112th Annual Conference - Riverside Convention Center, California
Friday, October 31 - Sunday, November 2, 2014

This page is about the 2014 conference. For 2015 conference info, go to PAMLA 2015.

Monotony and Metonymy in Labels, Identity, and Culture: Psyche of a Well Dressed Killer

Anni Aslanian, California State University, Los Angeles

Our material obsessed culture, used to mask our true identities and intentions, are explored in an in-depth analysis of American Psycho’s well-dressed murderer in order to define society and who we are as a result. 


Clothing, designer labels, and current fashion trends monopolize most of American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman’s Wall Street serial-killer mind. Clothing replaces the identity of Bateman and anyone he encounters, creating a space where clothing becomes identity or lack of one. Labels and fashion sense create social hierarchy, distinction between people, and personal wealth and worth. I use Michael Reddy’s conduit metaphor and Fauconnier and Turner’s blended metaphor to create a diverse and original reading of American Psycho. Other metaphors, such as, the Great Chain of Being, the blended metaphor, and metonymy provide understanding of the relationship of clothing and labels with individuality, concealing and disguising, and protection of the characters’ identities. Bateman’s homicidal tendencies exploit clothing in order to provide the possibility to conceal, run from, or take on identities.

The monotony of designer clothing, misidentifications, and fatal actions critique the numbed society of the wasteful and conformist wealthy culture, confronting the question of who we are and what makes us. The importance of clothing, designer labels, and fashion creates two fantastical worlds that do not interlock, just like Bateman’s own inconsistent identity. By relying on suits, ties, beautiful dresses, labels and credit cards, Bateman can define and recognize the people around him and mimic the normalcy of the boring, consumer obsessed society in order to protect and disguise his true identity. Clothing becomes identity when who you are is not enough and this creates a social hierarchy based on how expensive and how the clothes are styled. In the end, the importance of appearance deceives because clothing does not make the man; in fact, it disguises the wolf in sheep’s clothing. We thrive and live in this consumerist and materialistic world, therefore, a look into seemingly normal objects, is important in defining our society and the “individuals” in it. Bateman represents the madness inside the consumerist culture, madness we readily ignore and accept as the norm.