Monday, February 6, 2012

Sex, Drugs & 1980s LA

Bret Easton Ellis exposes us to a world of consumerism and wealth in the 1980s, however this is not a formal American culture such as the Yuppy. This is a youth culture or sub-culture which is derived in the 1980s through music, drugs and money. This youth culture we are exposed to in his novel 'Less Than Zero' is one projected around LA and a more underground city lifestyle. Ellis follows American youths and their fast paced lifestyle, he follows Clay in particular as he returns home to LA from University for his Christmas break. Clay is part of a 'blank generation' of 'nowhere youths', he has no real sense of responsibility or ambition, he just seems to exist in a strange society. The reader is exposed to his cocaine addiction, which is narrated very casually throughout the novel. We must look to LA and this form of American Youth culture at the time to gain a greater understanding of Ellis' bizarre but enticing novel.

Brian Schimpf's Encore article surrounding one of Bret Easton Ellis' Films, 'Sex, Drugs and 1980s LA' gives us a better picture into the ideas and concepts behind his work. The film also contains scenes of drug abuse and characters who are addicted to this semi-destructive lifestyle. Where in the land of promise did the 'blank generation' come from? Do they fit into the American Dream or have they achieved it? In 'Less than Zero', Clay has everything he could desire materialistically. He has parents with money who could not care less about what he does, but give him as much as he wants. Clay throws money at cocaine and seems to get away with it. In this LA lifestyle, there are seemingly no consequences, until you run out of money. It seems they can sleep with anyone, take anything, and do anything. Clay sees a therapist but does not seem to have a desire to change. It is perhaps something he does to avoid conflict with his parents, who perhaps see paying for this therapist as their share of parenting him. They do not seem to have much involvement or say in his degenerate lifestyle. His mother is aware that he takes drugs, through a conversation with his younger sister who he accuses of stealing his cocaine. His mother seems to ignore the comments and later his sister replies "That's bullshit. I can get my own cocaine." This youth culture becomes driven by casual sex and casual drug use. Ellis' also captures this generation in his Film, 'Sex, Drugs & 1980s LA' Schimpf claims, "all of the characters’ personal tales intertwine through a haze of cocaine-driven parties, red carpets..." There does not seem to be much more to the blank generation that that. Schimpf summarises a generation in one line about Ellis' film. This generation is arguably anti-American, the characters go against the social norms and expectations of America and revel in rebellion, living their degenerate lifestyles in a haze of 'nothingness.' There seems to be no aims or achievement, only a rage of partying and spending money. It is most definitely and 'American' consumerism that Ellis' writes of, but one of which about a society who seem to have too much money, his writing comes across as very self indulgent, however the characters he aims to create are self indulgent and selfish. Ellis captures an American Culture and exposes LA degenerates.

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