When reading Žižek’s ideas on snuff films being the ultimate virtual reality, and the paranoia of a contrived reality of Californian cities, I immediately thought of Brett Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero. The line, “We have retired to live in our advertisements” reminded me of the repeated advertisement in the novel, “Disappear here.” The narrator of Ellis’ novel is constantly trying to find a way back into a palpable reality for fear of disappearing amongst his commodities. Clay often reminisces of a time when he could feel things, thinking back to days spent with his grandparents or with his on again, off again girlfriend, Blair.
The other characters, all versions of one another, choose to escape reality through the use of drugs or prostitution, while constructing a version of their lives through consumerist product: expensive cars, clothes, and houses. These characters are copies of their parents, who before them also depended on drugs and money to maintain a façade of perfection.
Since their lives have become so immoral and stagnant, so without reason or direction, Ellis’ characters attempt to feel anything through extreme realities: snuff films, poking dead bodies, and eventually raping an underage girl. Clay constantly wishes to witness the worst, because maybe then he’ll feel something, something with sharp edges that haven’t been dulled by narcotics and wealth.
Ultimately, though, the narrator leaves LA, taking with him any hope of a positive, progressive reality. Instead, the characters of the novel presumably continue numbing themselves with drugs and privilege and Clay successfully disappears to somewhere else, leaving the reader to wonder what was the point of such a bleak novel, if not to serve as a warning against the effects of overindulgence in commodity.