This article deals with several issues related to ‘Less than Zero’ by Bret Easton Ellis, including issues of commodities, youth culture and Los Angeles.
This article discusses how this novel is “largely autobiographical account of what it's like to grow up, rich and jaded, in Beverly Hills today.” The article states how the characters lack any sort of ambitions or aspirations, yet instead they focus their energies on spending their trust funds on “designer clothing, porno films and, of course, liquor and drugs.” This therefore gives an insight into the youth culture of LA in the 1980’s and the desire for commodities over real life experiences.
This article goes on to talk about how the characters in this novel, “are willfully intent on numbing themselves to life - Valium, Thorazine, downers and heroin are their favorite drugs; soap operas, MTV, and video games, their idea of recreation.” These characters are enthralled with consumer culture, using commodities to numb themselves to life, in the same way they use drugs to numb themselves. This creates the question of what are these characters numbing themselves to? Perhaps because of the consumer culture they live in, yet it becomes an endless cycle of buying things to numb themselves to the very culture that encourages them to want these commodities.
This article also talks about the disturbed nature of the novel, as characters as young as thirteen are participating in this youth culture of drugs and commercialisation that Ellis describes. However, with regards to Clay, the article states that, “presumably we are meant to think that he's more sensitive and well-meaning than his friends because he abstains from raping a young girl, turns down an offer of heroin, and has crying jags in his psychiatrist's office. But such gestures are hardly sufficient to establish him as a sympathetic hero, and in the end, his alienation remains undifferentiated from that of his fellow nihilists.” Therefore, even if Clay is portrayed as more sensitive than his peers, he still exists within this youth culture that thrives on numbness, a lack of caring and consumerism.