Bret Easton Ellis Talks Politics and Coming out With SSENSE

The ‘American Psycho’ author speaks up.

By //Arts

SSENSE talks to Bret Easton Ellis, American author, screenwriter and cultural icon known for work such as American Psycho and The Rules of Attraction. In the interview, the multi-hyphenate creative speaks about today’s politics, coming out as gay, and culture today. Read the full interview over at SSENSE now, and check out the retailer’s latest collaboration with Kappa.

Robert Grunenberg: Looking back at your career, do you feel success and fame at a young age is a burden?

Bret Easton Ellis: When you become well known, you’re kind of trapped in an image in a lot of ways. You stay frozen at that time, whether you’re a beautiful actress, a famous football player, a writer—I often think that I was stuck at 21 as this bad boy writer, and that people still look at me that way. They look at my work as all about youth, it defines me, it’s my brand in a way. I compare myself to a lot of my contemporaries who came of age in the 80s, and they’re kind of just all gone.

How was your coming out as a gay writer?

I never identified as a gay man. I happen to be a man of many interests, one of them was men. I was 6’1, I had this hair color, I liked this movie, I liked this kind of guy, I liked this kind of car—that was how I saw gayness for myself. It never defined me. It was just one in a series of things I had to deal with. I never had the torture of coming out. I didn’t care enough to tell my parents. I just lived my life. Certainly, it was easier where I was to live that life: Beverly Hills, Los Angeles. It was much more accommodating than say Arkansas. Certainly exploring my sexuality at Bennington College in Vermont in the early 80s, pre-AIDS, was nothing. Becoming famous, it became a little tricky. I didn’t want to be a gay writer. Because then you weren’t just a writer, you were a gay writer. That’s how it worked from the 80s, into the 90s. So, I played coy about it. I lived in the glass closet. People kind of knew, I didn’t admit it, but it wasn’t the closet. I didn’t pretend to have girlfriends.

Right. It wasn’t a big part of your identity.

I was never politicized by being gay. I missed the whole AIDS thing because I was too young, so that didn’t politicize me either. I was lost in writing for many decades, the 80s, the 90s, and a little bit into the 2000s. It wasn’t really until 2005 when I gave an interview to The New York Times that I officially came out. I didn’t think it was a big thing, it was part of a conversation where I said I dedicated Lunar Parkto my dead boyfriend, Michael Kaplan. So, I always felt gay culture was a ghetto growing up. I didn’t want what gay men were kind of forced into—into a neighborhood, into a gay club—it was never attractive to me.

How do you feel about gay culture today?

Terrible. The writer Tennessee Williams once said, the worst thing that could have happened to gay men was Stonewall, because pre-Stonewall, pre-politicization of gay life, it was kind of a glorious free-for-all that was a secret, a vast secret society of men always managing to find ways to fuck and meet each other. Once it became this kind of miserable, political thing, being a gay person meant that you were automatically ten things. For a generation of men, that’s when the fun went out of the room. There was also a danger, a taboo element, a mystique thing about it that I miss. I miss the idea of the gay artist as a radical trailblazer, that has been flattened out in our culture. We won’t have a Tennessee Williams, or Robert Mapplethorpe—there was a kind of intensity from a gay artist that was forced upon him by society, by these circumstances.

Read Full Article
Photographer
Christian Werner/SSENSE
SSENSEBret Easton Ellis

You may also like

Kanye West Wanted to Make 'The Life of Pablo' Porn Videos
Entertainment

Kanye West Wanted to Make 'The Life of Pablo' Porn Videos

According to ‘American Psycho’ author Bret Easton Ellis.
9,366 Hypes 15 Comments
Lil Pump Talks School, Stage Jumping and Coloring Books With Nardwuar
Music

Lil Pump Talks School, Stage Jumping and Coloring Books With Nardwuar

“This is good because I can barely read, so I like looking at pictures better you know?”
9,964 Hypes 3 Comments
Nike Air Max 180 With "Bright Ceramic" and "Dark Concord" Coming Soon
Footwear

Nike Air Max 180 With "Bright Ceramic" and "Dark Concord" Coming Soon

Among a long list of returning colorways this month.
3,698 Hypes 6 Comments
An Updated Version of Kanye West and Teyana Taylor's 'K.T.S.E.' Is Coming out Next Week
Music

An Updated Version of Kanye West and Teyana Taylor's 'K.T.S.E.' Is Coming out Next Week

“It was really just an honest misunderstanding.”
8,917 Hypes 20 Comments
Zach LaVine Talks New Fragrance with Hawthorne, Signing to adidas and Moving to Chicago
Sports

Zach LaVine Talks New Fragrance with Hawthorne, Signing to adidas and Moving to Chicago

Peep our exclusive interview with the Chicago Bulls star and budding brand collaborator.
2,715 Hypes 19 Comments


What to Read Next

Emily Ratajkowski Bares It All for 'L'Officiel Paris'
Fashion

Emily Ratajkowski Bares It All for 'L'Officiel Paris'

Summertime fun.

The fragment design x Louis Vuitton Collection Reimagined by 'ELLE MEN'
Fashion

The fragment design x Louis Vuitton Collection Reimagined by 'ELLE MEN'

Featuring staple accessories.

Junya Watanabe and Lacoste Join Forces on a Pair of Shirt Designs
Fashion

Junya Watanabe and Lacoste Join Forces on a Pair of Shirt Designs

Reimagining the croc logo.


Is a Joint Collaboration Between Anti Social Social Club, Vans and DSM on the Way?
Fashion

Is a Joint Collaboration Between Anti Social Social Club, Vans and DSM on the Way?

Circle May 26 on your calendars.

MAGIC STICK Re-Releases Its MSCS Souvenir T-Shirt
Fashion

MAGIC STICK Re-Releases Its MSCS Souvenir T-Shirt

Available today.

Sculptures Don't Lie: George Condo Talks New Exhibit, Kanye West, Fake News & More
Arts 

Sculptures Don't Lie: George Condo Talks New Exhibit, Kanye West, Fake News & More

Delve inside the mind of one of today’s most significant artists.

More ▾