Why get involved with a sadistic guy? Why indeed! The simple truth is that many women are drawn to dangerous men, whether by design or happenstance. Chances are (assuming you date men) that you’ve dated a guy you probably shouldn’t have even shared a drink with, let alone a bed. Maybe you loaned him money you never got back, maybe the circumstances were far more disturbing.
Fortunately, when it comes to literature, we can immerse ourselves in a bad relationship and come out to tell the tale. Thus we have the battle of the sexual sadists in today’s smackdown (pun intended).
I’ve already admitted to never having read E.L. James’ 50 Shades series. With that in mind, kindly note that I have read a great deal of commentary and criticism from both literary and kink circles regarding this book, so I’m not exactly talking out my ass (but the details may be inaccurate having received them second hand). I do think that Christian Grey seems more misanthropic than truly dangerous. He also seems very gloomy; definitely not a guy you want to take you to a dinner party.
Patrick Bateman of American Psycho however knows how to live it up. In fact, so long as you stay out of the bedroom (or at least escape it alive), he’s not a bad guy. He’s everything that women are attracted to: good looking, smart, rich, driven… which is precisely how he’s able to attract his victims to begin with. Not every psychopath is driving around in a rented van stocked with chloroform.
These two novels are also at different points in our collective culture, since only American Psycho has been turned into a film. In fact, I would argue that American Psycho is one of those rarities: a book that was much better adapted into a film. This was not in small part due to Christian Bale’s bravura performance (how is it this guy only has one Oscar, and for a supporting role no less?). I find Bret Easton Ellis to be fairly humorless in his writing; his irony is heavy-handed. There’s also the issue of how he depicts women, not just in this novel but in his other writings. If he’s not a complete misogynist, he sure writes as though he is.
Which should mean that E.L. James writes women better, right? In fact, not so much. Her heroine is not just vapid, but dumb. She goes from virginity to being flogged in a matter of minutes… and then comes back for more?!? I actually remember what it felt like to be a virgin. Hell, I even know a few virgins today. No way they’d hook up with Christian for a second go-round, let alone a LTR.
Of course, there is the issue that Patrick doesn’t just go in for sadism; he frequently kills his dates. I considered pairing him against Hannibal Lecter, but there’s a sexual component to Patrick that overrides his need to kill. He’s a BDSM session taken to extreme; it starts out consensual and ends in a place that no woman consents to go.
Which brings us back to Christian. Not only does he seem a bit of a pussy (flogging virgins? really?!?), he doesn’t have any consensual relationship with Ana. In fact, to my knowledge the notion of consent isn’t even broached in 50 Shades. He just takes in a girl who is dumb and doesn’t even get particularly creative.
As opposed to Patrick Bateman, who has the “best” use of a wire coat hanger since Mommy Dearest. Christian Grey never stood a chance.
Patrick Bateman wins; TKO in the sixth round.