Review Of Movie Adaptation Of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club
Fight Club is a 1999 film version of the Chuck Palahniuk’s satirical novel, “Fight Club” starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton. Written by Jim Uhls and directed by David Fincher, this movie illustrates the life of a white, young men narrating with hindsight, how he ended up at the top of a skyscraper with a gun in his mouth.
He used to work as an insurance consultant of a big automobile company in the United States. As much as it sounds as an interesting and important job, he was deeply depressed, unsatisfied and unhappy with his monotonous and cyclical life. He replaces his emotional necessities and lack of attention with IKEA furniture and material possessions. His permanent uneasiness triggered sleeping disorders and the feeling that “nothing is real, everything is far away, everything is a copy of a copy of a copy.” (Fincher, 1999)
He claims to be in pain and asks for pre-scripted medical supplies to sleep, but the doctor says that he should visit support groups for patients with terminal diseases and see what real pain is. The narrator became addicted to attend to therapy and ended up involved in all seven groups; One for each day of the week. The narrator met Bob the first time he attended to “Testicular cancer” support group. People had to find a partner to hug, and they both ended up together. After Bob’s testicles were removed, he developed women’s breasts because of the hormones. The narrator determines that there is where he fits, “Between those huge sweating tits,” (Fincher, 1999) and describes how something never felt so right.
He could sleep for a while until Marla Singer started attending to the same support groups as the narrator. He soon realized Marla is an imposter just like he is. She had no diseases at all, and he complains that, her lie reflected his own lie (Fincher, 1999). Because of her, the narrator felt inhibited to canalize his sadness and couldn’t cry anymore, so once again, he had insomnia storming his nights.
On the same days, he had lots of business trips, but he was more confused and misplaced than ever. The narrator falls asleep and wakes up in a different place every time, never knowing where he is. Lose an hour, gain an hour, the narrator says it’s his life, and it’s ending one minute at a time (Fincher, 1999). He was so tired of living that he wished for the plane to crash while take-off or landing. During one of his flights, he met Tyler Durden, a soap salesman who also works as a movie projectionist and a waiter. He has a particular way of interpreting life and the narrator wishes he could be someone as carefree as Tyler.
When he finally stopped travelling and goes home, not only he had lost his suitcase with everything he liked to carry, but also he finds out that a gas leakage set his apartment on fire, and he has nothing left but ashes on the ground next to the building. The narrator finds the presentation card Tyler gave him on the plane and called him looking for help and a friendly voice. They meet up at a bar and reflect on what just happened. Once they finish talking, after a couple of beers, they leave by the back door and agreed he will stay at Tyler’s house. While they still talking, they start a spontaneous fight at the alley.
Their casual fights suddenly turned into a habit. Men got more interested in them each time they fought, and quickly, many started to join them. When they least expected, their little routine became an organised group of men ready to confront each other every single night. Fight club.
If you make a little research about the movie, you notice that everybody classifies it on a different genre. You may find options such as an action film, a psychological thriller, dark comedy and drama, but never a satire. Even though the novel is considered one, we won’t see people referring to the movie as a satire, and I couldn’t agree less. Both, the writer and the director were trying to capture multiple aspects from contemporary society to point out it shortcomings. A satire is considered a piece of writing which makes fun of an individual or a society to expose its flaws (Satire, Cambridge Dictionary), so by definition the movie could perfectly be considered one.
To the naked eye, it looks like the film has a straightforward plot, but in fact it is much more complex than that. The movie is highly symbolical and touches numerous controversial topics criticizing society and judging people’s priorities on these last centuries. It is hard to explain and identify all the analogies included, but based on the summary written above, it is possible to describe the most essential ones.
You may have noticed that we always refer to the narrator as “he”, and you may wonder why don’t we call him by his name instead. The truth is, the writer nor the film director ever revealed or assigned a real name to the character. The purpose of it was for the readers or the viewers to identify him as an average person and easily relate to him. They wanted for any of us to fit under the role of the narrator and connect even more with the story. However, for editorial, from now on I will call him Ted sometimes. (No particular reason for the name.)
One of the first symbols or comparisons we noticed at the beginning of the film is Ted’s identity crisis. He no longer has aims to live and rather flip to catalogues and wonder what kind of dining set define him as a person (Fincher, 1999). On the movie, they never strictly explain why Ted felt the way he did, but we may assume that’s also on purpose. Nowadays, people in society feel extremely empty and lonely without really knowing why. It’s a generalized symptom most of the times.
Once he started visiting support groups regularly, his anxiety got better for a while. Being there and listen to people’s life testimonies helped him cry away his sorrows and finally sleep at night. Watch people nearly dying, on a daily basis, made him feel better about his own life. This reveals the common necessity of humans for being accepted by others, feeling that we belong somewhere special and being valued. That’s exactly what gave him new desires to live.
We may also see how Ted finds huge comfort on Bob’s hugs. In this scene, he’s representing a maternal and paternal figure at the same time. This may be for two reasons. The first one might be that the narrator has no one to hold since he has no family and Bob may represent the role models missing at home while Ted was growing up. The second one could be to attack the stereotypes of masculinity and male figure presented by society. As grotesque as it may sound, we’ve always heard that “big balls” are what define real men. Males at the support group don’t have testicles any more, and they continuously repeat to themselves that they are still men (Fincher, 1999) no matter how much society states the opposite.
One of the most iconic characters definitely would be Marla. Since the first time we see her in the movie, she’s presented to us like the antagonist of the story Ted is telling. He refers to Marla as “the big tourist” not because she’s foreign, but because she walks around life with no concerns. She represents and reflects the narrator’s remorse from lying to everybody. From the moment she appears, Ted’s voice and tone completely changes while narrating. He hates her so much because his self-consciousness and guilt came back to him in the form of Marla. She’s a reminder that anxiety is extremely real and that it will not simply fade away while being surrounded by people.
On the plane scene, during his business trips, Ted once again faces his identity crisis and wonders “If you wake up at a different time in a different place, could you wake up as a different person?” (Fincher, 1999). The narrator is tired of who he is but he does nothing to change the miserable life he thinks he has. In the same scene, it’s also possible to identify individualism as a major problem on today’s societies. Everywhere he went, he found “Single-serving sugar, single-serving cream, single pat of butter. The microwave Cordon bleu hobby kit. Shampoo-conditioner combos, sample-packaged mouthwash, tiny bars of soap” (Fincher, 1999). He would even refer to the people he met on each flight as single-serving friends. This shows how now things are meant to be disposable. Their only purpose is to cover a one time necessity and then forget about them. When he refers to another person as single-serving friend, we can see how the concept also applies to people. Currently, we are only looking for our own well being without thinking on the consequences. We want success only for ourselves and we only call upon people when we need something from them. Later on, we get rid of them.
Ted has had many “single-serving” friends, but once he met Tyler, he became the most interesting of them all. It might be the first time the narrator officially meets Tyler, but, haven’t you noticed? Unlike Ted, this not the first time we see him. From the beginning of the movie, the director has slowly introduced him to us through multiple scenes. His presence became more visible and explicit a few scenes before they both met, but David Fincher wanted to play with our subconscious mind and show us that he has always been there. In fact, a couple of scenes ahead, when the narrator explains the many things Tyler did to live, they reveal an important secret. Tyler inserts inappropriate images on children movies, the same way the director inserted an image of Tyler, for a fraction of a second, from time to time. We didn’t know we saw him, but he was always there.
Tyler Durden represent everything the narrator would ever want to be and never will unless he changes his mindset. Ted was always concerned about fitting with the social stereotypical standards of a perfect life, but since such a thing doesn’t exist, he was never completely satisfied. The moment he got home and realised he had nothing left, and everything he worked for had vanished, he called the only person that has ever offered him a different vision of life. Tyler.
When they meet to take a beer at the bar, the narrator describes everything he had and how he was about to be completed. Now that everything is gone, Tyler wants to show him how they are all consumers because of capitalism and how that lifestyle will never provide him real happiness. This is one of the most repetitive concepts through the whole movie; Consumerism. Throughout the story, both, the book and the film, there are some quotes Tyler mentioned while expressing his philosophy of life and trying to teach Ted a lesson:
“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.” (Palahniuk, 1996)
“You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your – khakis.” (Fincher, 1999)
“We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.” (Palahniuk, 1996)
We cite these quotes with two purposes. The first one is to show the level of detachment Tyler Durden has. For him, possessions are nothing more but unnecessary material goods. He suggests to never be complete, stop being perfect and just evolve (Fincher, 1999). The second one is to make emphasis on the topic with more recurrence during the story. To understand the plot better and identify the main cause that led Ted to develop all kind of health disorders, we need to understand how immerse we all are on this vicious consumer conduct. Things we own end up owning us (Fincher, 1999) because we generate a huge dependence to furniture and goods. By saying that he had “everything” on that suitcase or he had it all on his apartment, he is also saying there is nothing more valuable than the possessions we have. Tyler proposes not only the narrator but also all the readers and viewers to “reject the basic assumptions of civilization, especially the importance of material possessions” (Palahniuk, 1996). To actually define ourselves we need to pursue our dreams, our goals and hold tight on our principles and values, any other way, we will just be participants of the capitalist “circus.”
As the film goes on, we get the feeling that even though Ted has death desires; He doesn’t want to kill himself nor put an effort on living instead of just surviving. Once again, his thought could expose any of us. I’m not talking about suicidal wishes, I’m talking about conformism. People is complaining all the time about how their life sucks, yet, nobody does anything to change what they don’t like. We are usually waiting for a Tyler Durden to come in our behalf and rescue us from ourselves. It is important to understand that this is not how life works. We need to take responsibility of our own actions. Sometimes we might get help, but nobody is going to do the “dirty work” for us.
Finally, the last concept we’ll cover relies on the club itself. Fight Club is often seen or considered as the time two strangers get to oppose each other, but as everything else, we also need to analyse this carefully. Just like winning isn’t the main objective of the fight, the fight encounters aren’t the main theme of the movie either. The creation of the group is a way to wrap up all the symbols previously mentioned. Their fights aren’t a strength show off, or a matter of proud, they are a way to canalize and liberate the frustrations they have been holding for so long. A way to understand who the real enemy is. To be themselves for one night forgetting about all the social rules we have shown before. But just for one night, because once they go home and the sun rises, they go back to their “prison cells”. They are not a member of the club anymore. The same way we behave in real life when there is something affecting us deeply, they behave when they go to work the next morning. They just act as if nothing has ever happened.
We could keep writing symbolisms and controversial topics about the movie as much as we want. People will never stop finding new hidden messages that David Fincher left for us to find through the whole film, but if you point out every single detail that represents a satire while watching the movie, you may miss the amusement parts of the plot. The more you talk about it, the less impact it may have on people when they watch it the first time. Guess that’s why “the first rule of fight club is: you never talk about fight club.” (Fincher, 1999)
Fight Club: Rebellion Against The Social And Cultural Constructs
Fight Club is a novel about a protagonist who is unhappy with his life and unconsciously creates an alter ego who engages in various activities that he had always wanted to do in his life. Written by Chuck Palahniuk, the novel, due to its engaging storyline and the deep message it contains, was also produced in a film version directed by David Fincher. Starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, reputable movie stars, the film contains numerous thought provoking scenes, capturing the audience’s attention. However, despite its efforts to maintain true to Palahniuk’s message, the film adaptation lacks the authenticity of delivering the main theme of liberating oneself from the burdens of social demands, and thereby achieving personal transformation.The movie distorts the characters’ true representation of Palahniuk’s idea of a struggling individual. Also, the plot in the movie has been altered towards the end of the film, drastically adjusting the main message of Palahniuk. Furthermore, the symbolism of soap, greatly emphasized in the novel, has been undervalued by the film by giving little references to it. Although both the novel and the film portray similar concepts and messages, due to the distortions of characters, plot, and symbol, the novel is far more superior over the film version.
The novel is better than the film because the characterization of Tyler aligns with the central idea of identity crisis. In both the novel and the film version, Tyler portrays a character with strong ideologies; however, Tyler is much darker in the novel, while Tyler is more comical in the film. Through Palahniuk’s point of view, Tyler is of a disturbed, possibly absurd individual. Tyler reveals his insanity when he and the narrator intentionally crashes the car and makes contact with the truck as Tyler recites about how God hates us that they can die at any moment, in his precise words he says, When Tyler is comical, it takes away the seriousness in his character, further distorting the theme of identity crisis. Tyler mocks the audience saying, “We are consumers. We are the byproducts of a lifestyle obsession. Murder, crime, poverty- these things don’t concern me. What concerns me are celebrity magazines, television (…) The audience is able to relate to the statement in which
Furthermore, the ending of the movie differs drastically than the novel, misinterpreting the main message. The novel’s ending presents a realistic world that is not entirely pleasant. Tyler is situated in a mental hospital where he thinks he has destroyed his alter ego but in fact he does not know that he has not absorbed Tyler. The novel ends with the narrator hallucinating and believing Project Mayhem still exists. He hears the voices talking to him, “We look forward to getting you back.” The ending suggests a sense of hopelessness that the narrator is forever defeated by his alter ego unable to recover from his mental illness. On the other hand, in the film version, Jack absorbs Tyler when he shoots himself to rid himself of Tyler, and becomes the dominant personality again. The scene takes place in a building where Project Mayhem plans to blow up several buildings that belong to the credit card companies. Marla, Jack’s girlfriend and Jack watch them collapse as he says to Marla, “You met me at a very strange time of my life.” Jack and Marla are then reunited and the story is a happy ending. The movie ending distorts the main idea of identity being lost in the consumer world, which Palahniuk intended to portray. His key message of identity crisis and the difficulties of recovering from such an illness has been misrepresented in the movie. The plot in the end of the novel is significantly more powerful than the film as it is solely summed to the central idea of society’s conformity in the story. ( 192)
Lastly, a key difference that determines the novel to be more superior over the film version is the incorporation of the symbolism of soap that signifies life’s cleansing product. Through the analogy of soap as a result of human sacrifice, Tyler introduces soap to bring people back to the simple way of living. He wants to bring down consumerism and civilization and allow people to buy simple things like soap. As it is indicated in the novel, Tyler says, “Lye combined with the melted fat of the sacrifices, and a thick white discharge of soap crept out from the base of the altar and crept downhill toward the river.” The novel emphasizes the symbolism of soap and how there can be more of a connection between fat and soap even to the extent of demonstrating how soap is made out of Marla’s fat. On the other hand, in the film, Tyler and Jack goes to a liposuction clinic and steals fat from the biohazard waste dump. Tyler explains to Jack, “The best fat for making soap- because the salt balance is just right- comes from human bodies.” Fat is not as symbolic in the novel because not much is said about why fat is important when making soap.
In both works, the novel and film conveys the theme of society’s consumerism and conformity. The novel is better than the film because the characterization of Tyler is realistic and much darker than the charismatic version. Moreover, the ending of the novel has left a more significant impact in which aligns with the main message. Lastly, the novel has many soap references which symbolizes doesticity, civilization, and ordinary life. Palahniuk’s vision of the story through many elements had a greater impact.
The Fight Club: Themes, Characterization And Connections
In “Fight Club” by Chuck Palahniuk, materialism has negatively affected the human population. One example of this is The Narrator’s obsession with his material items such as his condo, Ikea furniture, clothes, etc. He works and travels every day for his mediocre office job in hopes of one day being able to buy everything he’s ever wanted. He believes that when he acquires all these material possessions, he’ll finally be able to live his perfect life. However, we can see the consequences of perceiving these items with such high importance when The Narrator’s condo violently bursts into flames, along with everything he owned. He feels completely empty after the destruction of his personal belongings because, at the time, they were the only things that he loved. Another example of negative effects caused by materialism is explained by The Narrator’s alter ego (Tyler Durden). “The things we own end up owning us” is what Tyler said to The Narrator shortly after his condo was charred. Tyler elaborates with the idea that we are all slaves to what we buy. If you get too comfortable with having all these things, they then become necessities. Therefore if one of these objects were to be lost, broken or ruined, you now have a need to replace it. It becomes a neverending cycle of buying and replacing material objects and the only way to feed this cycle is with money. If we spend most of our time and effort to make money just to spend it on items that will eventually break and require even more work/money, what does that make us humans in relation to the things we buy? What Chuck Palahniuk is trying to portray is that humans shouldn’t put such high importance on material possessions. When we strive our whole lives to purchase cars and houses, trying to build the best life and reach perfection, we soon realize that perfection is an illusion. It seems obtainable from afar, but the closer you get, the farther it will seem. You become a slave not only to the thing you buy but to the working class as well, grinding every day, looking forward to the next paycheck to buy more ‘’steps’’ towards the perfect life.
Another reoccurring theme in “Fight Club” is the overlooked primal nature of the human psyche. The first example of this is the fast-growing popularity of The Narrator’s fight club. Most of the members seem to be, but not limited to, blue collar/middle-class workers looking for an escape, which the fight club provides. It allows these men to release their stress and pent up aggression by letting go of everything on their minds and just fight, man to man. It lets them satisfy their primal and barbaric needs. The book shows that this is a very common need based on the fact that similar fight clubs started popping up all over the United States. These fight clubs had fight nights Monday through Sunday, easily bringing in 50-100 people every night at its peak. Secondly, Tyler’s “Project Mayhem” is also an example of humans with more primal nature. Project Mayhem is a group created by Tyler Durden (Narrators alter ego) with the sole purpose of taking down modern society. Potential members wanting to join go through a difficult testing period, in which they have to wait on the porch of the Paper Street House without food or shelter for 3 days. They would also get berated by insults all throughout the testing period. Project Mayhem was responsible for multiple bombings and attacks, which were all motivated by Tyler’s vision of a post-materialistic society. Although, Tyler’s original motivation was to make each member realize that if you succumb to your primal temptations, you have the power to change history, for better or for worse. What the author is trying to show is that we all have primal instincts sometimes that can be expressed in barbaric ways. It’s how you handle those instincts/needs that can define who you are as a person.
In “Fight Club”, there is a connection between The Narrator’s sleeping problem and real-world insomnia side effects. Firstly, The Narrator describes how it is living with insomnia. He claims that everything feels fake and far away, making him feel disassociated with the rest of the world. He constantly worries about his sleep in the early chapters of the book as well. These are all real symptoms insomniacs go through according to mayoclinic.org. Another example of The Narrator possessing real insomnia side effects can be seen in his alter ego, Tyler Durden. He sees Tyler during the day, but he becomes Tyler throughout the night. This is what’s known as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) coupled with hallucinations caused by sleep deprivation and insomnia. Tyler is essentially The Narrator’s subconscious, he embodies everything The Narrator wished he could’ve been. The hatred of materialism, the willingness to help others in similar situations as him, not being scared to let go or die, etc. However, he was always too scared to act on these wishes, which is why his brain created Tyler. He was working multiple jobs at once, flying from city to city to promote new fight clubs and he even had a girlfriend. Although, from his perspective, he would either see Tyler doing these things or he wouldn’t remember it at all. These perceptions/actions are very similar to how psychologytoday.com describes Dissociative Identity Disorder in which 2 distinct identities take control of the same body at different times. This is often followed by large gaps in memory and hallucinations. Chuck Palahniuk is trying to show his readers that insomnia can be more dangerous than most people generally think. Although it’s not a fatal illness, Insomnia can cause serious repercussions in a patients life alongside the people close to said patient.
Furthermore, in “Fight Club”, there is a connection between the inclusion of specific brand names in the book and the control big corporations possess in our world. Multiple times throughout the book, we can notice a subtle use of brand names such as Ikea, Microsoft, Starbucks, etc. This allows The Narrator to talk about the importance of brands in our society in depth. An example of this is when he said: “They try to look like how Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger said they should.” This is a very common thing in our society. Nowadays, the brand name alone can lead people to overpay four to five times more for things such as belts, shirts, and shoes, even if the only difference is the name on the tag. The author is trying to push the message that materialism is not solely the consumer’s fault. It is also thanks to these big corporations repeatedly stamping their name on everything we see and use, slowly manipulating us into the next purchase with every physical or digital advertisement we inevitably see all throughout our day.
A literary technique used in “Fight Club” is characterization. An example of this is Tyler Durden’s character advancement throughout the book. At first, he is thought to be The Narrator’s friend, which is the case during a majority of the pages. However, we soon find out that Tyler is really just The Narrator acting out his subconscious without him knowing or remembering anything he does as Tyler. This brings whole new meanings to The Narrator and Tyler’s characters in the book, knowing that they are one person. One person who is only known as The Narrator, throughout all branches of the “Fight Club” series. The author used characterization to unveil arguably the biggest plot twist in the book, giving readers a whole new perception of the storyline nearing the end of the book.
The Ongoing Theme Of Loneliness In Fight Club
In the Fight Club, it is clear to see that the narrator suffers from loneliness. It’s very clear at the beginning of the book where he only cares about material objects and not people such as his apartment. He becomes tired of living his boring lonely life so he then decides to join a support group in a way so he isn’t lonely all the time. But the thing is is that he is a “Faker” and doesn’t have any problems that they talk about in the support groups he goes too. This new hobby allows him to express himself in a way he’s never done and gets emotional during the meetings. I think the author is trying to show us how loneliness can cause some terrible issues to a person. For example who would blow up there own apartment. Long term loneliness can cause some serious damage to a person well being and the author did a good job at expressing that.
In the Fight Club, everyone involved with the club seems to use pain to feel something because they’re so tired of their life. Let’s use the narrator as an example. In the chapter where he goes to the bar and meets “Tyler”, they end up going outside and Tyler asks the narrator to punch him so he does. Then the narrator wants to give it a try so he gets punched in the face and in that moment he realizes that he likes the feeling of pain. This is seen throughout the book with everyone in fight club feeling the same way about pain, they enjoy it and it makes them happy because they consider death and pain to be more real than the lives they lead outside the fight club. The author seems to be saying that people have dark sides to them and is not always easy to see. The message is that people use pain to escape and feel happy for once but it isn’t the best way.
A good connection with The Fight Club is the movie Cast Away. They both show what the effects of loneliness can do to a person’s mental state. In the movie, Chuck the main character has been lost at sea alone due to a plane crash. A bunch of FedEx packages wash up to the shore of the island Chuck was on and one of the items was a volleyball. That ball was Chuck’s friend for the 4 years he was stranded on the island. He called it Wilson. The book and the movie have a connection because both characters made up a fictional friend due to the loneliness they suffered from but are different in the way that in Cast Away the ball was a real object while in the Fight Club Tyler was a fiction of his own imagination.
Another good connection to the book is a personal connection to me. Back in the summer of 2018 a few other of my buddies and I decided to start a little fight club. We did it only within our friend group of 6. We didn’t do it because we liked the pain but instead we did it because we were just bored and we thought it was a good idea. The difference is that we had rules unlike the real fight club and we wore boxing gloves. We would all hang out at least four times a week over the summer but only fought once a week. It’s a good connection because we literally almost fully replicated the actual fight club and we learned a lot from fighting each other with respect and in a way became closer to one an another.
Fight Club utilizes imagery a lot throughout the novel. The narrator made me visualize much of what he is seeing, sometimes describing how he beat someone up or how someone looked like after he was beaten up. Similarly, imagery is used when the narrator describes how something is made, such as the production of soap or even the creation of explosives such as nitroglycerin. Fight Club paints a picture in almost every scene about what is happening or happened and how it went down. Truly one of the most interesting books I’ve read thanks to the vivid scenes depicted in my head.
Portrayal Of Masculinity In Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club
Our society today is a lot different than the society than it was years ago. Society used to be based on Masculinity, being the strongest one possible. Men used to be the most dominant gender while woman were seen as more weak and less respectable. However, in the modern era masculinity is less important than it used to be. People care less about being the most masculine and instead care more about shopping, clothing and consumer products and trying to have as many consumer products as possible. Fight Club follows the story of the Narrator and his friend Tyler Durden, as they try to regain control of their masculinity in this more feminine world. However their journey will show that unchecked masculinity is dangerous and is as bad, if not worse than the consumerist society they live in.
The story starts with the Narrator in the top floors of a skyscraper with a gun in his mouth. The gun is being held by his friend Tyler Durden. The Narrator talks about how both he and Tyler both know a lot of information on the same things. Then the book flashes back to the very start of the journey. The Narrator is in a cancer support group, crying while being held by Bob, who is a large example of the theme of Masculinity. The Narrator is unable to sleep and has to go to support groups he does not need, because it is the only thing that helps his insomnia. Bob is a former bodybuilder. Bob used to use steroids and he got testicular cancer as a result. He had to get his testicles surgically removed and due to hormone imbalance, ended up growing female like breasts. Bob is a big representation of the emasculation and feminization that is fought against in fight club. This is due to Bob starting out as very masculine but then ending up without testicles and breasts, Bob is the one character in the play who is literally emasculated. The Narrator is able to find relief in these many support groups that he joined under false pretenses. That is until a woman named Marla Singer starts attending these same groups, causing the Narrator’s insomnia to resurge. The Narrator works at a major car company as a recall coordinator, a job that requires nothing masculine at all. Then the Narrator meets Tyler.
Tyler Durden is the alter ego of the Narrator. He is a cooler, calmer and more masculine version of the Narrator. The Narrator form very strong friendship in the story. When the Narrator’s condo blows up, Tyler lets him stay at his house. Tyler lives very differently than the Narrator. The Narrator works an office job, lives in a modern condo and buys many consumer products. Tyler works as a projectionist who splices frames of porn into children’s movies and as a waiter at an expensive restaurant who urinates into the soup. He also uses and sells soap he makes himself. Tyler not only doesn’t hold an office job, but at the jobs he does work at, he does his best to ruin the experience for customers. Him creating soap also shows how he doesn’t buy consumer products like the Narrator does. Tyler also squats in a dilapidated mansion a large contrast to the new, manufactured condo that the Narrator paid for. Tyler does his best to boycott and revolt against the emasculated and consumerist society he lives in. Tyler and the Narrator create Fight Club together out of a need to retake the masculinity that this new world took away from them. Then it is explained that most people who enter Fight Club usually had no father in their life and were raised by their mothers.
The Narrator and Tyler have a comradery that is very strong. They start Fight Club together and Tyler lets the Narrator live with him and he teaches the Narrator how to make soap. The only thing that threatens it is Marla. Marla is a threat to Tyler and his masculine revolt and his friendship with the Narrator. Marla is the only main character in the book that is female. Marla tries to overdose on Xanax and is saved by Tyler. Tyler doesn’t bring her to a hospital and instead has sex with her to make sure she stays awake throughout the night. The Narrator at first doesn’t like how Tyler is having sex with Marla as he believes she is taking Tyler’s time. The Narrator starts to care for Marla and since Marla is not a part of Tyler’s Masculine dream so he tries to get rid of her and make the Narrator forget her. Marla is also part of the drive for the Narrator to beat Tyler. Marla also does not like killing like Tyler. She is fascinated by death but she does not agree with the idea of killing people.
Another example of this masculinity can be seen in Tyler’s dream. Tyler wants to create a new society, but in this new society he would rule the world. The current world we live in now, the head of the country is chosen by the people. Both the voters and the candidates can be anyone and their masculinity is not important even a woman could be president, someone who isn’t masculine. In America, where the book takes place, there are many non masculine people voting, the requirement to vote is to not be a felon, to be a citizen of the country and to be 18 of over. Being president is usually based on the most popular campaign or candidate, they can be smart, well spoken and have experience with the country’s laws and systems. Being the president isn’t just based on how masculine you are. Tyler wants to rule the world and since he is the most powerful and masculine, he believes he should be the ruler as the ruler should be someone strong. In his survival of the fittest world, he would be the most respected and strong, he believes he deserves to be the leader of his new world and the people living in it would agree with his ideals.
The Fight Club itself is very masculine creation. It is only open to men THese men fight each other because it is very fun for them.Their jobs are boring and their lives are dull, but Fight Club truly makes them feel alive. The pain and visceral fights give a lot of danger to Fight Club and is the reason people keep coming back. The Narrator notes how even in his own office he will see people who are incompetent at their jobs, dominating at Fight Club. A lot of them have bruises and wounds but the only acknowledgement of Fight Club is a knowing look. The fights are a celebration of their masculine roots and allows fighters to use their aggressive tendencies and strength. The Narrator doesn’t need his cancer support groups anymore since Fight Club lets him sleep as if he never had insomnia at all. Marla even questions why he doesn’t show up to the group meetings. In the repressed society they live in, they can finally release all their pent-up emotions. Unlike the society of the current world, the members of fight club don’t care about being beautiful or improving themselves. Instead they want to hurt others and be hurt by others. Fight Club becomes very popular due to this. The Narrator decides to stay away from the path society tries to give to him. Instead of working, getting married and raising kids he chooses to satisfy his desire for pain and violence. He doesn’t need a woman to fulfil his life, he chooses to ignore his feminized society and fight for fun. The Narrator’s scars and pain doesn’t seem to affect him or cause discomfort, he seems to wear his bruises with pride. Other people are more affect by his wounds than he is, his boss even sends him home.
Tyler creates Project Mayhem at a Fight Club meeting. While Fight Club members change themselves with violence, members of Project Mayhem change the external world with Violence. Tyler wants his followers to target symbols of civilization, like skyscrapers or museums. Since the members can accept pain and violence they can inflict it on the rest of the world. Tyler wants anarchy and while violence used to be self-fulfilling, it is now to be forced on others. While joining Fight Club only meant you needed to fight, Project Mayhem has a complicated process. First a member must bring two black pairs of pants, two black shirts and 500 dollars for personal burial. They must then be criticized by Narrator and Tyler while standing outside the house for days. The members must also complete homework, bombing skyscrapers, ruining museums and getting into fights and losing on purpose.Tyler calls them the “space monkeys”. The required clothes for joining is very similar to the Narrator’s clothing for his business trips. This show’s how Tyler’s Project Mayhem is as authoritarian and collectivist as the society he is rebelling against. The emasculated society makes people go to jobs and focus on feminine things while Project Mayhem makes people go commit acts of chaos and violence. Project Mayhem even threatens to cut off the testicles of those who are a threat to them. They threaten to literally emasculate those who get in their way and kill people to further their ideals. At the end of the book Tyler tries to blow up a skyscraper while he is inside so he will become a martyr. However the bombs fail to explode and the Narrator shoots himself to expel Tyler.
While the world the Narrator and Tyler live in is feminized and consumer focused, it doesn’t provide direct threat to anyone while Tyler’s masculine world is very dangerous and radical. Tyler’s plan almost came true as he had many member of project mayhem who all were dangerous radical who committed acts of terror to try and furthur Tyler’s dream. While their current society may be bad, Tyler’s would have been a lot worse.
An Extremist Christ
In 2001, the US experienced the worst terrorist attack ever recorded on its land. A total of 2,977 people were killed in New York City, Washington, DC and outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania2. Economical losses were also tremendous as $123 billion -estimated economic loss during the first 2-4 weeks after the World Trade Center towers collapsed in New York City.
Two years earlier, the movie fight club came out in theaters and stood as one of the most successful and controversial plots established. Fight club defends strong voire extremist worldviews against ways society is established economically and socially. Fight club underline religious analogies, to promote an idea of salvation from identity problem, and contrast barbarism and masculinity, and finally enlighten the liabilities of economical system.
Jack is a man who lives in. He is single, has a decent job, owns his own apartment and has an average economical social status. He lives for what he has more than living for But like man people Jack has an identity Jack is not
Fight Club use religious analogies to address salvation and identity problem. John the Baptist baptized people for them to repent and be prepared for the arrival of a man who is the son of God and will deliver them from their sins. Jesus means salvation for those who were waiting for him to come. Religion is an important theme that is carried throughout Fight Club and it sides along with people social insecurities. Tyler is created by the narrator out of necessity, encompassing everything that the narrator lacks and offering ‘salvation.’ In a sense, Tyler could be comparable to Christ. The narrator and others look up to him for guidance and salvation. He offers this salvation; however, you need put your full trust in Tyler. Tyler preaches that, “Only after disaster can we be resurrected. It’s only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything.”(70). In essence, Tyler is offering them a type of rebirth but only until they are willing to give of themselves . In Luke 14:25-35, Jesus gives us an idea of why He asks us to give everything up for Him. Here he basically says, “Here. This is what it costs to follow me. Everything. You can may lose your possessions. You may lose your family. You may lose everything. And if you’re ready and willing to do that, you can follow me.” This parallels the religious ideals of such as Christianity. Christ gave his life upon the Cross to save humanity. But even on the upon the Cross Jesus maintain trust in his father and did not redeem from his mission. One has to love GOD and let him into ones life; fully trusting him, in order to be a ‘good Christian.’ Similarly in fight club, “…Tyler said if I loved him, I’d trust him” (89). There are rules of fight club that everyone must obey, similar to the Ten Comandments that Christians must follow. If it were to parallel it to religion, Fight club in a sense would represent a church. The men go there and from that experience gain clairity and a type of peace, Tyler is a representative of Christ, whom the men respect and follow. Project Mayhem; therefore, would be in a sense missionaries, spreading Tyler’s word.
Graphic violence and ultraviolence have been the axis of numerous popular American movies since the 1960s. The idea that a man should demonstrate his strength is still dominant nowadays. Refusing to fight is a sign a “weakness” because real men fight.
Fight Club encourages masculinity and barbarism. No one expects Jesus to come out of heaven and says “Be a man!” Yet Tyler is not as soft as Christ. Jesus demonstrates through his ministry that love and humbleness surpass everything. That we must live by love and demonstrate it to each other. Jesus never promoted violence in his preaching. He says that only by peace and love would a man find salvation even if he dies for his beliefs. By love, Christ bears the scars upon the cross where he gave his life and his flesh. On the other hand, Tyler believes a man finds salvation in the grief of his flesh. For this he organizes bloody fights between members of his club. He preaches “I don’t want to die without any scars.” In sense, Tyler depicts a more masculine Christ. The narrator and the members of the club find joy fighting each other. It These scenes support the contemporary idea that “real” man are not afraid of pain. For a masculine audience, it is more intimidating cause if they do not compel with the reasoning of the movie, they are not man.
The Perversion of Spiritual and Emotional Fulfillment in "Fight Club"
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Consumerism
- 3 Art Direction
- 4 Colour
- 5 Light
- 6 Shape Language
- 7 Compositional Techniques
- 8 Conclusion
- 9 References:
- 10 Books
Semiotics is the study of symbols and signs a communication system which relies on a visual metaphor to communicate information in the most culturally universal instinctual way. Explored in film first by Peter Wollen in his book “Signs and their Meanings” Peter put forward symbols as integral communication devices to help progress story and meaning.
Fight Club was originally a book written by Chuck Palahniuk in 1996 and later adapted into a screenplay by Jim Uhls. It is a grim story which outlines the gross levels of consumerism in our society as well as the dangers of cults, the story revolves around a man, “the Narrator”, whom rejects his reality by creating a personality which is able to reject and rebel against the lifestyle which he feels is corrupting the way we live our lives.
This essay will focus on how Fight club portrays the perversion of spiritual and emotional fulfillment in the modern age through the grotesque consumerism and the degradation of the American dream and how damaging it can be too the emotional and spiritual health of a person. These topics will be discussed mostly through the semiotics of the art direction of Fight club and how both David Fincher and Alex McDowell’s design choices added to both the experience of the film as well as to the meaning behind, emphasizing key story moments and how said design choices communicated the underlying themes and motifs of the original story, to ultimately signify the perversion of the American dream through excessive consumerism and how acquisition of material goods and wealth has taken priority over living a meaningful life.
One of the main themes of Fight Club is Consumerism, and how it corrupts our dreams and aspirations. For the Narrator the taint consumes his whole life, he gives us a description of how it affects him in the beginning of the film, things like insomnia which make everyday tasks feel like “a copy of a copy” (the Narrator, 00:04:07), this is followed by a scene of an empty apartment being filled with expensive things, it is at this point that the Narrator claims “Like so many others, I had become a slave to the IKEA nesting instinct.” (the Narrator, 00:04:48). This is an important distinction in the consumer culture as it “draws attention to society’s infatuation and obsession with materialism.” (Nikolai Christofferson).
The acquiring of materialistic goods in the beginning of the film is likened to obtaining the American dream, the Narrator spends his spends his time and money on inconsequential things to fill up his apartment in the hopes of achieving some sort of happiness and or enlightenment. “I was close to being complete” (the Narrator, 00:29:37) the Narrator reveals to Tyler Durden when all of his accumulated wealth has crumbled to ash, this is and indexical signifier of how much control over our lives we give to the items we want, that there is almost a pathological need for them.
There is also a clear visual metaphor where the idea of the American dream literally rots away for the Narrator as he goes from clean ordered apartment to a rotting house and finally the absolute destruction of buildings at the end of the film, this escalates in tandem with the Narrator’s relationship and subsequent merging with Tyler in the end. The decaying and ultimate destruction of the buildings also grown in scale throughout the film signify the Narrator’s state of mind and mental health as the film progresses, as he starts to slowly spiral into the insanity of Tyler Durden whom gives him the freedom to break away from his old ways until finally at the end of the film with the ‘ultimate’ destruction the Narrator will have gained a level of enlightenment that he had lacked throughout the film.
The sickly nature of consumerism is also told through Tyler Durden’s Soap Business, by taking a consumable product ei a soap bar and explain the process of how it comes from human fat from a liposuction clinic. David finches is alluding to both the lack of care in which we as a society get our products from (just so long as we are still able to acquire said products) and the amount of waste that is left over from the gluttonous process. While the example in the film may be an exaggeration the message still stands, as it shows the complete willful ignorance of society and the lack of motivation to change their living situation.
The obsessive consumerist lifestyle is visualized throughout the film using recognizable brand names and logos which are littered throughout the movie often cluttering the backgrounds of specific shots. According to Tim Pelan from Cinetropolis, David Fincher claims that there is a Starbucks coffee cup in every scene this of course is one of the biggest signifiers of consumerism throughout the film as Starbucks is such an iconic brand. David Fincher also uses “visual and auditory elements that imitate advertising tactics.” (Nikolai Christofferson) such as fast cuts and an almost catalogue like approach to explaining how certain goals are achieved in the film, for example the explosion sequence in the narrator’s apartment, or the description of project mayhems plans, and definitely for the Ikea scene in the Narrator’s Apartment. It is important to note that along with material gain in Fight Club the narrator is also looking for truthful validation from other people, which is portrayed by him going to all sorts of different support groups and faking that he has all sorts of chronic or terminal disabilities. It is at these support groups where he can get the full attention of another human being whom does not have any ulterior motives. This in itself is a criticism of the selfishness of the American dream and the consumer lifestyle, the selfishness and narcissism is what eventually spirals the Narrator to into a very literal and visual destruction.
From all the visual cues we can assume that the target audience for fight club is for the younger masculine viewer, as the film boasts testosterone fueled fights with a dark and gritty aesthetic. We can break down the meaning behind the aesthetics into 4 main groups; Colour, Lighting, Shape Language and Compositional Techniques.
“But instead of merely focusing on the internal and external forces affecting the characters, Fincher makes it a point to utilize the environment’s color palette in expressing conflict as well. For Fincher, everything in the shot is an extension of the characters and should reflect their dilemmas.” (Matt Vasiliauska)
Fight Club sports a mostly subdued colour scheme made up of dull greys, blacks, whites and some neutral greens. Browns and blues all of which when combined give a certain sickly or unhealthy feeling to the film. This supports the obviously ‘unwell’ Narrator who has to attend various support groups by faking problems to feel validated as well as the less than obvious split personality reveal at the end. Key moments and characters that act as catalysts of the film are emphasized with bright overly saturated warm colours usually varying shades of reds and oranges, these moments are both alluring to the Narrator as they are dangerous, the danger symbol, which will be further expanded upon later in this essay, is what gives the Narrator a choice in his life which he does not feel has been pre-decided for him by larger corporations.
“color itself has that inherent emotional property. It means that
It can elicit that physical and emotional response from the audience.” (Patti Bellatoni, page 26)
The colour scheme of or surrounding the characters also help to communicate specify characteristics and personality traits. The colours that surround the Narrator are always dull neutral colours, most often whites, greys, and browns and even when reds occur on him in they are subdued sickly reds unlike the bright vibrant colours of Tyler Durden whom is the opposite force of everything in the narrator’s life. In the case of Tyler his colours are so bright and vibrant with the purpose of looking like he doesn’t belong in the world as he is literally a figment of the narrator’s imagination and rejects the world in which the narrator lives. Another reason for Tyler to have these colours, is that he is a catalyst for all the turning points in the film which reveal to the narrator how controlled his life really through the material goods that he has brought.
“David Fincher movies want to get at the heart of what makes reality tick. How human and environmental forces compliment and antagonize one another.” (Vasiliauskas)
The majority of the film takes place in the dark, which of course adds to the grim mood of the film but it also helps to communicate a secrecy of what is going on in the Narrator’s mind “The lighting shows the audience that film is a story of a man fighting his inner demons and problems including his own expectations of himself” (Xhaed123) the dark lighting makes some of the visual information unclear both to us the audience but also to the narrator. In Contrast to the dark lighting the only scenes that are not shot during a night scene nor a dimly light room all highlight the docility and complacency in reality.
They also use lighting to show the mental state of the Narrator and Tyler Durden swapping mainly between heavy contrasted high key-lighting and very even low-key lighting to communicate which of the narrators personalities is most in control at any given time.
“The stark contrast between the lighting depending on whose personality is in control is obvious throughout the film. Blood, fighting, dirt, sweat, masculinity and the dark low-key lighting represent Tyler, whilst Jack is represented through consumerism, clean white oxford’s, neat and tidy spaces, and the bright high-key lighting.” (Lea Studebaker)
The semiotics of the lighting is important towards the two characters because it helps us differentiate the two as well as their role in the film at any given moment.
“If the stark contrast in lighting was not utilized, the dramatic difference between Tyler and Jack’s personalities would not have been as evident” (Studebaker, 2019)
“People may not always notice what figures and shapes surround them still they have a great impact on our consciousness and behavior.” (Alina Arhipova)
Shape language plays an important role in this movie as the order vs chaos theme is used continually to further the consumerist and cult danger motifs through the story. This is done by contrasting the clean, clinical organized scenes of the Narrator workplace and the various support groups that he attends to the disorganized chaos of the basements in which the club fights as well as the cult cells in which he stays after his own house as be reduced to ash. This can be broken down a step further by contrasting the hard edged geometric shapes and the softer organics ones. The hard edged shapes are the prevailing shapes throughout the film all a metaphor for the lack of feeling and emotion these shapes signify order, structure peacefulness in a video by Claudio Graciolli he explains that these shapes could also be seen to embody conformity and even docility, in Fight Club they are often used in places where the Narrator feels trapped and hemmed in. This is contrasted by the use of softer organic shapes generally signify more caring and less dangerous emotions. The Narrator looks for acceptance in characters and environments with these shapes in the movie no matter how universally un-appealing they are, a perfect example of this is the scene where he has to hug a chronically obese sweaty man, which is something that is seen as unhealthy and even repulsive yet it brings the Narrator comfort as it is in direct opposition to the uncaring hardness in the rest of his life and it allows him to drop his emotional defenses and release his pent up emotions.
When the big sweaty man, Bob is soon replaced by the writhing mass of fight club members whom whose smooth flowing organic shape reads quite a bit differently, it becomes something primal and it becomes the extreme opposite of the sterile world which he is trying to escape. The narrator swaps a comfortable lie for the truth in an attempt to gain some closure in his own life.
Figure A, (Fight Club, 1999, 00:04:31)
If we take figure A as an example, in the top frame we have the Narrator visually literally boxed in by hard geometric shapes and leading line with his boss in the foreground blocking his only exit out. This is symbolic of how the narrator feels impotent in his current life with no means of escape. All the lines lead to his eyes which are cast up in a subservient manner to the giant foreground figure. The colours are sterile which add to the narrator’s impotence. The set dressing has no personalization which shows a complete lack of interest in his work as well as adding to his docile subservient demeanor. In this scene we can again the Starbucks coffee which is a reoccurring prop throughout the film.
Figure B (Fight Club, 1999, 00:45:25)
In figure B we have a wide angle shot of a fight scene within the actual fight club. Here the combatant are framed within a writhing mass of people making them the clear focal point of what is going on within this scene. There is a strong triangular composition from by the spreading of the light and the leading lines are less literal and rely more on the line of sight from the spectators of the club. The dim lighting with harsh rim light really adds to the testosterone fueled aggression of this scene and helps indicated the regression of the people here by showing them in a primal light. The colour scheme of this shot is again typical of the fight club colour styling using sickly darker colours to emphasize the grunginess of the scenario, there are some spot colours that are in the shot like the bright whites and the orange-red of Tyler’s pants which serve as focal point, guiding the viewer’s eye back to the main fight in the center of the shot, the colours also serve to show the mental state of the room mainly being an unhealthy one as the colours are all sickly greys, blues and greens while you also have the aggressive orange red spot colours too.
In conclusion, it is the overwhelming disillusioned world that breaks the narrator in the end, he tries to change the American dream by breaking down the hold of the material gain dogma that larger corporations have imposed on modern society. Through the muted, sickly colours, the harsh lighting schemes and the claustrophobic scenes, David Fincher and Alex McDowell have created a compelling visual destruction of the main character through both his environment and his script. While it could be argued that in the end he is reborn from the ashes of the destruction around him and that he has merged with his ulterior personality it is far more believable and compelling that the damage done was lasting and possible even irreversible, while the narrator was able to reject the consumerist lifestyle the same is not true for the rest of the world in the film, and the crimes that he had committed would leave emotional and spiritual scaring. In the end the Narrator was not able to fully cleanse himself nor the world of the consumerist American Dream.
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Dissociative Identity Disorder in "Fight Club"
The film “Fight Club” is about a man suffering from mental illness who has developed an alter ego that is desperately trying to break from societies norms by any means possible. In this film the narrator meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) who ends up being a figment of his imagination. The narrator sees Tyler as the person that he wishes he could be, he represents the symbolic model for a man.
The use of Gender roles throughout the film shows the characters defiance against the norms for genders in society. As well as gender, the use of violence in the film is important in showing these values of men and women. Also, through the defiance of gender roles and the use of violence a patriarchal society is formed.
For the longest time the “ideal man” has been seen as a tall, strong and dominant person. “Men, on the other hand, are presumed by traditional views of gender roles to be leaders. The traditional view of the masculine gender role, therefore, suggests that men should be the heads of their households by providing financially for the family and making important family decisions.” (Blackstone, Amy, 2003, pg. 337) Over the last 30 years or so this depiction of the ideal man has begun to fade into a whole new meaning.
As feminism has begun to challenge men’s dominance over society, the social role for men has changed. Men used to have a very specific role in society, and that was seen as providing and protecting his family and home. Modern day society and feminism reject these ideals. “We are a generation of men raised by women”, this is a quote from Tyler Durden in the movie fight club. This quote explains the change in gender roles and shows how feminism has reconstructed the social norms for men. This film shows the roles of men and women in a couple of different ways. It shows the social norms for men, or what the “ideal man” is perceived as, “married, white, urban, northern, heterosexual, protestant, father, of college education, fully employed, of good complexion, weight and height, and a decent record in sports.” (Dalton Conley), 2017, pg.291) throughout the film we see how the narrator tries to escape these norms. One scene in the movie we see the narrator’s apartment was blown up, an apartment that was filled with all his valuables and possessions (Ikea Furniture). The narrator seems upset about this at first but later in the film it explains how Tyler Durden was the one who blew it up. As explained before Tyler Durden was only a figment of the narrator’s imagination, so it was actually the narrator that blew up his own apartment. He did this to try to break away from his life and the social norms associated with the apartment. Such as the value people see in material possessions and how they idolize name brands over their own identity. The apartment represents the narrator’s femininity and him blowing it up represents him reconnecting to his masculine side.
The use of violence in the film plays a key role in showing the attempt to break away from norms of society and the new gender role for men. The purpose of the creation of the fight club in the movie was for men to come and express themselves through fighting and violence. Through violence the narrator attempts to break free from society and reestablish the fading masculinity in modern society. The character Bob in the film is a former champion body builder who had his testicles removed due to testicular cancer. He is seen in the movie attending testicular cancer support groups where he seeks comfort for his lost masculinity. He was once strong and independent but know is weak and dependent on others. He joins the fight club in attempt to feel less emasculated and gain some feeling of pride he once felt. The use of fighting and violence helps men to reestablish their masculinity they have lost because of society and everyday life. There is a scene in the movie where the narrator is fighting the character called Angel Face, the narrator takes the fight too far and beats him until he is almost unrecognizable. After this the narrator says, “I felt like destroying something beautiful.” This quote represents the destruction of modern society and what the narrator/ Tyler Durden have planned for the future. The use of violence in the film tells a lot about American manhood. Its shows that to be a “man” one must express himself through violence and dominance over others. Violence and the fight club is the first step to the rebellion against the society raised by women. It so influential and appealing to men that feel disconnected to their masculine side because of society.
There was only one female character throughout the entire film. This is the character Marla, she is portrayed as a masculine and brave female. She shows the same traits that the narrator has developed in his alter ego, Tyler Durden. In the beginning of the film it does not display a patriarchal society, but as the movie went on it began to develop in it one. As the narrator becomes more masculine he becomes more hostile and crueler towards Marla. It shows male dominance in society as well as in individual relationships. There are no females involved in the project mayhem and in Marla and the narrator’s relationship it is very one sided and controlled by the male. Tyler Durden treats her very poorly and kicks her out of the home as soon as he no longer wants her there. “patriarchal institutions and social relations are responsible for the inferior or secondary status of women. Patriarchal society gives absolute priority to men and to some extent limits women’s human rights also. Patriarchy refers to the male domination both in public and private spheres.” (Abeda Sultana, 2012, pg. 1)
Gender roles played a large role in the film fight club. It shows the change in society and the emasculation of the modern-day man. Tyler Durden forms a fight club and develops this plan to reconstruct society into how he feels it should be, he does this by aligning the gender constructs, so men regain their lost masculinity, recreating a patriarchal society and influencing people through violence.
Conley, Dalton. You May Ask Yourself: An Introduction to Thinking Like a Sociologist. Core 3rd ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2013.
Blackstone, Amy. 2003. “”Gender Roles and Society.”” Pp 335-338 in Human Ecology: An Encyclopedia of Children, Families, Communities, and Environments, edited by Julia R. Miller, Richard M. Lerner, and Lawrence B. Schiamberg.
Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. ISBN I-57607-852-3 -Sultana, Abeda. “Patriarchy and Women’s Subordination: A Theoretical Analysis.” Arts Faculty Journal, vol. 4, 2012
Faludi as a Lens for Fight Club
Imagine if there was a place where you were not judged based on your appearance, socioeconomic status but solely on your ability to physically overpower the person standing in front of you. The 1999 film Fight Club, directed by David Fincher, tells the story of two men who form an underground club where they fight violently against other men. The creation of Fight Club served as an outlet for a group of men who felt emasculated by their corporate jobs and consumerist lives.
American feminist, journalist, and author Susan Faludi writes about masculinity in a similar view with her 1999 book Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man she examines the role of men in America and the collapse of traditional masculinity. Both works are highly controversial although they do share a common theme. Being masculine is inherent to being a man, in American society successful men are portrayed as having extremely muscular bodies and lots of money. These standards are hard for the average man to reach and most men don’t measure up causing feelings of frustration and anger. Furthermore, when society takes masculinity away from men their sense of pride and purpose diminishes alongside it. This is further discussed in the movie Fight Club and in Faludi’s research in her book Stiffed. Fight Club illustrates Faludi’s argument about the ways American men of the 1990s filled the abandoned promises of their fathers with excess consumerism, thus leaving them further dissatisfied. The Narrator’s frustrations with his life of a “house full of condiments and no food”—fundamentally ornamental and lacking sustenance—led to his existential void, where he and Tyler developed Fight Club as an outlet to ‘fight’ their frustrations with the emasculating effects of American masculinity. In this paper, I will analyze emasculation, consumer culture, and violence elements from Fight Club and how they conform to Faludi’s argument.
The movie presents the argument that men in today’s society have been reduced to a generation of men that cannot do anything for themselves. Masculinity has become a brand, as well as a means to sell products. Being a man then becomes owning the right clothes or car instead of knowing yourself and your values. The emasculating effects that a society with such values creates is the driving force Jack, Tyler, and the other members of Fight Club reject. By stripping away all sense of identity and facing fear and pain these men hope to rediscover their masculinity. Faludi illustrates this argument with a similar approach after visiting a domestic violence group for men, “The men I got to know in the group had without exception lost their compass in the world ” (Faludi, 9). She discusses how the men she met had issues with their masculinity. Similarly in Fight Club Tyler struggles with feelings of being lost in the world. Having an outlet such as fight club created a place where men wouldn’t be defined by their collars but instead, their strength. By putting themselves through an unfiltered raw experience they hope to strip away the socially constructed parts of their lives and truly discover themselves. The fear of castration is depicted throughout the film when the narrator meets Bob at the support group for men who’ve lost their testicles due to cancer; a direct correlation to manhood. Later in the movie, the threat of castration is depicted through Tyler and project mayhem when he threatens the police commissioner to call off his investigation. The narrator also received threats of castration after attempting to shut down Fight Club. These men already feel emasculated by their day to day lives, so there truly is nothing more fearful to them than castration. They feel as if they have just begun to regain their masculinity due to fight club and Project Mayhem, so castration is their worst fear. Having a barbaric act like castration as a common theme throughout the movie goes to show the extent to which these men have lost their manhood in our consumerist society. Tyler believes that our consumer culture is to blame for people feeling unfulfilled in their lives. The film repeatedly detests advertisements that promote power and wealth “Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place.” (Tyler). His philosophy contends that people work jobs they don’t like to maintain an image that ultimately doesn’t lead to happiness.“ Our great war is a spiritual war… Our great depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won’t. We’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.” (Tyler) The film repeatedly portrays a life where people work jobs simply to maintain an artificial image of success and happiness when in reality they are unfulfilled. Faludi illustrates these arguments when she discusses the pressures the new baby boom generation of men faced. “Their nation had come into it’s own, powerful, wealthy, dominant, in control of the greatest destructive force ever imagined. The fathers had made their sons masters of the universe and it felt, as in the time of Alexander, that what they had created would last forever.” (Faludi) The nation had come into its own now it was time for these men to rule the world. Pressure to become “powerful, wealthy, and dominant” was projected onto men of this generation. After all, if their fathers can win a great war surely their sons can achieve high social status, right? This mentality leads men on a chase for power and wealth and when many fell short it leads to feelings of emasculation and shame.
The men of Fight Club are seeking something of true value, instead of the value system handed to them by advertising and society as a whole. Fighting is used as a path to reach the core of who they are “How much can you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?” (Tyler) He filled a void for these men and gave them purpose. Faludi illustrates this argument in her chapter when she discusses how harshly men are judged in our society and the emotional toll it takes on them.“They were men judged by their ride out into the wasteland, not their return; they were measured by the control they achieved over their environment through gunplay, not husbandry” (Faludi, 12). Faludi believes that men have trouble with their masculinity for many reasons. Faludi’s argument relates to the theme of violence in the film with the parallels she discovers between men who have issues with violence and their overall satisfaction with their lives. The men that she describes suffer from feelings of dissatisfaction and lack of control in their lives. As a result, they feel emasculated like the members of fight club. Unfortunately, these men resorted to domestic violence, but according to her, she thinks it could be stopped if we could change the way society views and treats men. By teaching men from an early age that they need to provide in order to be valued, we are teaching them that being a man has nothing to do with growth and discovery. This mentality is toxic for boys both illustrated by fight Club and Faludi’s chapter.
Fight Club goes into great depth about men, the struggles they face in society today that are unique to this generation. Faludi’s chapter illustrates these claims using rhetorical strategies to drive her argument. Both works look at the complex issue of masculinity and how it is being threatened by a consumerist culture with the wrong values. These issues are unique to this generation because of the fairly new culture of valuing a man for his ability to own objects rather than his ability to protect and provide, leaving men with an emasculated feeling of uselessness. It is important for us to learn from the messages of works like these. The topics discussed are not widely known and many men are suffering the consequences. I personally think that it is important to raise awareness about the issues presented in fight club especially given that it is almost two decades old and our consumerist culture is just getting worse. The whole idea of Fight club is to rebel against an ingrained system that emphasizes product over all else. Men in America face struggles just like anyone else however a lot of times they are ignored based on a stigma surrounding men and weakness. Men are expected to show no emotion conform and provide, this is a toxic message to be teaching boys and ultimately is damaging to their mental health. I feel that we as a society can learn from movies like fight club, about the internal struggles men face on the daily and instead of ignoring them facing them head-on. Men are human just like everyone else and they deserve to feel like men based on self-discovery and growth, not a car. We as a society can only benefit from men that feel strong and powerful within themselves, we should encourage self-awareness, not consumption.
Psychological Action Film "Fight Club"
Fight Club does has no specific genre but it is a deep psychological action film, which includes dramatic and thriller elements. In the movie, narrator has an easy, well-paid desk job but lives an empty and meaningless life with no family, friends, or goals. In addition, he suffers from insomnia and the empty consumer culture that he and those in a similar position have rapidly started to inherit.
He frequently visits local disease groups in order to form relationships with others and get rid of his insomnia. One day, he meets a magnetic stranger named Tyler Durden on a plane and begins to admire his qualities.
Soon after he meets Tyler, there is an explosion in the narrator’s apartment; the narrator ends up moving to Tyler’s place and they become close friends. With Tyler’s leadership, they form their own secret society called Fight Club, where young and middle-aged men brutally fight each other let go of their frustrations. Durden’s vices against capitalist society are further emphasized in his remark, “We are the middle children of history, raised by television to believe that someday we’ll be millionaires and movie astars and rock stars, but we won’t. And we’re just learning this fact..” Tyler Durden aligns himself with Adorno and Horkheimer’s thought processes, basing most of their ideas on the negative effects of the capitalist system, not the whole picture. Adorno and Horkheimer in The Culture Industry identify the source of these negative effects in popular culture and the ‘culture industry’. They pinpoint these as reasons for people’s passive satisfaction and lack of interest in overthrowing the oppressive capitalist system. The culture industry forces people’s emotions and actions through certain accepted values; there is no place for unique ideas or behaviors. For instance, the narrator lacking a name is an obvious way of claiming that no one is special in consumerist society; a name will not even make you different, so there is no point in including one.
Fight Club is analyzed superbly when Adorno and Horkheimer discuss that the culture industry is a clever dictator. It does not exert any physical power over people. Yet, people may have serious “invisible” mental problems or unconsciously waste their qualities to behave according to popular values. Tyler Durden recognizes this systematic human error and tries to correct it with Project Mayhem. However, he becomes what he set out to destroy. Project Mayhem morphs from the wild fight clubs to a full-fledged dictatorship over those in the group. Durden exerts his mental power over the “maggots” in Project Mayhem by repeatedly assaulting them both physically and mentally.