Deep Dive: The unexpected return of American Psycho among Gen Z
Every month, one of our two issues is dedicated to diving deeper into a single trend that's permeating the Gen Z zeitgeist. This month: the rise of Patrick Bateman and American Psycho 👀
👋 Hi! We’re The Z Link, a global Gen Z-led social media agency that helps brands reach our generation. The Digital Native, written by our Trends Reporter, Shaurya Singh, takes a deep dive into niche internet micro-trends and subcultures, and analyzes them so you don’t have to. For any feedback, questions or suggestions, just reply to this email! <3
In this month’s Deep Dive issue, we’re exploring American Psycho and its unexpected rise among Gen Z. American Psycho (no, we're not talking about a certain president) is a thriller that was released in 2000. It received positive reviews at the time, but in recent years it's become a cult classic that has had Gen Z in an absolute chokehold. Get in and strap your seatbelts; we're going on a trip to understand why Christian Bale's most iconic character regained the popularity it did.
It was the spring of 1991, and the world was going about just as normal UNTIL Bret Easton Ellis dropped the hardest book of that year — American Psycho (yes, it was a book before). No, seriously, it was considered so controversial. It had the most gruesome and graphic descriptions. The book became a source of arguments and heated debates about censorship, free expression, misogyny and violence. Now the movie was graphic, but not nearly as explicit as the text it was based on. It had terrific comic timing, but made you question your sanity for finding it funny (Kim, people are dying). American Psycho has had its 'it girl' moment again since the initial lockdowns, and I believe it's really got to do with EVERYTHING about the movie — the characters, the set design, the fashion. And you will not believe how the American Psycho renaissance took place (hint: it's the topic of the last newsletter ;)). Whisper changed the course of memes; I'm fully convinced.
But why American Psycho and Patrick Bateman specifically? Because of the central themes of the movie. The movie's major themes of sexual insecurity in men, shallowness and obsession with materialism with a backdrop of the 80s finance bros, was, bizarrely (just like JoJo's adventures) something Gen Z related to during the lockdown. Yes, half of us were living slowly and embracing the cottagecore aesthetic, but some people were also interested in finance — either due to their situations or purely out of interest. We witnessed the rise of finance bros yet again, but this time their behaviour wasn't just confined to the elitists of high society in New York; no, no, it was sprawled all over the internet.
Lockdowns brought uncertainty and a fear of losing possessions (for good reason), which we saw in behaviours like hoarding toilet paper and household essentials. Hence, a rise in materialism, maximalism AND minimalism at the same time wasn't surprising. It became about survival; making money became important because of the uncertainty. TikTok was filled with ways to make money from home, passive income sources, stocks, and crypto. Everywhere you looked, things became about money. This is also when we saw a rise in the “old money” aesthetic, but that's an article for another time… 👀
Patrick Bateman is a narcissist; let's feed into that narcissism for a second and talk about him (not that I haven't been talking about him the entire article). Patrick Bateman isn't Patrick Bateman without his fashion and his house, because it really rounds him out. Patrick Bateman is synonymous with power suits and minimalism. He's meticulous, which can be seen in his skincare routine (slay, honestly) and how his house has been decorated. He wants to be better than the people he's surrounded with at work, and it's not in a healthy competition way; it's simply the need to be superior to everyone else, which also shows in who he chooses to be his victim. His house is minimalistic, monotonous and hollow, a direct reflection of him. He doesn't show much emotion, and when he does, it’s when he's talking about music. His being devoid of emotion is something the internet felt connected to because Miss Corona had absolutely drained us as well.
We saw Bateman's traits of minimalism, routine and materialism in ourselves. We wanted everything but also nothing at the same time. We wanted a routine but also not at the same time.
We all lived in a paradox and didn't know what to do. 2020’s lockdowns shifted the internet’s meme culture and changed the whole course of the zeitgeist. We were dealing with something we never expected to be dealing with, and went back to things we were already familiar with to feel a sense of normalcy. The way I see it, Gen Z’s interpretation of Patrick Bateman is correct in its own way because we related to certain aspects of his being - but did we miss the point of who he is?
It’s interesting to see how classic movies of the past can make such a return due to their underlining themes resonating in some way with the state of the world. A month ago, for Halloween, hundreds of Gen Z-ers on TikTok were showing off their Patrick Bateman costumes; now you hopefully have a clearer understanding as to why. All of these traits, combined with the lockdowns and newness of Covid, as well as the aesthetic and cult-like legacy of American Psycho, are to “blame” for its return. I don’t know about you, but we’re curious to see what’s next - I vote for Michelle Pfeiffer’s iconic fashion sense in Scarface. 😇
Any questions/suggestions as to what we should cover next? Reach out to us and we’re always here to chat!
— Written by Shaurya Singh, Trends Reporter at The Z Link
this was genuinely such a good article. it was fun and entertaining to read. <3