Patrick Bateman
Patrick Bateman
Known Aliases: Marcus Halberstram
Paul Allen
Gender: Male
Known Relatives: Sean Bateman (brother)
Portrayed By: Christian Bale
(American Psycho)
Dechen Thurman
(This Is Not an Exit)
Michael Kremko
(American Psycho 2)
Matt Smith
(American Psycho)

Patrick Bateman is a fictional character, the antihero and narrator of the novel American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, and its film adaptation. He is a wealthy, materialistic Wall Street investment banker leading a double life as a serial killer. Bateman has also briefly appeared in other Ellis's novels.

Biography and profile

Bateman works as a specialist in mergers and acquisitions at the fictional Wall Street investment firm of Pierce & Pierce (also Sherman McCoy's firm in The Bonfire of the Vanities) and lives at 55 West 81st Street, Upper West Side in the American Gardens Building (where he is a neighbor of actor Tom Cruise). In his secret life, however, Bateman is a serial killer murdering a variety of people, from colleagues to the homeless to prostitutes. His crimes—including rape, torture, necrophilia, and cannibalism—are described in graphic detail in the novel.

Bateman comes from a wealthy family. His parents have a house on Long Island, and he mentions a summer house in Newport. His parents divorced sometime earlier, while his mother became sick and now resides at a sanatorium. His father, who first appeared in Ellis' preceding novel The Rules of Attraction, grew up on an estate in Connecticut, and now owns an apartment in the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan. He is assumed to be dead as he is mentioned only in past tense during the novel. Bateman's younger brother Sean attends Camden College (and is a protagonist of Ellis' previous novel, The Rules of Attraction, in which Patrick Bateman was first introduced). Bateman attended Phillips Exeter Academy for prep school. He graduated from Harvard College in 1984 and Harvard Business School two years later, and moved to New York City.


As written by Ellis, Bateman is the ultimate stereotype of yuppie greed: rich, shallow, and addicted to sex, drugs, and conspicuous consumption. All of his friends look alike to him, to the point that he often confuses one for another as they often confuse him for other people too. Bateman takes delight in obsessively detailing virtually every single feature of his designer clothes, workout routine, business cards, alcoholic drinks, elaborate high-end stereo, and home theater sound system. He is engaged to an equally rich, shallow woman named Evelyn Richards. He has a mistress on the side (the fiancee of a gay colleague he despises) and has regular liaisons with prostitutes and women he encounters at clubs, many of whom end up being his victims. The one woman (and possibly the one person) in his life he has anything approaching feelings for is his secretary, Jean. She is the only person in his life who is not completely shallow, so he cannot bring himself to seduce, rape, or kill her. He casually acknowledges her as "Jean, my secretary who is in love with me" and introduces her in the narration as someone whom he "will probably end up married to someday".

Despite his affluence and high social status, Bateman is wracked by feelings of insecurity and self-hatred. He kills many of his victims because they make him feel inadequate, usually by having better taste than he does. He is deeply disliked by others as well—his friends mock him as the "boy next door"; his own lawyer refers to him as a "bloody ass-kisser... a brown-nosing goody-goody"; and he is often dismissed as "yuppie trash" by people outside his social circle.

Bateman often expresses doubts regarding his own sanity and he has periodic attacks of psychosis, during which he hallucinates. It is left open to interpretation whether Bateman actually commits the acts he describes, or whether he is merely hallucinating them; he is, therefore, an unreliable narrator. In the climax of the story, Bateman calls his lawyer and leaves a lengthy, detailed message confessing all of his crimes. He later runs into his lawyer, who mistakes him for someone else and dismisses the confession as a joke, also claiming to have had dinner with one of his victims after Bateman had supposedly killed him, leaving the supposed reality of Bateman's acts open to audience interpretation.

He often experiences feelings of depersonalization. In his own words, "although I can hide my cold gaze and you can shake my hand and feel my flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable: I simply am not there." Although Bateman often claims that he is devoid of emotion, he also describes experiencing moments of extreme rage, panic or grief—being on the "verge of tears"—often over trivial inconveniences such as remembering to return videotapes or trying to obtain dinner reservations. In the middle of dismembering a victim, he breaks down, sobbing that he "just wants to be loved". He takes psychotropics, like Xanax, to control these emotions.

Bateman compensates for these insecurities through obsessive vanity and personal grooming, with unwavering attention to detail. He buys the most fashionable, expensive clothing and accessories possible (e.g. Salvatore Ferragamo and Valentino suits, Oliver Peoples glasses and Jean Paul Gaultier, Louis Vuitton and Bottega Veneta leather goods) as a means of effecting some "control" over his otherwise chaotic life. Likewise, he categorizes people by what they wear and how they look because they are more easily "understood" in terms of labels and stereotypes. Bateman's apartment also is firmly controlled in terms of look and taste, with the latest music, food, and art.

Bateman kills more or less indiscriminately, with no preferred type of victim and no consistent or preferred method of killing. Throughout the novel, he kills men, women, animals, and—on one instance—a child. He kills women mostly for sadistic sexual pleasure, often during or just after sex, and is also a prolific rapist. He kills men because they anger or annoy him, and the child just to see if he would enjoy it (he did not). Periodically, he matter-of-factly confesses his crimes to his friends, co-workers, and even complete strangers ("I like to dissect girls, did you know I'm utterly insane") just to see if they are actually listening to him. They either are not, or they think that he is joking.

In film and stage

Though Christian Bale had been the first choice for the part by both Ellis and Harron, the producers offered the part to Keanu Reeves, Edward Norton, and Brad Pitt. Leonardo DiCaprio was set to play the character, but Ellis (as explained in the American Psycho DVD) decided he would appear too young, especially immediately after Titanic. Bateman was also portrayed by Dechen Thurman, a brother of Uma Thurman, in the 2000 documentary This Is Not an Exit: The Fictional World of Bret Easton Ellis. Michael Kremko played Bateman in the spin-off American Psycho 2, in which the character is killed by a would-be victim. Aside from the character appearing in the film, the sequel has no other connection to the previous film and has been denounced by Ellis.

Scenes with the character were shot for the 2002 film adaptation of The Rules of Attraction. Ellis revealed in an interview that director Roger Avary asked Bale to reprise the role, but Bale turned down the offer, and Avary asked Ellis himself to portray Bateman. Ellis refused, stating that he "thought it was such a terrible and gimmicky idea", and Avary eventually shot the scenes with Casper Van Dien. The scenes, however, were ultimately cut from the final version of the film.

In a 2009 interview with Black Book, director Mary Harron said, "We talked about how Martian-like [the character] Patrick Bateman was, how he was looking at the world like somebody from another planet, watching what people did and trying to work out the right way to behave, and then one day [Christian] called me and he had been watching Tom Cruise on David Letterman, and he just had this very intense friendliness with nothing behind the eyes, and he was really taken with this energy."

Doctor Who star Matt Smith played the role in the 2013 stage musical version of the novel at London's Almeida Theatre.

External links

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