The movie begins as Jack, the protagonist, is trapped in a state of insomnia by his job at calculating the cost of recalling a faulty car as opposed to paying court settlements to the relatives of the people killed by that car. He then recommends the one that seems less expensive. While he tries to argue with a doctor about how he can start sleeping, the doctor happens to make a sarcastic remark about how if he wants to see real pain he should go to a support group for men with testicular cancer. Jack takes this remark literally. It is there that he meets Bob, whom I shall describe shortly. Anywhere, he begins to find the support groups addictive, and attends more and more of them, and finds that they allow him to sleep. Soon after in the movie we find Jack meeting Tyler Durden on a plane trip, and when his apartment later explodes Jack meets Tyler Durden in a bar. Having agreed to let Jack stay at his house, Tyler asks Jack to punch him. He tells Jack this will make him feel that his life was indeed exciting, and Jack obliges. They begin to fight, and others begin to stand around, wanting to join as well. They gather together, protesting amongst themselves that society was trying to turn them into wimpy and uniform machines and preventing them from feeling like real people, constantly telling them that they need to buy all sorts of stuff that they only need because the advertisements said they did.
Pretty soon there are weekly gatherings of these men, waiting for a chance to fight one another, and then they move into the basement of a local bar. More and more men begin to attend Fight Club with the express agreement that they would not mention it, and rumors begin to circulate of Clubs in other cities. Gradually Durden begins to make the Club more involved, giving out “homework assignments” such as to start a fight with a stranger and lose. Thus Jack finds himself watching as Durden institutes Project Mayhem, an outward attempt at changing society based on widespread attacks on coffee franchises and corporate artwork. Finally Durden plots to blow up ten major credit card companies, with the intent that to erase everyone’s debt would create chaos, and allow society to re- organize itself from that chaos. Many critics of the movie found it to portray antisocial behaviors as a valid way of expressing oneself. (Particularly if only the beginning and middle of this movie are looked at.) They argue that its violence is there merely to draw an audience. This is supported by numerous instances of young men and boys vandalizing cars as was done in the movie or forming clubs of their own. Therefore many say that the movie succeeds in condoning what the ending condemns.
They say that it promotes violence by making it seem so attractive in muck of the movie, regardless of the conclusion. With this argument in mind, we shall proceed with our analysis of the movie itself. One of the principal themes in Fight Club is its treatment of violence and its relationship with masculinity. The men in the film are portrayed as confronting a society which gives them little meaning and refuses to give them what they feel to be a birthright, a meaningful, productive place in society. Tyler Durden, the leader of Fight Club and the manifestation of the angry, alienated, and purposeless feeling, articulates this, “We’re the middle children of history, with no special purpose or place. We don’t have a great war in our generation, or a great depression. The great depression is our lives. The great war is a spiritual war.
We have been raised by television to believe that we’ll be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars–but we won’t And we’re learning that fact. And we’re very, very, pissed off.” The men in this movie, having their traditional masculine role of breadwinner seemingly denied by feminism and left with meaningless corporate jobs compensate for this loss of masculinity and control by re-affirming their masculinity for themselves through the only masculine behavior they still can do: fighting. According to Jackson Katz: One way that the system allows working class men (of various races) the opportunity for what Brod refers to as “masculine identity validation” is through the use of their body as an instrument of power, dominance, and control.
For working-class males, who have less access to more abstract forms of masculinity-validating power (economic power, workplace authority), the physical body and its potential for violence provide a concrete means of achieving and asserting “manhood”. Bob also fits this description of fighting as compensation for that sense of paralysis preventing men from being either a crucial part of society or being able to change it so that one can be. Through a combination of the treatment for testicular cancer and of increased estrogen as a result of his steroid use while a body-builder which Bob was left with unusually large breasts and left him with very little perception or himself as masculine or valuable to anyone. However, Bob later appears in the movie as a member of Fight Club, where he finds that once again he can act “like a man” and feel as if his masculinity is validated. Jack finds Durden’s assertions that the men in their generation have no other way to express their individuality or to free themselves from materialism than to fight each other, and to use their fighting as a method of filling the void left by the removal of worthy roles for men in society.
In the beginning of the film Jack is using mail-order catalogs, becoming so obsessed with buying whatever he sees advertised in them that his orders become an end to themselves. I would flip and wonder, “What kind of dining room set ‘defines’ me as a person?” He became so obsessed with obtaining what he saw in the catalogs that he filled up his apartment with furniture and all sorts of other stuff he didn’t need. This seems also to address the increasing assertion by advertisements that you can be defined and given a soul by acquiring products. Durden also spoke of this sort of cycle: “Look at the guys in fight club. The strongest and smartest men who have ever lived — and they’re pumping gas and waiting tables; or they’re slaves with white collars. Advertising has them chasing cars and clothes. A whole generation working in jobs they hate, just so they can buy shit they don’t really need.” He was alluding to the shackles that a culture based on acquisition has on its members, and inviting these members (namely men) to throw off the shackles and prove that they didn’t need a better dining room set to define them.
All they needed, he assured them, was to fight, and would show their humanity and masculinity through that. During another one of his outcries about the male relationship with society, Durden once came upon a designer clothing billboard featuring a muscular man in jeans and no shirt, and criticized it much like various critics of ads which use unrealistic shows of feminine beauty to sell products asked, “Is this what a real man looks like?” After smearing it with blood, he proclaims, “Guys packing into the gyms, all trying to look like what Calvin Klein says. Fight club isn’t about looking good.” Susan Faludi, author of Stiffed: the Betrayal of the American Man” calls this sort of “ornamental masculinity” a major factor in the “Angry White Male” mentality: The more I consider what men have lost–a useful role in public life, a way of earning a decent living, respectful treatment in the culture–the more it seems to me that men are falling into a status oddly similar to that of women at midcentury. The ’50s housewife, stripped of her connections to a wider world and invited to fill the void with shopping and the ornamental display of her ultrafeminity, could be said to have morphed into the ’90s man, stripped of his connections and invited to fill the void with consumption and a gym-bred display of his ultramasculinity.
The empty compensations of a “feminine mystique” and transforming into the empty compensations of a masculine mystique. Douglas Rushkoff gives his account of the switch from a linear and continuous world to one that was non-linear and discontinuous. Before this switch, middle-class men were seen as valuable and benevolent authority figures who were a pillar of society and who always succeeded in bringing home food for the table because his work paid relatively well. The society felt that there was value also in acquiring as many new and technologically advanced possessions as possible, which allowed for the men to ensure that their wives would find it enjoyable to expend all of their energy at home, cooking and vacuuming and buying better things for cooking and vacuuming. In this way men were given the great majority of political power and respect. However, the awareness of the corruption in politicians’ lives from Watergate, the national confusion after a country was able to watch Kennedy assassinated on TV, and possibly the most lasting of all, the first time that ordinary citizens were able to see combat in Vietnam on the nightly news, creating a much more suspicious outlook on the government and military, caused society to become discontinuous.
The former male status symbol was gone along with continuity, replaced by gender equality which prevented men from using the feminine mystique to their advantage, making them less likely to have a dependent wife and family. They lacked that meaning which they had when they were providing for their offspring and mate, to put it in a biological concept, so their motivation to work was largely gone, with consumerism alone unable to fill the void. Their power having toppled, the male now tried to fill this void and prove that he indeed was still a man for society. Consumerism was unable to do that anymore, and so the male body itself, as Jackson Katz said, became the tool. This is shown by the film, in which Tyler Durden attempts to destroy the discontinuous society which tells him that he should not have this total control. This is shown by his completely anti-feminist outlook, particularly his meaningless sexual relationship with Marla Singer. “Except for their humping, Tyler and Marla were never in the same room…” Jack relates. Tyler also describes a generation of unaggressive men “raised by their mothers”, that characterized his peers who grew up in a time of increased divorce rates and in turn grew up without fathers. “The last thing we need is another woman.”
He gives reason to his masochistic fights and burns by saying that you could create pain for yourself, thereby “hitting bottom”. He describes it not as a painful and agonizing experience, but a turning point, where you are going to feel excellent after having your teeth knocked out no matter how bad your station in life is. And so Durden’s scheme to create chaos which would then begin society anew, Rushkoff would say, actually was showing that he was trying to mold society around himself. Meanwhile Jack in the end renounces Tyler’s ideas of violent upheaval, instead deciding that he would accept society as discontinuous and use its discontinuity as part of his life. This film therefore shows the advantage in not letting what happens matter to you such as it would in a linear world. Edward Herman’s perceptions of the film would be those of contradiction, largely centering around the fact that the movie is marketed and designed to make a profit, yet at the same time it criticizes the idea that you need to buy what society tells you to buy and that material goods are unnecessary to life.
He might postulate that the companies had realized that a capitalistic message promoting conformity doesn’t sell, and instead used and anti-capitalistic message of being skeptical of what society and everyone else tells you to make an even greater profit (much like Sprite’s paradoxical campaign which made fun of soft drink ads, then told people to buy Sprite). he would observe in short not that corporations indeed rejected themselves, but that they now make themselves even more effective by letting people pay to watch them pretend to do so. My own impressions of the movie are that along with its messages on corporations and their relationship with the identity crisis in American men is that it also offered a lot of information on the ultimate problem with taking violence as a way of demonstrating masculinity. This is especially apparent with Bob, who, managed to rediscover his manhood in Fight Club and in Project Mayhem, but was also killed while part of the latter. Following his death, he is spoken of by his comrades as if he had never been human. This is saying that to become part of violence unquestionably despite perceived acceptance and purpose is to swap one form of denial of yourself for another.
Katz, Jackson/ authority on phenomenon of violence and its link to masculinity and cultural trends creating this phenomenon/ Advertising and the Construction of Violent White Masculinity This article discussed the use of violence by white men as a tool to regain power they feel to be lost to other groups. Discusses overuse of portrayals of violence and its symbols in advertising. Faludi, Susan/ author of Backlash and Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man, a contributing editor for Newsweek, “The Betrayal of the American Man, At Ground Zero of the Masculinity Crisis, The Ornamental Culture, Beyond the Politics of Confrontation” Newsweek, (09-13-99) “It’s ‘Thelma and Louise’ for Guys”, Newsweek (10-25-99) These articles discuss how men have reacted to the identity crisis from their loss of job status and expresses that much of it comes from a modern image of manhood impossible to attain and in the latter relates such phenomena to the film. Fletcher, Kim, “Male Fantasies” The Spectator (11-20-99) Much like Faludi in that it concludes that film is the result of male feelings of inadequacy in modern culture addressing the question of how to react. Rushkoff, Douglas/ author of Media Virus and Playing the Future among others content take from excerpts of Playing the Future This book describes the cultural evolution caused by the digital age and resulting in adopting non-linear thought and in chaos mathematics. Herman, Edward/ linguistics professor at MIT, comrade of Noam Chomsky “The Propaganda Model Revisited” from Capitalism and the Information Age This essay enlightens as to the role producers’ and reporters’ personal biases and more particularly of their desire for profit plays in how the media portrays certain events or whether they even mention certain events at all. Braun, Bill, “Auto dealership vandal released after finishing ‘bootcamp'”, World Staff Writer final home edition (date not given) This, among other articles, outlined or mentioned the violent and anti-social effects that the film seemed to have on the younger adults and adolescents, such as forming their own little fight clubs or vandalism. Uhls, Jim Fight Club screenplay available at http://geocities.com/scifiscripts/scripts/fight_- club_shoot.txt