PATRICK Bateman, protagonist of American Psycho, had a role model in alpha male entrepreneur Donald Trump.
Cult fiction writer Bret Easton Ellis is frequently asked whether his creation is now occupying the White House. No, Bateman isn’t Trump, although both men have little concern for social niceties. The novel of 1991 and subsequent film depicted a successful young businessman who, intoxicated by the dog-eat-dog immorality of Manhattan life, began a serial killing spree. From mergers and acquisitions to murder and executions – no wolf of Wall Street can compare to Bateman.
Although he didn’t vote for Trump, Ellis has become a reluctant cheerleader of the man who has traumatised liberal Americans. The autobiographical White (the title is highlighted on the cover among a series of other labels: writer, critic, lover, hater, tweeter, free-speaker, transgressive, privileged and male) confirms Ellis’ status as a traitor to the cause. He ends the book with his support for Kanye West, a fellow maverick against oppressive group-think.
The life story is fascinating, a Californian upbringing gradually leading the reader to an understanding of how Ellis generated the farcically psychopathic Bateman. Now in his 50s, Ellis exposes the hypocrisies of sanctimonious Hollywood and New York society, with cogent analysis of the yawning social divide between ordinary Americans and the privileged literati.
Ostracised by many of his supposed friends. Ellis uses the platform of Twitter with such impact that it might have been invented specially for him (or indeed Trump). No bland sentimentalist or tedious virtue-signaller, Ellis displays Nietzschian will, the courage of his convictions sparking Twitterstorms among comfort-zone puritans who cannot tolerate diversity of ideas: –
‘Here’s the dead end of social media: after you’ve created your own bubble that reflects only what you relate to or what you identify with, after you’ve blocked and unfollowed people whose opinions and worldview you judge and disagree with, after you’ve created your own little Utopia based on your cherished values, then a kind of demented narcissism begins to warp this pretty picture.
Identity politics, micro-aggressions, trigger warnings and safe spaces disempower and trap the younger generations in a permanent state of victimhood. Frequent reference is made to Ellis’ gay partner, a millennial who is still getting over the shock of Trump’s election. Unlike his artistic peers, the author knew many Trump voters and was not surprised that Hillary Clinton lost. Ellis describes several encounters with maddened acquaintances, and scoffs at celebrities throwing their toys out of the pram. ‘Barbara Streisand told the media she was gaining weight because of Trump. Lena Dunham told the media she was losing weight because of Trump.’
Two years into the presidency, ‘the Left was morphing into something it had never been in my lifetime: a morally superior, intolerant and authoritarian party that was out of touch and lacked any coherent ideology’. Of course, Ellis’s book was savaged in the Guardian and New York Review of Books for its abject failure to see the reprise of 1930s fascism. Get real, Ellis would say to the liberal idealists who have no sense of proportion in attacking Trump and his followers: –
‘The relentless Hitler and Nazi comparisons were especially repugnant since my stepfather, a Polish Jew in his seventies, had as an infant, lost his family to the Holocaust, and I no longer could even pretend to sympathize with this hysteria.’
In promoting resilience, Ellis has an outlook not dissimilar to Jordan Peterson, without the Greek myths and lobsters. He is versed in the language of popular culture, which makes him all the more dangerous to the progressive agenda.