1. Janet Maslin, “Now, Slyly, Comes the Yuppie Devil.” The New York Times, 25 March 1990, B1. By “late-80s,” I imagine the 80s as a “long decade,” closing around 1992 with the official end to the Cold War and Clinton’s election. [return to page 1 of essay]

2. Maslin, “Now, Slyly,” B1.

3. The term yuppie was felt to have an “apt echo with hippies and Yippies, labels that some of them once embraced.” “Big Chillers,” The New York Time, 18 March 1984, E20.

4. “The Big Chill (Revisited), Or Whatever Happened to the Baby Boom,” American Demographics 7, no. 9 (1985): 29. Yuppies and Baby Boomers are sometimes used interchangeably, but most consider the latter to be more inclusive; American Demographics put the number of yuppies at 4.2 million, or 5 percent, of Baby Boomers.

5. Christina Lane, “From The Loveless to Point Break: Kathryn Bigelow’s Trajectory in Action,” Cinema Journal 37, no. 2 (1998), 71.

6. She also will not see Eugene when he sneaks up from behind in Tracy’s stairwell, although she does notably take the advice at film’s end, when Eugene rises up in the distance behind her on a subway platform and she spins around to shoot at him, precipitating their final showdown. [return to page 2 of essay]

7. Cynthia Fuchs asks, “Is it dad, Eugene, or some vague reference to male authority and corruption?” Review of Blue Steel by Kathryn Bigelow, Philadelphia City Paper, n.d., n.p., http://www.mith2.umd.edu/WomensStudies/FilmReviews/blue-steel-fuchs (August 12, 2006).

8. In another context, a Time magazine article reports that “up to now, yuppies have proved harder to kill than Freddy Krueger” (Walter Shapiro, “The Birth — and Maybe Death — of Yuppiedom,” Time, 8 April 1991, 65). [return to page 3 of essay]

9. David Denby, “Dirty Harriet,” New York, 26 March 1990, 76.

10. Roger Ebert, review of Blue Steel by Kathryn Bigelow, Chicago Sun-Times, 16 March 1990, http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/
(August 12, 2006).

11. Maslin, “Now, Slyly,” B1.

12. Janet Maslin, “A Deranged Yuppie With a Thing for His Lover’s Gun,” New York Times, 16 March 1990, C18.

13. Unfortunately so, as Christina Lane points out that “an overwhelming focus on Bigelow’s appearance undoubtedly directs attention toward what she looks like and away from what she looks at” (“From The Loveless to Point Break,” 63). See, for instance, Betsey Sharkey’s description of Bigelow’s “nearly model-perfect face” (New York Times, 11 March 1990, H17).

14. Cora Kaplan, “Dirty Harriet/Blue Steel: Feminist Theory Goes to Hollywood,” Discourse 16, no. 1 (1993): 51. Kaplan borrows the phrase from a made-for-TV movie starring Angie Dickinson, Prime Target (dir. Robert E. Collins, U.S., 1989); David Denby also takes the phrase “Dirty Harriet” as the title for his review of Blue Steel.

15. Kaplan, “Dirty Harriet/Blue Steel,” 53.

16. Jane Gallop, Around 1981: Academic Feminist Literary Theory (New York: Routledge, 1992): 10.

17. Linda Mizejewski, “Picturing the Female Dick: The Silence of the Lambs and Blue Steel,” Journal of Film and Video 45, no. 2-3 (1993): 6-23.

18. Mizejewski, “Picturing the Female Dick,” 6.

19. Nicola Rehling, “Everyman and No Man: White, Heterosexual Masculinity in Contemporary Serial Killer Movies,” Jump Cut 49 (2007).

20. Fuchs, Review of Blue Steel, n.p.

21. The Yuppie Handbook (New York: Long Shadow Books, 1984), a knockoff of Lisa Birnbach’s The Official Preppy Handbook (1980), is the inaugural text of what was labeled, ad nauseam, “The Year of the Yuppie.” Discussing the “Year of the Yuppie,” Newsweek’s New Year’s Eve special report suggests that in 1984 “all these people finally learned who they were” (Jerry Adler et al, “The Year of the Yuppie,” Newsweek, 31 December 1984, 14). Impatient with the past, yuppies had to wait until 1984 to have a name for themselves, and as Jane Feuer points outs, “George Orwell was wrong: 1984 would come to represent an orgy ... of consumerism,” since it “was also the year of Reagan’s reelection, of Diana Vreeland’s Yves Saint Laurent retrospective at the Met, of the rise of Dynasty to the top of the TV charts, [and] of Miami Vice.” Seeing Through the Eighties: Television and Reaganism (Durham: Duke UP, 1995): 14. What is interesting is how The Yuppie Handbook, with only one or two possible prior print citations, was able to get the yuppie lifestyle so dead on a full year earlier.

22. Maslin, “Now, Slyly”; Cheryl Russell, “Question: What Do You Call a Yuppie Stockbroker,” American Demographics, January 1988, 2; Steven V. Roberts, “Hart Taps a New Generation of Young Professionals,” The New York Times, 18 March 1984, 26; and Lee Eisenberg, “Goodbye to All That,” Esquire, February 1988, 15. See also George F. Will, “Yippity Yumpies,” The Washington Post, 25 March 1984, C7.

23. Another comic version of this is Beetlejuice (dir. Tim Burton, U.S., 1988), where yuppie urbanites remodel a charmingly old house with gaudy “postmodern” art and sculpture.

24. Barbara Ehrenreich, Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class (New York: Pantheon, 1989), 197. [return to page 4 of essay]

25. Ehrenreich, Fear of Falling, 200.

26. Maureen Dowd, “Retreat of the Yuppies: The Tide Now Turns Amid ‘Guilt’ and ‘Denial,’” The New York Times, 28 June 1985, B1.

27. Barry Keith Grant, “Rich and Strange: The Yuppie Horror Film,” Journal of Film and Video 48, nos. 1-2 (1996): 4-16.

28. Grant, “Rich and Strange,” 5.

29. Ehrenreich, Fear of Falling, 200.

30. Marilee Hartley, coauthor of The Yuppie Handbook, explicitly points to yuppies’ children, who supposedly “will have a humanizing effect” on their yuppie parents. Dowd, “Retreat of the Yuppies,” B4.

31. Hendrik Hertzberg, “The Short Happy Life of the American Yuppie,” Esquire, February 1988, 101.

32. John L. Hammond, “Yuppies,” The Public Opinion Quarterly 50 (1986): 497.

33. Mark Seltzer, Serial Killers: Death and Life in America’s Wound Culture, (New York: Routledge, 1998), 16.

34. Seltzer, Serial Killers, 150. Other nonfiction works include Tim Cahill’s Buried Dreams: Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer (1986, on John Wayne Gacy), Joel Norris’s Serial Killers: The Growing Menace (1988), Ann Rule’s The Stranger Beside Me (1989, on Ted Bundy), and Elliott Leyton’s Hunting Humans: The Rise of the Modern Multiple Murderer (1984). Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon (1981) was successfully filmed by Michael Mann as Manhunter (U.S., 1986), and Demme’s 1991 adaptation of Harris’s The Silence of the Lambs (1988) won multiple Academy Awards. Such novels as Ira Levin’s Sliver (1991), Paul Theroux’s Chicago Loop (1990), Lew McCreary’s Minus Man (1991), Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian (1985), Dennis Cooper’s Frisk (1991), and Andrea Dworkin’s Mercy (1991), feature at their core graphic murder and dismemberment, sexual and serial violence. Dworkin is an interesting case in point of the popularity of these fictions for both men and women; journalist Edwin McDowell quizzically discusses “the acceptance of such novels by many women” (“All the Rage in Fiction: Serial Murder, Multiple Murder, Hideous Murder,” New York Times, 15 April 1991, D8). The locus classicus, Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho (1991), is discussed in this essay.

35. Alessandra Stanley, “Catching a New Breed of Killer: Two Drifters Confess to Committing Hundreds of ‘Serial Murders,’” Time, 14 November 1983, 47. Note also Time’s use of the word “breed,” delimiting the human and the animal to explain these figures.

36. Seltzer, Serial Killers, 65.

37. “Die Yuppie Scum!,” Filmmaker 8, no. 2 (2000): 58.

38. Pagan Kennedy, “Generation Gaffe,” The Nation, 1 April 1991: 428.

39. See especially Roger Rosenblatt’s hysterical review “Snuff this Book! Will Bret Easton Ellis Get Away with Murder?” (The New York Times, 16 December 1990, B3) and Richard Bernstein’s more temperate response (“‘American Psycho,’ Going So Far That Many Say It’s Too Far,” The New York Times, 10 December 1990, C13).

40. Feuer, Seeing Through the Eighties, 50.

41. Linda S. Kauffman, Review of American Psycho by Mary Harron, Film Quarterly 54, no. 2 [2000-1]: 41.

42. Kauffman, Review of American Psycho, 43.

43. Kauffman, Review of American Psycho, 41. 

44. Kauffman, Review of American Psycho, 41.

45. Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho (New York: Vintage, 1991), 5.

46. Ruth Helyer, “Parodied to Death: The Postmodern Gothic of American Psycho,” Modern Fiction Studies 46, no. 3 (2000): 729.

47. Helyer, “Parodied to Death,” 739.

48. Feuer, Seeing Through the Eighties, 49.

49. Ellis, American Psycho, 376-7.

50. Russell, “Question: What Do You Call,” 2.

I would like to thank Nancy K. Miller for her generous comments and encouragements, and Julia Lesage and the readers at Jump Cut for their keen insight into this essay and helpful suggestions about the yuppie trope.

To topPrint versionJC 50 Jump Cut home

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.