even at our brightest, darkness persists. The urge to monopolize remains. Our primal core pines for anarchy. A society in which we're allowed to exercise our ugliest emotions free of restraint is the dream. It's frightening to consider what we'd be capable of without inhibitions. It'd be grim, but liberating, and definitely more entertaining than watching The Purge for 85 minutes.
Patrick Bateman—the affluent, homicidal maniac who serves as the protagonist of the novel (and later, film) American Psycho—was constructed to hold a mirror up to civilization's inherent savagery. He was supposed to be a channel by which we could pinpoint the flawed ideology of modern culture. He was supposed to serve as a cautionary tale of how not to live, but, instead, he's been embraced. In the 23 years since American Psycho was first published, Bateman's transcended literature and become a cult icon, a legend, or—if I may—a hero in the process.
The one-liners about getting a reservation at Dorsia and returning videotapes only scratch the surface of what Patrick Bateman represents. His total dedication to a reality where superficialities like business card design are the most meaningful issues is oddly admirable. His willful ignorance towards anything of substance is a perverse sort of freedom. In his world, it's not only okay to buy $600 pants or spend everything on Alexander Wang, it's encouraged. Bateman taps directly into the id and operates with no consideration for the context that exposes consequence. Most would do the same if they had the courage.
There's beauty in divorcing the concept of persona and solely striving to satisfy an intrinsic need for pleasure.
We know that, in Bateman's case, his gratification-centric perspective lends itself to a lifestyle of murder, materialism and mania. But disregard your moral conditioning for a minute and you'll find that he's more honest with his actions than anyone. Bateman is an illustration of humanity at its most authentic. Imagine life without responsibilities and regulations and repercussions. Wouldn't your social viability be the driving force of your existence? Wouldn't you destroy anyone who dared to subjugate it? Getting a little blood on the Robert Longo comes with the territory.
There's beauty in divorcing the concept of persona and solely striving to satisfy an intrinsic need for pleasure. If mayhem ensues because someone else attempts to impede upon that mission, so be it. Our names, our jobs—it's all synthetic. That's why Bateman and his colleagues' actual work at Pierce & Pierce doesn't matter, just who has the better business card. Crunching numbers and kissing client ass doesn't tap into the competitive drive brewing beneath the way walking into the office with the best Valentino suit does. When confronted with subjects of fabricated importance, we would ideally detach. Bateman isn't lost in a sea of ideals. He is detached:
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.
That's the fantasy: to absolve ourselves of the mundane gestures that occupy every moment. That's what Patrick Bateman does. That's why he's idolized. Sometime last year, I spoke with American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis about the phenomenon of Bateman's cult status. I don't even remember what he said, I just wanted to namedrop and point out the fact that I drank whiskey and listened to Drake with Bret Easton Ellis. But I will say that Bateman is a hero because he embodies the absolute autonomy most can only hope to achieve. The average person won't become a raving lunatic in the name of self-actualization. Bateman is admired from a distance because psychopathy will never be seen as a credible form of expression. There's no revolution on the itinerary. Basically, this confession has meant nothing.
Ernest Baker's mask of sanity is about to slip. Follow him on Twitter here.