As far as I can tell, nearly any time Bateman tries to make an excuse in American Psycho, for example, when in the bathroom with his coworker, when breaking up with Evelyn, and when speaking with Detective Kimball, he uses the phrase "I have to return some video tapes."

Is there any importance to this line? Is it just for comedic effect or is it like a running gag in the book/movie?

  • Great question, I'd always assumed it was just another way of showing off ("I have the newest toys"), but it seems they'd already been around for a decade by the time the film is set. Commented Aug 31, 2014 at 19:44
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    I just assumed it was a male version of the female "I'm washing my hair" phrase when they want to get out of something. Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 2:20

2 Answers 2


I always thought it was a running gag. At the time this movie came out, home video rental was at its height, and your local Blockbuster was always pretty full. I remember working in one around this time and the traffic was pretty insane. So, it was pretty much a safe alibi to say that. Since he used the same excuse over and over, the repetitiveness made it a running gag.


I think it is his way to handle stressful, interpersonal communication. Think of it as a valve or a failover. Instead of punching them in the face he tries to cheat his way out of their attention by giving them a fake reason.

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