Brett Easton Ellis’ best-selling novel about the dark underbelly and casual fascism of late 80s-early 90s American Capitalism has had its share of trans media adaptations, and, in my opinion, is just one small fragment among millions that has contributed to the major “convergence boom” which has gripped the 21st century. The first and most obvious example of this is the book itself. Aside from the somewhat “interactive” nature of sitting on your own time and flipping your way carefully through the story, the narration in its own way sets up a unique relationship between the reader and the protagonist, Patrick Bateman, who also happens to be the narrator. Bateman (a character that would take this whole page to describe) gives a strange first person narration that ranges from being uncomfortably descriptive to short and vague ramblings. There’s even a chapter where he proceeds to lecture the reader on popular 80s songs and why they appeal to him. It’s this extremely intimate and blunt narration that not only makes the reader feel like Bateman is speaking directly to them, but that they themselves are acting as Bateman’s brain or morality/conscience whom also assumes the part of judgment. The second example is the movie that came out in the year 2000 and starred Christian Bale as Bateman. The film as whole captures the existential discomfort that can be found while reading the book, but without sticking 100% close to the book. Though key moments are still in place and are even verbatim at times, more surreal sections such as when he tells the reader that he is being stalked by an anthropomorphic park bench, or overly-descriptive elements such as Bateman describing each character by their clothes and where they got every single article from, are ultimately cut for the sake of a clean and clearly-structured film adaptation. In addition to the page to screen transition, the film has also been available on instant demand programs such as Netflix, allowing the reader to become the viewer who now has the ability to save the movie to their watch list, as well as rating it. The final and most recent example is the Broadway musical which opened April 21, 2016 and closed on June 5 of that same year after only 54 performances. Admittedly, after having seen it, the show is somewhat clunky, desperately trying to juggle tone and making very odd narrative choices that raised more plot holes than reduced. It is also the first time (unless you saw the movie while in theatres) that you could hear audible audience reactions to go along with the story. However, a theatre audience can be a lot more active than an average moviegoer, especially when dealing with a musical, applauding/roaring after every song as well as giving way to more thunderous laughter, which is somewhat jarring to someone like me who is mainly familiar with the book. Speaking of music, the score of the show (a mixture of cold 80s techno and typical Broadway pop), combined with the rhythmic mastery of the actors/singers, is its own type of live convergence, not excluding the use of lights, sound, costumes, stage makeup (including lots and lots of blood), moving set pieces, revolving floors, and even projections which take up the whole playing space, whether they show static, news casts, or (of course) blood spatters.
Cyborgs and Homework Economy
For whatever reason, when the concept of cyborgs and especially ‘Homework Economy’ was first described to me, American Psycho was the first story I thought of. It may have had something to do with the book’s underlying warning of Capitalism and fashion slowly giving way to overall conformity, both physically and by extension. It’s also seems to be no coincidence that both the novel and Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto were written around the same time. One factor of the cyborg theory that both Brett Easton Ellis and the writers and director of the film took into account was the relationship between man and extension. The anti-hero, Patrick Bateman’s main quirk in narration is describing every single article of clothing that a character, right down to the store they bought it from. Through this extension, costume designers of both the movie and the musical take extra care in making the business suits and dresses look eerily perfect, thereby adding a mechanical and inhuman feel to the atmosphere of the story. Much attention is also brought to the different cosmetics Patrick uses every morning after he wakes up. This extension is so important to defining the shallow nature of Bateman, that Ellis dedicated an entire chapter to the morning routine. Christian Bale, who portrayed Bateman in the film, actually followed this routine in real life to get into character. In the musical, several songs are dedicated to both the aforementioned extensions, with titles such as “You Are What You Where” and “I Want It All” emphasizing the disturbing importance that 80s Wall Street-run Capitalism has put on trends. Another use of the cyborg is the relationship between man and machine. Aside from the relationship between Ellis and his typewriter, Bateman has a strange relationship with his Walkman, a device he uses to drown out the unimportant babble of the outside world. He also has a deep affection for tunes such as “Hip to Be Square”, to the point where he needlessly dissects them for the sake of his own interest. The film and the musical take this into account, with the former putting several of these songs mentioned from the book in the movie, and the latter using two or three already existing songs (“Hip to Be Square”, “I Can Feel it Coming in the Air Tonight”, and “Don’t You Want Me Baby”) with an almost hymn-like edge to each one.