We began class with the opening clip from 12 Monkeys. This film, and this clip more specifically, displayed multiple millennial anxieties. One of which is the anxiety over diseases or viruses. This one is very apparent, since the beginning of the film shows how humanity has abandoned the earth’s surface and moved underground after a deadly disease had wiped out a large portion of the population. This first scene is also reminiscent of The Matrix. Both films portray a fear of the power of the government or the power beyond our control. These two films, along with American Psycho, also portray the anxiety over the inability to tell reality from the simulacrum. The opening of 12 Monkeys also conveys the fear of a loss of individuality. Everyone is in identical cages which are lined up one after another, which is reminiscent of the imagery from the scene in The Matrix when Neo wakes up in a pod and discovers there are hundreds more that look identical to his. 12 Monkeys also shows that there was a fear of technology at the millennium. The virus that wiped out most of the population was created in a lab, which also shows the fear of terrorism. At that time there was a growing fear of terrorism because of the bombings in Oklahoma, the bombing of the World Trade Center, and the Columbine tragedy. The man made virus in the film is a terrifying combination of the fear of technology and that of terrorism.
We then watched a clip from Any Given Sunday. The clip was of the scene when the coach was giving a halftime speech to his losing football team. This clip is a good example of the fear of emasculation. It had similarities to Fight Club, which lead us into a student presentation of Giroux’s “Brutalized Bodies and Emasculated Politics: Fight Club, Consumerism and Masculine Violence.” He outlined Giroux’s main points, such as how the crisis of capitalism is the crisis of masculinity. Fight Club is a critique of the consumer culture and portrays how consumerism has emasculated American men. But Giroux believes that the film fails at its critique of the consumer culture because it only feeds into the desire of the viewers for violence instead of suggesting a solution to the problem.
The presentation led us into a discussion of the difference between the hard body figure in Fight Club and American Psycho to films such as Rambo and Rocky. The bodies of Brad Pitt and Christian Bale in the first two films are toned and muscular like the body of Sylvester Stallone, but their bodies are linked to consumerism, which is the very thing that is emasculating them. So while Rocky’s muscular stature was a symbol of his masculinity, Pitt and Bale’s bodies are more of an ironic critique of the consumer culture. Rocky was about strength and American Psycho was about the beauty of the body.
We then moved on to a presentation of Ellis’ text “American Psycho.” The presenter showed the beginning clip of American Psycho. She talked about how shallow the yuppies in the film were. The men were all so overly obsessed with their images. After describing their shallow lifestyles, she posed a question: once you find yourself “above” humanity, how can you entertain yourself? In the case of Bateman, it was sex and murder.
Jaap then asked us where the politics are in American Psycho. We discussed how the politicians are portrayed as equally superficial as the yuppies. And, similarly to the yuppies, their actions often lead to violence, although instead of starting serial killing death sprees they start wars. The film also acts as a satire of what has become the American dream. The yuppies are rich yet wreak havoc on society… they also represent capitalism.