Book review: WHITE by Bret Easton Ellis (collection of linked essays, published in 2019)

The findings of a large poll about visitors on this website (*2) led to overwhelming evidence them being highly intelligent. They demand articles, reviews… in other languages in addition to Dutch. We aim to please.

As a leading Gen X’er, B. E. Ellis is considered being part of a lost generation where children grew up with invisible parents (‘separation epidemic’) and had a lot of freedom at hand to do… well, whatever. He looks back at this hard, confusing, but ultimately wonderful time where a child could explore and go on a ‘treacherous’ but fulfilling quest.

This, in stark contrast to the overprotected Millennials who have remained children. Our writer states that this generation has propelled us into a culture of (self-) victimization, likability and PC-frenzy.


What is Mr. Ellis, writer of six novels – full of drugs, murder and anxiety – doing on this good news site? Isn’t he the creator of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho: a completely narcissistic, empty, murderous psychopath? (*3)

Well yes, and this old man’s ranting throughout the book isn’t clearing things up! On the other hand, if you’re not talking about misery, hardship, disappointment and pain, how can you define ‘happiness’ and ‘good news’? What Ellis ultimately wants to show us, is true freedom. And isn’t that a wonderful thing?


In the beginning of the book, I irritatingly asked myself what all those trivial stories and references to film culture in the seventies meant… luckily this was just a build-up to a stream of interesting musings, and from then on, I couldn’t let go of the book (and no, it wasn’t a book about the history of glue, like the British pun comedian, Time Vine, would say *4).

He bitterly attacks contemporary groupthink, where PC-ness, supposedly provides universal inclusivity except for those who are weary, who raise questions. In this way passion is stamped out and the individual is silenced.

Everyone has to be the same, and have the same reactions to any given work of art, or movement of ideas, and if you refuse to join the chorus of approval you will be tagged a racist or a misogynist. This is what happens to a culture when it no longer cares about art.

Throughout the books he keeps attacking the hysterically PC. He gives the example of making ‘bad’ jokes. Apparently a multitude of people are offended when a joke is too dangerous, not reassuring enough.

…gay jokes (he’s gay himself) are taken out of the equation, what goes next? And there’s the slippery slope… Is there now a revised rule book for comedy and freedom of expression? Should all ideas and opinions ant content and language now be policed?

He also refers to social media, in particular to Facebook where its users ‘like’ things. Besides the ‘idealised’ portrayal of themselves, they enslave themselves to another corporate version of the status quo. He cleverly adds that ‘the reputation company’s’ goal is to make money. He suggests that empowerment doesn’t come from liking this or another; it rather leads to false narcissism.

Ensuing is a deplorable society where helicopter moms and dads overprotect their offspring and are the proud producers of, what Ellis calls, GENERATION WUSS.

This parental smothering is calamitous. As already mentioned, he’s convinced of the fact that children need to deal with life’s hardships. Instead, Generation Wuss plays joyfully in their snow globe, turns sentimental and ultimately tells stories of self-victimisation. ‘If no negativity is allowed, the debate is very limited,’ B. E. Ellis, adds.

Later on he puts it even harsher:

Victimising oneself is like a drug- it feels so delicious, you get so much attention from people, it does in fact define you, making you feel alive and even important while showing off your supposed wounds, no matter how minor, so people can lick them.

This widespread epidemic of self-victimisation – defining yourself in essence by way of a bad thing, a trauma that happened in the past that you’ve let define you – is actually an illness.


This is the reason everyone knows Ellis, and of course he talks about it. In the book you can read an interesting hypothesis about who Patrick Bateman would be in today’s world and how he would behave and be perceived.

From Bateman to Trump seems but a little step to take. Trump (Ellis didn’t vote) is mentioned a lot, but not in the uncontrolled way of what a growing number of people, denominate ‘the regressive-left’.

B.E. Ellis notices the flaws of his President. He’s not a supporter, but he is stunned at the vicious, hateful, overwrought reactions of ‘liberals’, who seem to dominate the arts, the movie industry, and culture as a whole.

He’s simply flabbergasted that people can’t seem to fathom that other opinions do exist. That people can have different views. Let’s end with the master himself talking about the election and the climate of anxiety:

This anxiety wasn’t confirmed only to politics and media. Ever since the election, Hollywood has revealed itself in countless ways as one of the most hypocritical capitalist enclaves in the world, with a preening surface attitude advocating progressivism, equality, inclusivity and diversity – except not when it came down to inclusivity and diversity of political thought and opinion and language.

The reviews differ enormously (no surprises there). Some point out that he’s one-sided (there’s no ‘evidence-based’ support; … as if this a scientific book…) and contradicts himself: e.g. in the beginning he goes on about the ‘anger’ he feels on Twitter… in other parts he’s quite surprised that people are furious about some of his harsh comments, stating that it’s nothing more than a tweet… Some of these remarks are valid, but looking at the bigger picture, I truly enjoyed this book. I made a big sigh of relief that these kinds of societal observations he makes, are becoming louder and counteract so much hypocrisy.

C. Sander

*1   The original title was ‘White Privileged Man’, which didn’t appeal to the publisher. In addition it could be a reference to ‘The White Album’ by the American writer, Joan Didion, who was a major influence on the work of Ellis. Or perhaps he looks at a white screen…

The fearful began to instantly see the entire humanity of an individual in a cheeky, offensive tweet and were outraged.

The culture at large seemed to encourage discourse but social media had become a trap. What often activated my stress was that other people were always angry about everything…

And what was worse: this anger could become addictive to the point where I just gave up and sat there exhausted,mute with stress. But ultimately silence and submission were what the machine wanted.

*2   To be honest, this never happened. It’s just a hypothesis, but who cares, huh, in an age of fake news…

*3 Mary Harron adapted it to the screen with an iconic Christian Bale… and it was also ‘translated’ into a musical!

*4 Other puns by Tim Vine:

  • Velcro? What a rip-off!
  • Crime in multi-storey car parks. That is wrong on so many different levels.
  • Do you ever get that when you’re half way through eating a horse and you think to yourself, ‘I’m not as hungry as I thought I was’

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