I've just finished reading American Psycho, and I'm confused why the book took the time to devote entire chapters to Bateman's love of different 80's artists. Specifically, Bateman spends upwards of ten pages just talking about why he loves Phil Collins, Whitney Houston, and Huey Lewis And The News with no impact on the immediate plot.

On one hand, everything Bateman is knowledgeable about (clothing, food, art, shampoo, bottled water) reinforces how incredibly shallow his life and the 80's yuppie culture is, so it would make sense that his love of specific music would function the same way. There's also some precedence to music being used to portray a dying culture in the book, such as deafening INXS playing in clubs, Bateman's use of sound systems as status symbols, or the use of walkmans to block out human interaction.

On the other hand, Bateman's explanation of music is far more nuanced than his exposition on anything else. He may talk about how a certain combination of clothing is desirable offensive or about how a certain club scored highly on Zagat, but he never goes into detail on why he feels that way. Arguably he feels nothing at all. When he talks about music in the dedicated chapters he writes intimately about why the music is good and he treats the artists as complex and valuable people, moreso than any other person he interacts with directly.

After thinking about it, I think there's good arguments from both sides. Is there a specific takeaway that I'm supposed to get from the book?

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    It's a fair question, but I honestly think you've answered it already: it's an illustration of how shallow Bateman and his prevailing culture are. Why music is highlighted particularly may well be a function of familiarity: either the author is more familiar with it than he is with, say, fashion, or he expects his audience to be.
    – Matt Thrower
    Nov 30, 2017 at 14:24
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    @MattThrower Maybe I'm just bitter about Ellis throwing Whitney Houston and Phil Collins in the same pool as INXS and Cindi Lauper and wiping them all off as equally shallow, especially when Bateman goes to great lengths to tell you, the reader, precisely why they aren't shallow and does a fantastic job of it, to the point Ellis probably just stole the commentary from a professional music review somewhere. Nov 30, 2017 at 14:35
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    If he stole it, he re-told in in Bateman's voice: which seems exactly the sort of thing Bateman would do in order to "impress". ;)
    – Matt Thrower
    Nov 30, 2017 at 14:51
  • @MattThrower - care to flesh that out into an answer? :)
    – Mithical
    May 30, 2019 at 17:55
  • @Mithrandir The currently accepted answer seems to cover it pretty well?
    – Matt Thrower
    May 31, 2019 at 7:40

1 Answer 1


The novel is intended to be somewhat of a dark comedy with levels of illogical reasoning. It is a satire on the yuppie culture of the mid 1980's.

The "take away" that I got from the novel is the absurdity of consumerism and how it can not only shape someone's identity, but entirely consume it.

There are several reasons why Patrick Bateman spends an excessive amount of time describing these specific musical artists:

  • These artists were at the peak of their career when the novel was set. According to the author, Bret Easton Ellis, the novel was set in the time period 1986 - 1987. These artists were on the top 40 billboard with one or more songs and were the "popular" artists at this particular time.

I was staying true to the time, 1986 or 1987, and I thought that those three pop acts would be in Bateman's headspace.

  • Patrick Bateman does not really have his own identity. He forms an identity by what he reads and listens to. He then attempts to educate others on these ideals like they are his own opinion. Such as music, fashion, current affairs and the "hot" restaurants of the time.
  • Patrick Bateman just wants to "fit in". This is why he spends to much time talking about popular musical artists of that time. He becomes an expert on these artists. He reads critics reviews on them and memorizes every lyric. If they are being played on the radio and are best selling artists, then obviously the majority of people are listening to them. This would include his friends and colleagues...whom he desperately wants to impress.
  • The novel is narrated by an untrustworthy source. Patrick Bateman is telling this story in the first person. Everything that he says is only meant to be heard by the reader. He is trying to sell us this music as if it's some sort of rare art form. He's attempting to justify the music he's listening to so that the reader will understand and agree with him that it's the "cool" thing to be listening to.
  • Patrick Bateman's fixation on these artists is just confirming that he is superficial and shallow. He has no real connection to the music or the artists. The only reason that he is listening to and analyzing their music is because they are "popular". This is confirmed when he attends a U2 concert. He claims to have never heard of the band, but he goes to their concert (because Donald Trump likes them, of course). He has some sort of feeling and emotion in response to their music. This is really the only time that Patrick shows any kind of real emotion.
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    Interesting... hadn't considered that Bateman's reaction to U2 could be considered an emotion, but that makes sense. Kind of flips the situation on its head, I had considered the U2 concert to be another heavy-handed blow to the 80's music scene, but if they managed to get something through to Bateman that he then distorted then that should be considered some kind of praise. Dec 16, 2017 at 7:58
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    Yes! I always interpreted Bateman as having a real reaction to the music. After reading interviews with the author, he is actually a fan of U2 and gives a nod to them in another one of his novels :) Dec 16, 2017 at 8:01

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