Exploring the violent, masculine stereotypical depiction of men in American Psycho and Fight Club

In my research I will investigate how men are presented and characterised in the films American Psycho (2000) and Fight Club (1999). In doing so I hope to gain a considerable understanding of how mis-en-scene and generic conventions are used in order to build a specific representation of men in psychological thrillers. I will compare and contrast my analysis with existing resources found in secondary sources.


To commence, referring to the source Violence in the Media by Carter and Weaver (2003) they mention about “reasserting the legitimacy of masculine power, the 1980’s action genre reflects the ‘back to basics, get touch’ politics espoused by the new US President and ex-Hollywood star Ronald Reagan.” Although this highlight is referring to the action genre, it can be applied to Fight Club (1999) In the movie, one of its key themes is the idea that men have become too close to their material possessions and that originally our ancestors were hunters and that’s exactly what men should be doing, fighting and hunting physically, releasing the angst built up from generations of avoiding violence. One could assume that Fight Club (1999) is a movie to show a positive representation of men being violent and that it’s not always a bad thing. That there’s a reason why men are stereotypically violent. It’s that carnal urge men are born with and that violence is a part of being a man. To be masculine is to be violent. This analysis is also shared in Tough Guise: Men, Violence and the Crisis in Masculinity, a documentary by Earp and Katz (1999) “The media help construct violent masculinity as a cultural norm… violence is not so much a deviation as it is an accepted part of masculinity.”


Looking at my media texts I’ve definitely found a correlation between violence and masculinity. It is clear that to appear masculine in cinema, an association with violence would need to be visible. However, Media Studies AS the Essential Introduction for WJEC (2010) by Bateman, Benyahia, Mortimer and Wall disagree with that analysis and state that “In the modern era, masculinity is perhaps less to do with these traditional stereotypes and is indeed much harder to define” This statement could hinder my hypothesis about masculine men having to be violent to be represented as masculine to begin with however it still doesn’t disprove how masculine men are represented as violent in American Psycho (2000) and Fight Club (1999).  The question of what makes a man masculine in the current contemporary world may have changed since the beginning of the 21st century when these films were made but my investigation is specifically exploring the representation of men in these movies and not modern, contemporary texts so the above extract may not be relevant to my question.


In conclusion, I’ve found compelling research that men are generically represented as violent in psychological thriller. This is done through the use of mis en scene, the character performance, the clothing (lack of clothing to be specific) to show a muscular body to reinforce the idea of masculinity and lastly the narrative of the actual film.

Bibliography and Reading Material

1. Marissa Fernandez. David Morley’s – Reception theory. August, 2008. <http://www.indiastudychannel.com/resources/31989-David-Morley-s-Reception-Theory.aspx>.

2. Daniel Chandler. Gramsci and hegemony. Last modified November 2010. <http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/marxism/marxism10.html&gt;.

3. Carter and Weaver. (2003) Violence and the Media. Biddles Ltd, Guildford and King’s Lynn.

4. Earp and Katz (1999) Tough Guise: Men, Violence and the Crisis in Masculinity. Documentary.

5. Bateman, Benyahia, Mortmer and Wall. (2011) Media Studies AS the Essential Introduction for WJEC. Routeledge. New York.

6. Bateman, Benyahia, Mortmer and Wall. (2010) Media Studies A2 the Essential Introduction for WJEC, 2010 specification. Routeledge. New York

7. Owen Davey. (2005) Pleasure and Pain: Why We Need Violence In Movies. Published – Media Magazine 12 – April

8. Julie Thrasher. The Audience and the pleasures of the text. December, 2009. <http://www.scribd.com/doc/14165995/The-Pleasure-of-the-Text>.

9. Nelmes and Nichols. (2007) An Introduction to Film Studies 4th Edition. Routeledge. New York.


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