“REJECT THE BASIC ASSUMPTION OF CIVILIZATION, ESPECIALLY THE IMPORTANCE OF MATERIAL POSSESSIONS”
Analysis of “Fight Club”
For years David Fincher has directed some of the most stylish and creative thrillers in American movies. His works include: Aliens 3, Seven, The Game and Fight Club. Each of these films has been not only pleasing and fun to watch but each has commented on society, making the viewers think outside the normal and analyze their world. Fight Club is no exception, it is a multi-layered film with many subplots and themes, but primarily it is a surrealistic description of the status of the American male at the end of the 20th century. David Flincher’s movie, Fight Club, shows how consumerism has caused the emasculation of the modern male and tells a tale of liberation from a corporate controlled society.
In the movie Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) comments on the new way of life, “We are products of lifestyle obsession. Murder, crime, poverty do not concern me. What concerns me are celebrity magazines, television with five hundred cannels and a designer name on my underwear.” The film, Fight Club shows the consumer culture in which the 20th century male lives in and how it is a deconstruction of individuality. The film gives many examples of this; the main character of the film (Ed Norton) asks while looking through an IKEA catalog, “What kind of plates define me as a person.” He’s not asking what personal characteristics and attributes define him but what possession most accurately does. Also, Ed Norton’s character has no name he is only referred to as the 90’s everyman, the IKEA man. The film shows the extensive emphases the consumer-based culture of the 20th century has on individualism and values associated with being a man. Corporations have replaced personal qualities with corporate logos. The modern male cannot be anything unless he has certain products in his possession. No longer does one own things, his things own him. The contemporary male is a slave of the IKEA nesting instinct. The main characters absence of a name only exemplifies this; the buying of furniture from IKEA gives the main character (Ed Norton) his identity, without being a consumer the main character would remain undefined and anonymous. In the movie, the two main characters, (Ed Norton) and Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), are staring at a Calvin Klein ad and ask each other is this what a man is supposed to look like. Fight Club shows the extent of consumerism controlling life. The consumer culture even defines how the modern male should look and how he should wish to look. The corporate ownership of the male extends to how much his life is worth. Ed Norton works in a claims department for a large car manufacture. His job is to decide what a manufacture does in case of a design flaw. Take for example, if a carburetor runs a risk of exploding after 100,000 miles; ED Norton’s job is to investigate the probability of this happening. Then take the number of vehicles on the road and multiply them it by the probable rate of failure and multiply the product again with average price of an out of court settlement. If the end result is less than the cost of a recall, there is no recall.
Brad Pitt makes a statement that illustrates the society the modern male is forced to live in, “We are a society of men raised by women.” The film shows the emasculation of the 20th century male, not only by our consumer-oriented society but also by feminine standards of civilization. The best example of this would be the support groups Ed Norton visits. In these support groups, men are told to gather power, strength and courage from each other not from themselves. At the end of the sessions men are told to hold each other and cry, things that are very non-stereotypical of men. The 20th century society does not want men to function independently and be able to be emotionally strong on their own, it does not want men to be men. Society wants to take the very ideals of being a man, independence, strength and courage and only allow for men to experience them at certain times. The castration and feminization of the male character is shown through the testicular cancer support group. The men in this group have lost the very essence of their manhood, their testicles. They are a representation of the 20th century males, castrated and without the male essence. Society has taken the very fundamental aspect of being a man and taken it away creating a more feminine man. The character of Robert Paulson best illustrates this point. Bob was a champion bodybuilder, an independent and strong male, but had his testicles removed and the hormone imbalance caused him to grow extremely large breasts and his voice to become higher. Now Bob goes to a testicular cancer group so he could share his feelings, have strength and courage, to cry. He was once a strong and independent male, now he is weak and dependent. Bob becomes more of a woman than a man because of society.
Brad Pitt screams, “You are not how much money you have in the bank. You are not your job. You are not the car you drive or the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis! You are the all singing, all dancing crap of the world.” This war cry of the consumer-controlled male is his fight against society and it’s views. The movie, Fight Club is a tale about males breaking from the consumer culture and reclaiming their masculinity. Ed Norton’s character represents all men, every IKEA man. He is suffering from sleep deprivation and makes the comment, “When you have insomnia your never really awake and your never really asleep.” It is a representation of 20th century life. The consumer culture does not really allow for males to live or to die, life is a purgatory state that he cannot control. Later Norton becomes addicted to self-help groups as an escape from his own life in order to sleep, this works fine until he decides to stop running and reclaim his manhood. By blowing up his IKEA catalog apartment and living in a dilapidated house without concern for owning products and designer names, Ed Norton’s character releases himself his consumer controlled life and begins a journey to regain his manhood. He does this by creating Fight Club, which is an underground boxing club for men. Fight Club lets men live by liberating them. They are allowed to express their primal nature, to be men and reclaim their independent strength, courage and power. It was said, “When a man first enters Fight Club he was a wad of cookie-dough, a couple weeks later he was carved of wood.”
The 20th century male’s struggle still continues today, the 21st century is a corporate controlled society, in a consumer culture that gives life value by what is bought and owned, not by the individual. The modern male is emasculated in this feminist culture. David Fincher does an excellent job of taking a contemporary subject and putting it on film. Fight Club takes these themes, consumerism, emasculation of the male and liberation and weaves them together to make a great narrative on the unfilled, castrated male who desperately seeks to be free from societies control.
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