A Playlist for the Talented Mr. Ripley
Before our fascination with sociopaths grew to the point where the anti-hero was having a moment in pop culture, there was Tom Ripley. Dapper, literate, and cunning, he’s also a con artist, identity thief, and serial killer, going to great lengths to preserve the lifestyle of wealth and leisure he cultivates for himself. His playlist, like his nature, is duplicitous, charming, and deliciously evil.
"Lies" – Thompson Twins
Ripley’s entire personality is based on deception. Whether he’s assuming the identity of a young man whose fortune he steals or spinning yarns to the police investigating murders he committed, the truth is not Tom’s friend.
“white ones and red ones
and some you can't disguise
twisted truth and half the news
can't hide it in your eyes”
"I Wish I Had an Evil Twin" – Magnetic Fields
The thing about Tom Ripley is, he doesn’t actually want to murder people, and in some cases he regrets his crimes. But it’s a means of survival for him. Given the choice, he’d probably love to have a nefarious doppelganger do his dirty bidding.
“I wish I had an evil twin
running 'round doing people in
I wish I had a very bad
and evil twin to do my will
to cull and conquer, cut and kill”
"Prince Charming" – Adam & the Ants
Ripley is hardly a manly man, and even the aunt who raised him mocked him for being a “sissy.” So he surely appreciates this Adam & the Ants track that celebrates male flamboyance.
Ridicule is nothing to be scared of
Don't you ever, don't you ever
Stop being dandy, showing me you're handsome”
"Beat the Devil's Tattoo" – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
While Tom does show a certain amount of remorse for some of his murders, and even admits they are a mistake, there are times when his psychopathy takes over.
“There is no peace here
War is never cheap dear
Love will never meet here
It just gets sold for parts
You cannot fight it
All the world denies it
Open up your eyelids
Let your demons run”
"Debonair" – The Afghan Whigs
This title alone appeals to Ripley, but the lyrics, about someone who’s so urbane that he gets away with doing horrible things, speaks to Tom on an even more personal level.
“This ain't about regret
My conscience can't be found
This time I won't repent
Somebody's going down”
"Everything Counts" – Depeche Mode
Ripley is the sort that prioritizes his needs above all else, especially when it comes to securing a certain comfortable lifestyle. When he wants to get his new wave groove on, he plays this anthem to selfishness.
“Gained a little more power
By a sun tan
And a grin
The grabbing hands
Grab all they can
All for themselves
"Lose Control" – James
To say Tom Ripley has impulse-control problems is putting it lightly, since his whims have been known to result in dead bodies.
“Shake my body – release my soul
Punish my senses – lose control
This body's young but my spirit's old
Scatter my ashes and let my feelings go”
"Extreme Ways" – Moby
Tom is not one to do things half-heartedly. Once he gets a taste of the high life, he does whatever it takes to maintain it. His sophisticated life of leisure is funded time and time again by a string of terrible deeds.
“Extreme ways that help me
They help me out late at night
Extreme places I had gone
That never seen any light”
"Not Even Jail" – Interpol
Tom is likely to be a fan of any song whose theme involves menace and deception. The added irony of the title and band name here, since he spends so much time evading authorities around Europe, is something he would likely get a kick out of.
“I pretend like no one else
To try to control myself
I'm subtle like a lion's cage
Such a cautious display”
Margarita writes upmarket fiction and is represented by Victoria Skurnick at Levine Greenberg Rostan. She also transcribes and pokes fun at her old journal entries at The Diary Project. When not wrangling her ever-growing book and movie collections or feeding squirrels and chipmunks, she dreams of the day time machines are built so that she can return to the 1980s. Follow her on Twitter at @damiella.