Dr. Alex E. Blazer

Department of English & Rhetoric

Georgia College & State University

Milledgeville, GA 31061

alex.blazer@gcsu.edu

alexeblazer.com

 

"Pussies, Snowflakes, and Bret Easton Ellis:
A Case Study of Authorial Persona in Social Media"

 

Since the National Organization for Women boycotted his violent serial killer novel American Psycho on the grounds that it was "a how-to novel on the torture and dismemberment of women" (McDonnell, “NOW Chapter Seeks Boycott of Psycho Novel,” NYTimes), Bret Easton Ellis has been no stranger to literary controversy, and his novels have been called transgressive fiction for how their psychopathic and nihilistic first-person narrators violently break cultural norms and in so doing satirize the narcissistic consumer culture that created those mores . . . and those characters. Since he started a social media presence a few years ago, controversy has moved from the pages of his novels to the tweets of his Twitter feed. Recently, he suggested that a war movie—The Hurt Locker—only won the Oscar because its director was an attractive woman—Kathryn Bigelow. Ellis told the enraged Twitter universe, "Anyone Unfollowing me should have known better and never Followed me in the first place. Wise up: pussies and snowflakes. Get the F over It" (@BretEastonEllis, 6 Dec. 2012).

 

The literary critic asks at what point works of fiction (ones with delusional narrators) are regarded as having influence on the real world. The social media critic questions the location of the line that separates authenticity and sincerity from construction and imposture. The literary qua social media critic inquires into the relationship between the author’s literary voice and his social media voice. What can we learn about the general nature of authorship from Ellis's particular social media presence? My preliminary analysis tentatively suggests that Ellis’s social media presence is as much a purposefully provocative avatar as his literary "I"s are a cast of characters with whom he satirically writes in the first-person. However, readers engage the idea behind his words in a drastically different manner due to the context: Whereas the cultural messages of his novels are bracketed by delusion, fantasy, and fiction, the ironic posts on his Twitter feed are regarded as immediate, real, and true.

 

First, the essay interprets the evolution of Ellis's literary voice through his novels, to traditional mass media interviews, and finally to his current Twitter feed in particular; subsequently, the essay theorizes about the paradoxes of the voice of the author in social media (the blurry line between constructed, masked avatar and immediate, authentic voice) in general. It examines how Ellis’s novels are at first written in the first-person point of view of characters who substitute for the actual author in order to allow him to provoke satirical criticism of the culture and himself from a distance but eventually are written from the first-person point of view of Ellis himself, which constitutes a mixture of the real author and his fictionalized self. It then compares the Ellis character-narrator to the Ellis persona who writes the purposefully controversial Twitter feed. The comparison derived in single author literary criticism will theorize a more systematic relationship between narratology and social media, deconstructing the bounds of fiction and online self-representation.

 

This abstract summarizes my presentation, "Pussies, Snowflakes, and Bret Easton Ellis: A Case Study of Authorial Persona in Social Media." Mid-Atlantic Popular & American Culture Assoc. Lord Baltimore, Baltimore, MD. 7 Nov. 2014.

 

"Pussies, Snowflakes, and Bret Easton Ellis: A Case Study of Authorial Persona in Social Media." Georgia College & State University. Milledgeville, GA. 27 Apr. 2015.