Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fight Club Film Review

I always knew that Fight Club was an incredibly popular “guy movie,” so I never had an interest in seeing it until this assignment, as I usually can't stand movies with needless amounts of violence. However, this movie is much more than a meaningless action flick; it offers the viewer a peak into the mind of an “average” American young man living in the modern era. This protagonist is a young, white, heterosexual working professional struggling with insomnia, depression, and low self esteem. In fact, this man doesn't exactly have a fixed name or identity; while he calls himself “Jack,” he changes his name repeatedly when he attends support groups for the terminally ill. He temporarily finds relief from his loneliness in these support groups and is able to cry while connecting with other individuals. At these support groups he meets an elusive character, the morbid and unstable Marla Singer (the only female character in the film), who also frequents the support groups. His initial reaction toward her is anger. He describes her as “the tumor” inside his body, polluting and poisoning him. Ironically, he confronts her about frequenting the meetings because she is not ill, even though he does the same thing. His view toward Marla is contradictory: he is irked by her presence but is sexually attracted to her. At the end of their first encounter, he asks for her number. On a business trip, the narrator meets a suave, handsome man on the plane named Tyler Durden who gives him his business card before they part. When he returns to his apartment, he finds that it has been destroyed in a fire. Having no one else, he calls Tyler Durden, who meets him at a bar. At the end of the evening, Tyler asks him to hit him. While the narrator is initially horrified by the request, he relents, and they fight. After the fight, they sit on the sidewalk, smoke, and drink: they have obviously enjoyed the fight. Tyler agrees to let him stay at his place.
Over time, their passion for fighting spreads, and more men join in. Tyler creates the “Fight Club,” a men-only cult with such rules as “you do not talk about fight club,” “you do not ask questions,” and “if it's your first time, you must fight.” All the men seem to get a large amount of gratification and fulfillment from the fighting.
Marla develops a relationship with Tyler, and they have wild sex in the house in which the narrator is now living, which makes him very uncomfortable.
Soon, the fight club evolves into Project Mayhem, a far more lethal group which performs violent acts of vandalism and, well, mayhem. As the project evolves, the men become more and more brainwashed and robotic. The narrator begins to question the ethicality of the organization. Soon, he learns that project mayhem has planned to blow up several credit card buildings and create total chaos by returning the debt record to zero. He also learns that Tyler wishes to kill Marla. The narrator sets out to protect her and to foil Project Mayhem's diabolical plan.


Homoeroticism is present throughout the narrator's encounters with other men in controlled social settings. First, at the testicular cancer support group, he presses his face against another man's chest and cries. The man has “boobs,” making the encounter somewhat awkward, possibly because this quality makes him similar to a woman, the gender he is primarily attracted to. Later, his homoerotic behavior is exacerbated through his first fight with Tyler. After the fight, he sits with him, drinking beers and smoking- it is almost as if they just had sex. An aura of mutual gratification is present between them, and it is at this moment that Tyler agrees to allow the narrator to live with him. Further, the homoeroticism continues in the fights between other men at the fight club. The men must fight shirtless and shoeless, pressing their bodies against each other. After the fights, they hug in merriment and seem to have a mutual affection for each other.

In class, we have spoken about men's use of physical aggression as an excuse to touch the skin of other men, something that is forbidden for its possibility of feminizing men in the eyes of other men. In the film, we see the narrator seek bonding with other men first through the support group and then through fight club. Ultimately, fight club gives him the most gratification and makes him feel like he has a purpose and an identity.
Interestingly, homoeroticism in the film is associated with the more benign acts of the fight club. However, when the group becomes much more violent and dangerous, the homoeroticism is no longer present. Instead, the men belittle each other, thus encouraging one another to prove their loyalty to the cult by committing violent acts. While the men were able to bond with other men through fighting, their camaraderie changes to robotic obedience when the cult becomes Project Mayhem. This implies that violence, although it may be a (somewhat) socially acceptable way for men to bond, is not the best way and ultimately leads to destruction. Further, this also implies that affection between men is healthy and beneficial for the social development men.

Tyler Durden

Tyler Durden is the man that the narrator wishes he could be. He is wealthy, handsome, muscular, and good in bed. Further, he is a violent rebel and detests consumer culture. Similar to the men we saw in Wrestling with Manhood, Tyler “takes it to the man” by vandalizing corporate entities and, ultimately, fashioning a plan to destroy the buildings of credit card companies. Interestingly, Tyler’s form of masculinity is one that detests the expected “masculine role” of the 21st century (the breadwinner of the family with a respectable office job). He views women as only necessary for sex. In one scene, he reflects that “we are a generation of men who have been raised by women,” alluding to the fact that his father was absent throughout his life. He continues by saying, “maybe a woman is the last thing we all need.”

Overall, Tyler’s Fight Club is a representation of a group of men who are dissatisfied with their current place in society. They feel as if they are going nowhere, without an identity and without a purpose. Without adequate male role models, they are lost in adulthood, searching for a way to give their lives meaning. Fight Club is that vehicle, albeit a destructive one.

In the beginning of the film, the narrator is obsessed with his material possessions: his apartment and his furniture from Ikea. At one point after his apartment burns down, he exclaims, “I loved every stick of furniture in that place. That was not just a bunch of stuff that got destroyed, it was me!” However, like the others, he finds purpose through Fight Club. Indeed, before his first fight, Tyler asks him, “how much can you know about yourself, you've never been in a fight?” Clearly, fighting is not only a way for him to find camaraderie and purpose, but it is a vehicle for self exploration.

Ultimately, I found this film fascinating and exhilarating. While there is a substantial amount of violence, it is not overly excessive. The filmography is spectacular, and the dialogue is introspective. The film provides excellent social commentary on the position of men in society today, and it is a testament to how important it is to focus on men’s social development in our society as well as women’s.

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