From Cujo to Precious, five tragedy-porn books and the films they inspired

Categories: Lists, Literature

3.) Less Than Zero, by Bret Easton Ellis

In this debut novel from nineteen-year-old Ellis, lead character Clay watches with amusement and curiosity as his friend descends into drug addiction and prostitution, saying, "I want to see the worst, I want to see how dark things can get." This is probably the most encapsulating description of the tragedy-porn genre: The dark possibilities of the human experience will always fascinate an audience, as long as it's from an impersonal distance (similar to gladiatorial massacres in Rome). The producers of the brat-pack adaptation of this hit novel didn't feel the same way, though. Stripped of any visceral punch, the film version of Less Than Zero had a total plot and character restructuring, never used a single line of dialogue from the book, and was a mostly detached, unrelated piece of cinema, almost incidentally sharing the same title as this tragedy-porn classic.

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