Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cultural Pessimism and Rock Criticism in Bret Easton Ellis' writing
The book fascinated me and I couldn't help but notice the music references but in terms of the blogtask I eventually found a site that offered a detailed essay on Bret Easton Ellis' writing, highlighting, themes of cultural pessimism, rock criticism and the element of nihilism conveyed in his writing.
What Easton Ellis aims to explore in his writing, is the issues of the 'young, white, privileged, privately educated' generation of the 80s, the constant references to 'blond' hair, 'tan' skin and 'wayferer' sunglasses are very much evident throughout Less Than Zero. What is also significant as prevailing of 80s culture is the idea of the 'commodity' and 'late Twentieth Century consumption' as the character of Julian is forced into commodifying his body for an older man. Also the influence of the TV screen, the object of materialism and consumption as it influences the group of boys [p153] the 'blank generation' into imitating the act of rape on a young girl, the parallels we discover in the book is what makes it shocking and controversial springing to life the notion of 'hypodermic needle theory' in 80s media as the older generation fear what their children are viewing; Bret ultimately ironizes this concept.
In terms of explaining this notion of boredom in the luxurious lifestyles of the blank generation, the essay brings forth the element of desire for 'crime and 'deviance' which is very much evident in the novel. The youthful cynicism and nihilism amidst this lifestyle emphasized by the billboard 'disappear here' and Rip's robotic explanation for raping the girl "If you want something, you have the right to take it. If you want to do something, you have the right to do it" [189]; ultimately all that is left is a black hole and life must be conducted in the essence of being able to do what you like; the death of Rip's 'friends' described like a ship sailing off into 'nothingness' [195]
The essay also points out that the phrase 'disappear here' could also connote the loss of identity experienced by the blank generation. The fact that Clay is troubled by this phrase is that he is caught up in a generation that doesn't want to 'appear'/'exist'. 'This generation cannot care because it does not want to care'. 'For to care would be to open oneself up to the pain of existence'. The essay renders Less Than Zero as rigidly nihilistic and I find it hard to disagree after reading it, particularly in the lack of 'Jesus' [140]

Ultimately Bret Easton Ellis in writing this book at his age is an example of cultural pessimism himself. The narrative is written in first person throughout the book, putting us in Clay's shoes and giving us a first hand example of the brutal affects of materialistic pressure posed upon young people. The 'white, blond, tan' 80s generation, in seeking to detach themselves from their parents and banish their boredom become victims, robots of a culture that advertises nihilism and a meaningless existence.

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