Bret Easton Ellis, the scribbler as pedant

VOX’s Catherine Grady explains why Bret Easton Ellis is a pedant and the dullest of provocateurs:

Those who react with outrage to Trump and, for instance, the children who are being kept in cages as a result of the Trump administration’s family separation policy, need to take a deep breath and listen to Ellis. “You need to be sedated, you need to see a shrink, you need to stop letting the ‘bad man’ help you in the process of victimizing your whole life,” he advises, mere pages after patting himself on the back for his love of art and discourse that “challenge” him and make him “more empathetic.”

What is ostensibly animating Ellis’s rage here is his love for aesthetics over ideology, which he feels have become embattled in the current cultural discourse. But leaving aside the fact that there is no such thing as non-political art — that Ellis’s position as a white, gay, wealthy cis man has as much influence on his perspective as Barry Jenkins’s perspective as a black straight man has on Moonlight (“dour and downbeat,” Ellis opines) — Ellis’s ostensible love for style is not evident in the clogged and uninteresting White.

Again and again, Ellis earnestly relies on the wildly unspecific non-word “problematic” as his catchall criticism. (Suggesting that gay jokes are passé is “problematic,” as is writing off Ellis as a dick.) He glories in dad-like insults, like calling millennials “snowflakes” and “Generation Wuss.” He falls back time and again on the cliché rather than the original, the generality rather than the specific.

I’ve fought the Ellis type most of my adult life: the sort of person who chastises non-Ellises for sharing political points of view from which his wealth insulates him; a member of an ancien regime who assumes there’s bravery in conformity, going along, letting men like Ellis moderate discourse. This is a fellow whose novelized autobiographies suffer from a disinterest in natural phenomena and incuriosity about other people not Bret Easton Ellis so total that they’re as airless as a basement.

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