Is American Psycho a Comedy?

Is American Psycho a Comedy?

Is American Psycho a Comedy?

“American Psycho” is a 2000 psychological suspense movie starring Christian Bale and directed by Mary Harron. Despite some comedic elements, the movie isn’t typically considered a comedy.

The film addresses capitalism, consumerism, and the dehumanizing impacts of contemporary society. It is renowned for its dark, satirical tone. It may not be appropriate for all viewers because it contains unsettling scenes and severe violence.

The Plot and Its Humorous Elements

American Psycho is a movie adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’s novel of the same title. The plot unfolds around Patrick Bateman, a wealthy investment banker in New York City who appears to have everything. He is attractive and successful, as well as having an attractive girlfriend. However, as the story progresses, it becomes clear that Bateman is also a psychopath who loves torturing and killing people.

The general mood is dark and disturbing; however, it also has several humorous elements. These funny moments can be interpreted as making the story more enjoyable or providing a satirical critique of the shallow, materialistic culture of 1980s New York.

Satirical Jabs at Consumerism and Vanity

One of the most well-known funny elements of American Psycho is its satirical attacks on vanity and consumerism. In the film, Bateman and his colleagues worry about their appearance, clothes, and things they own. They mention expensive brands and have endless discussions about which bar or restaurant is the hottest place to be.

In one of the scenes, Bateman and his companions look at their business cards and debate, which is impressive. They get increasingly angry and competitive, even though their cards are nearly identical. This absurd scenario emphasizes the characters’ lack of sense of humor and their constant need to outdo each other.

The film also has scenes that mock the fashion industry. For instance, in a memorable scene, Bateman murders a homeless man with an umbrella and chainsaws. The scene is a clear homage to the fashion label Paul Smith, famous for its vibrantly colored raincoats. The film exposes the absurdity of our obsession with physical things by juxtaposing fashion iconography and brutal violence.

Dark Humor in the Kill Scenes

Another way in which American Psycho incorporates humor is through the use of dark comedy in killing scenes. Although the film’s violence is graphic and gruesome, there are moments when it’s used to make jokes.

For instance, in one scene, Bateman murders a coworker wearing a plastic raincoat while blasting Huey Lewis and the News’ “Hip to Be Square” on his stereo. The contrast between the uplifting song and the brutal murder creates an eerie and darkly funny effect.

In another scene, Bateman kills a prostitute brutally before arguing with another prostitute about the virtues of the group Genesis. The absurdity of the scene and the deadpan performance of the dialogue create a sense of awkward humor.

Satirical Commentary on Masculinity

American Psycho also uses humor to offer a satirical take on masculinity. In the film, Bateman and his male colleagues engage in hyper-masculine behavior ranging from their obsession with fitness to aggressive behavior towards women. However, the film exposes the naivety and absurdity of this toxic masculinity.

In the same scene, Bateman and his companions examine their injuries and compete to determine which has the greatest injuries. The scene is intended for laughter, but it also demonstrates how important it is for the characters to demonstrate their strength and dominance.

In another scene, Bateman is taking his wife to a fancy restaurant and is furious when she orders food that he believes is too fattening. The scene is hilarious and disturbing since it shows how Bateman’s desire to be in control and dominate extends to his eating habits.

The Historical Context of American Psycho’s Satire

The film came out in 2000, a decade after the book was published. The film’s satire on 1980s consumption and culture was timely since it expressed a growing fondness for the time and the recognition of its excesses and superficiality.

Reaganomics and the Rise of Materialism

In the 1980s, the United States underwent significant changes in its economy and culture. The Reagan administration enacted policies, referred to as “Reaganomics,” emphasizing tax cuts, deregulation, and the free-market principle. This led to an increase in the financial industry, which saw the growth of Wall Street and the wealthy elite.

A culture of materialism and excessive spending marked the 1980s. People were urged to spend money on luxurious items and experiences, and the desire for wealth and status was the primary motivation for society.

American Psycho satirizes this culture of materialistic consumption and the obsession with consumer products. The film’s characters are obsessed with their appearances, possessions, and social standing. They cite expensive brands and discuss which club or restaurant is the hottest spot. The film highlights the absurdity of this lifestyle by highlighting its superficial and absurd nature.

The Influence of Postmodernism

American Psycho also reflects the influence of postmodernism as a cultural and philosophical movement that arose in the latter part of the 20th century. Postmodernism opposed the notion of objective truth and embraced the notion that reality is an illusion created by social interaction.

The film employs postmodern methods to erode the viewer’s perception of reality and criticize the culture it depicts. For instance, the film blurs the line between reality and imagination, and it’s often unclear if what’s being shown on the screen is actual or just a fantasy. The film also employs self-referential humor and irony to criticize the world it’s mocking.

The Impact of the AIDS Epidemic

The rise of the AIDS epidemic characterized the 1980s. This disease significantly influenced American society, particularly gay people, who were the most affected by the illness.

American Psycho depicts the fear and anxiety the AIDS epidemic brought. The film has several scenes that focus on the character’s fear of infection; for instance, when Bateman does not want to greet a coworker who suffers from an open sore from a cold, The film also plays on the viewers’ fears of infection, especially in scenes where Bateman engages in violent and savage behavior.

The Philosophical Underpinnings of Humor

American Psycho is a controversial film that has been loved and criticized due to its dark humor. The film’s humor reflects not just the excesses and superficiality of 1980s society but is also an expression of certain philosophical concepts.

The Absurdity of Existence

One philosophical concept that underlies the humor of American Psycho is the concept of the absurd. According to this theory, human existence is intrinsically absurd because of its lack of purpose and meaning.

The people in the film focus on their appearance, status, and possessions, yet these goals are ultimately useless. The comedy in the film exposes the absurdity of this obsession and emphasizes the absurdity of their existence.

The character Patrick Bateman is particularly symbolic of this concept. However, despite his success and wealth, he’s still unhappy. His brutal and sadistic behavior signifies his inner turmoil as he seeks meaning or purpose.

The Critique of Morality

Another philosophical concept that underlies the humor of American Psycho is the critique of morality. The film challenges the notion that morality is universal and objective; rather, it suggests that it is a cultural construct that is subjective.

The protagonist, Patrick Bateman,  is a serial killer, but he’s not motivated by any moral rage or desire to make a difference. Instead, he is motivated by his own desires, which are affected by his cultural and social context.

The humor in the film is often due to the character’s moral lapses or willingness to indulge in morally wrong actions. For instance, when Bateman and his coworkers look at their business cards, they are not just showing their obsession with status; they are also highlighting the arbitrariness of social hierarchies and cultural values.

The Deconstruction of Identity

American Psycho is also a postmodern critique of identity. According to this view, human identity isn’t static or stable but rather a fluid and continuously evolving construct.

The film blurs the boundaries between reality and fantasies by highlighting the fragility and uncertainty of identity. Bateman is not just an unreliable narrator; the character’s identity is constantly changing.

The humor in the film is often derived from the characters struggles to define and keep their identities. For instance, when Bateman is mistaken for a different character, he gets increasingly angry and frustrated, highlighting the significance of identity within the film’s culture.

The Debate Over American Psycho’s Genre

American Psycho, a movie inspired by Bret Easton Ellis’s novel with the same title, has provoked an argument about its genre. Some claim it’s an eerie film, while others say it’s a satire or a dark comedy. The debate about the genre of American Psycho is not only an academic exercise because it reveals the complexity of the film and the context at the time it was created.

The Horror Genre

One reason to classify American Psycho as a horror film is its graphic violence. The movie’s depiction of murder, mutilations, and sadism is indisputably horrific, and many viewers find it difficult and disturbing to watch.

The use of lighting and music adds to the horror elements. The score, composed by John Cale, is eerie and disturbing while using bright colors and harsh lighting to create a sense of fear.

The role of Patrick Bateman, a wealthy investment banker who is an infamous serial killer, is another reason some people believe the film to be an unsettling horror. Bateman isn’t a supernatural creature; however, his erratic and sadistic behavior is frightening.

The Satire Genre

Some argue that American Psycho is a satire or dark comedy. The film harshly criticizes 1980s culture and its obsession with status, consumerism, and appearances.

The comedy in the film often results from the characters’ naivete and narcissism. For instance, when Bateman and his friends look at their business cards, it’s not just a parody of their obsession with status but also a mockery of the absurdity of their beliefs.

The use of humor and exaggeration can be used to prove that it’s a comedy. The characters’ actions are so absurd and bizarre that it’s difficult to accept them as serious, and the film encourages viewers to laugh at their absurdity.

The Dark Comedy GenreThe Dark Comedy Genre

Another reason is that American Psycho is a dark comedy. The film’s humor is not just a satire on 1980s culture but also a reflection on life’s absurdity and dark humor.

The character Patrick Bateman is an infamous killer and a mockery of an idealized version of a beautiful and successful man. His infatuation with looks and status is absurd and tragic, and his violent behavior is both comical and horrifying.

The use of sarcasm, irony, and dark humor support the idea that it’s a dark comedy. The juxtaposition of humor and violence creates discomfort, allowing viewers to think about the many facets of human nature and the social system.

The psychology of American Psycho’s humor

American Psycho is a controversial film that has been questioned about its humor. The humor used in the film is often dark, creepy, twisted, and uncomfortable, which poses questions regarding the psychological reasons behind it. In this post, we’ll look at the psychological theories behind the humor used in American Psycho.

Incongruity Theory

One theory that could explain the humor of American Psycho is incongruity theory. The theory states that humor results from misunderstanding expectations or a mismatch between what is supposed to happen and what transpires. In the film, the characters’ actions and behaviors are often surprising and absurd, which can result in an amusing reaction.

For instance, when Patrick Bateman goes on a rampage using a chainsaw, the action is completely unexpected and a departure from the normal behavior of society. The incongruity between what’s normally expected and what transpires can result in a humorous reaction, even though the event is shocking and violent.

Relief Theory

Another theory that could explain the humor of American Psycho is the relief theory. The theory suggests that humor is a means to ease anxiety or tension. In films, humor could be viewed as a method to release tension during scenes that could otherwise be unpleasant or disturbing.

For instance, if Patrick Bateman is chasing a woman with chainsaws, humorous dialogue could be seen to release tension and lessen the anxiety and fear the scene could otherwise trigger.

Superiority Theory

The theory of superiority suggests that the enjoyment of humor originates from a feeling of superiority toward other people. In American Psycho, humor can be viewed as critiquing and satirizing a character’s behavior and beliefs. The characters in the film are often depicted as naive and selfish. They are also materialistic, which can create feelings of superiority in the viewers.

For instance, when characters compare their business cards, this scene could be interpreted as a mockery of the absurdity of their choices and a critique of their sexiness.

The Legacy of American Psycho’s Humor

American Psycho is a movie that has left an indelible impression on popular culture. The film’s use of dark humor has been highly praised and critically criticized, and its impact is still felt today. This piece will examine the legacy of American Psycho’s comedy.

Influence on Subsequent Films

American Psycho’s humor has been a major influence on subsequent films and television shows. The film’s satirical style and dark humor have been recreated in films like Fight Club, In Bruges, and The Wolf of Wall Street. The resemblance to American Psycho can also be observed in TV shows like Dexter, which has an antagonist who is an infamous serial killer but is depicted as a charming anti-hero.

The resurgence of humor seen in the subsequent films and TV shows could be seen as a reflection of the influence of American Psycho on pop culture.

American Psycho’s depiction of mental illness and the way it uses humor to address the issue have been highly praised and critically criticized. Some say that the film minimizes mental illness and glorifies violence. Others believe that the film uses humor to explore the mental effects of illness on people and challenge social stereotypes.

Whatever one’s viewpoint, the legacy of the humor of American Psycho has influenced the ongoing discussion about mental illness within popular culture.

Satirical Commentary on Society

American Psycho is often seen as a satirical critique of society. The use of humor in the film to criticize materialism, consumerism, and the superficial value of elites has been highly praised for its wittiness and sharp criticism. The legacy of American Psycho’s satire is evident in subsequent TV and film series that continue to employ comedy to challenge society’s values.

For instance, the TV show Black Mirror uses satire to criticize the impact of technology on society. Likewise, Parasite is a film that uses satire to address the racial divide in society.

American Psycho has achieved enduring fame due to its dark humor. The film has become a defining cultural icon, with its references appearing in fashion, music, and art. The legacy of American Psycho’s comedy is evident in the continuing fascination with the film and the characters.

For instance, the musician Kanye West was famously known for using the scene from American Psycho in a promotional video for his album Yeezus, and fashion designer Alexander McQueen referenced the movie in his 2002 collection.


Is American Psycho a comedy?

There is a debate on whether American Psycho is a comedy or not, as it contains elements of satire and dark humor. Some people find the absurdity and satire in the movie comedic, while others view it as a disturbing and serious commentary on society.

What is the plot of American Psycho?

American Psycho is a movie that follows the life of a wealthy New York investment banker named Patrick Bateman, who is obsessed with material possessions and maintaining his image. As the story progresses, Bateman descends into madness and commits gruesome acts of violence.

Who stars in American Psycho?

Christian Bale stars as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, alongside other actors such as Willem Dafoe, Reese Witherspoon, and Jared Leto.

Is American Psycho based on a book?

Yes, American Psycho is based on a novel of the same name by Bret Easton Ellis.

What is the reception of American Psycho?

American Psycho has received mixed reviews since its release, with some praising its commentary on society and dark humor, while others criticize its violent content and portrayal of women.

What is the rating for American Psycho?

American Psycho has an R rating, due to its graphic violence, sexual content, and language.