Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Consumerism & Materialism in Less Than Zero


This article explains the link between the materialism of 1980's America and the novel 'Less Than Zero' by Brett Easton Ellis. The first point of the article is that the name of the novel itself is associated with Materialism, as it is taken from an Elvis Costello track, whose name derives from the biggest cultural icon in America Elvis Presley. This second hand use of the title illustrates how the characters in the book feel as they feel that they are unwanted and turn to reckless, disturbing behaviour.

The article also focusses on the creation of the MTV and Vogue magazines in the 1980's which influences the teenagers through media, and tells them how they should look and feel. This is the reason that Clay's friend is in hospital, because she tried to follow the materialistic views of the media, however, we can see through her hospitalisation that it is not attainable.

Sex is also turned into a commodity as their ideals are not achievable. We see this when Julian becomes a prostitute to pay for his drug addiction. He is trying to get over one consumerist commodity using another, but this just gets him into more trouble.

The end of the article summarises the novel when Clay finds his friends raping a girl, he says "you already have everything" This shows that even though the rich teenagers have every commodity they could ever want, drugs, sex, consumer items, big expensive houses, they still have to go further. They think that because they have all material goods that they can do anything they want and forget about their morals. This illustrates the problem with 1980's American youth as they were given everything and overloaded with commodities which made them believe they were above everyone else and could take the law into their own hands.

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