Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fight Club: Film Review

If you have ever watched Fight Club, I am sure you can think of all the different lines of social commentary brought up and suggested by the film. Some of the main themes are (Male) Solidarity, Homoeroticism, Anti-Capitalism, the duality of how we perceive ourselves and how we would rather be, and issues of Control and Autonomy in a modernized, materialistic and altogether bland society, among other things. I'm going to focus on a few of these, as well as several interesting observations made in relation to the main characters and women.

The main character, an unnamed protagonist played by Edward Norton, is a heterosexual white male who has become weary of his life and suffers from insomnia and depression, notably. He begins (upon suggestion of his doctor, who refused to give him any more medication for his insomnia) to visit nightly support groups, in order to understand “real suffering”. He does not have the problems of the people at these meetings, but it comes to be understood that he uses these meetings as a means of release, to be together with others. He poses as a member of whichever group he finds himself meeting with. He comments, “Every evening I died and I was reborn”. This is a form of finding solidarity for him, no matter the situation.

A strange observation occurred to me; the protagonist, being a heterosexual white male in society, seemingly has no friends, family, and he goes to the support groups pretending to be someone he's not (but would want to be, in effect to gain attention and caring from others). I mention this as a reflection of the attitudes held by not all, but many young to middle-aged white males, that somehow the attention and precariousness given to members of other demographics (whether it be women, African-Americans, homosexuals, other minorities) has somehow reduced their role and importance in society, citing such things as Affirmative Action; I'll get to the materialization of this argument in a moment. He meets Marla, who like him is a support group tourist. This is somewhat of a reflection of himself, and yet he loathes her, believing that he “needs this.” He does not care to come to understand her reasons first, and rather threatens to call her out, and even demonizes her on precisely the same thing he does in their first encounter. It's as if he is guarding this newfound outlet of his, perhaps not directly guarding it against a whole group of people different from him, but the parallel is inferred, (he's quick to point out to her it being odd that she is at a Testicular Cancer support group, to which she replies that it's more appropriate that she is there than him, after all, he still has his testicles). This brings me to another observation, Marla's mention of the protagonist still having his testicles; it's somewhat of a shot at him, and can be taken as “You're still a man in society, you don't have anything to complain about/are not the one to talking about deserving anything more than anyone else”. With that said, the protagonist begins to have sleep problems again.

The enigmatic Tyler Durden, whom the protagonist befriends and moves in with during the plot after his apartment has been blown up, offers many choice insights. Most notably, is his role in the creation of the Fight Club, all of its chapters, and the eventual result of these male spaces leading to his 'Project Mayhem'. The fight club, evidently offers escapism for the men who become attracted to it. In it, they follow a simple, yet strict set of rules, different from the complexities and burden of monotonous modern living. They find male solidarity; they scorn the ideal image of men, yet pursue it, albeit in their own way.
Unlike the capitalist, ends-driven system they are a part of, in the fight club, there is no 'goal'. “When the fight was over, nothing was solved, but nothing mattered”. The face of the fight club is that of a young to middle aged white heterosexual male, with a sense of modern world weariness, tired of the routine and bland pursuit of material possession to prove their worth. As the fight clubs spread, 'Project Mayhem' comes to exist. Yet, 'Project Mayhem' is not the goal or the culmination of these fight clubs, rather it's an evolving result of the men becoming more and more alleiged to Tyler Durden, taking any sort of verbal, psychological and physical abuse he hands them. A seeming cult is formed. Then, Tyler Durden disappears, and the protagonist is left to look over the system of men he's accumulated, all living and working under the roof of the delapidated house he and Durden had come to live in prior. The protagonist is now left to ask, 'What the next step to Project Mayhem?', and it reminds me of a conversation he and Durden had earlier in the film. Durden explains about his father telling him what to do next in his life: “'Go to college,' okay done what's next Dad? 'Get a job,' okay done what's next Dad, 'Get married,” and his disdain for the monotony of how his father suggests him to lead his life is clearly displayed. He even mentions earlier in the film if he could fight anyone, it would be his dad.

As the plot furthers and the protagonist comes to realize all that has happened, I came to an interpretation of the latter end of the film. The fight club, and Project Mayhem, being all men, came to control all around them, and willingly chose to commit acts to destroy the structures around them. I bring back a quote “When the fight was over, nothing was solved, but nothing mattered”. They didn't look to actually solve any problems, they simply sought to bring an end to what they saw as the problems with society. Evidently all being men, one can assume that one of those problems was what the role of women was, or had become in society (Durden earlier suggests, “We're a generation of men raised by women – maybe another woman isn't what we need”). Granted, those problems with society they saw being primarily capitalism, the struture of the financial system, indulgent manifestations of the bourgeouis (Advertising, name brands, upscale coffee shops), and for instance, the blowing up of buildings holding credit debt records, in order to destroy the evidence of debt in effect making the debt 'zero', therefore causing all sorts of financial and economic mayhem (the reasoning being, shouldn't it be wrong that our economy is supported and continues to function because/as a result of the propegation of massive debt?). But again, such a 'solution' does not actually solve anything. The implication here is that men in society can only seek to mask the problems. Destruction is not creation and does not need to be assumed to lead to creation, whether there was any intent to create a new system of doing things through their actions is dismissable. What matters is the intent of those doing the de-structuring. They seek to de-structure, in every sense of the word, but as the end of the film fittingly shows, there's no plan for restructuring. In effect, Tyler Durden is 'killed', and the old 'system' metaphorically collapses. Through the actions of Project Mayhem, Tyler Durden set all the events into motion, just as he intended. And just as before, there is no 'next step' to be seen, and the film ends.

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