Published on March 19, 2014
3 • As an audience however we are forced to identify with The Narrator as his voice guides the film, therefore the dominant response is to empathise with The Narrator instead of Marla, particularly at the beginning of the film when spectators are establishing their opinions on the characters. • When Marla first enters the micro features help create her villain persona. This is constructed by the shadows cast across her face, her black clothing, the change of the music and slow motion. • At the beginning of the film The Narrator is incredibly disgusted by Marla and refers to her as a tumour. However her behaviour reflects The Narrator’s so his hatred seems irrational and unjustified. • You must also consider that Tyler is trying to reject all things that are deemed feminine in society. Therefore anything feminine is portrayed as numb with high key lighting. • However at the end The Narrator begins to care for Marla and sends her away to safety when project mayhem is out of his control. Before this however there is a strong theme of misogyny throughout.
• The Narrator and Marla both experience Isolation due to the lack of satisfaction in their lives. By attending support groups they experience the human connection that they lack and crave. • Neither The Narrator or Marla mention any friends of theirs nor do we meet any. Therefore neither of them seem to have anyone in their life who cares for their well being. • Marla unlike The Narrator is poor and without a job, she can't turn to a life of consumption to escape her reality because she cannot afford it. This further emphasises her isolation. 4
• In a key scene in the film, Tyler and Jack/the Narrator both bond over their recollections about their fathers. Both men state that their fathers were not a major part of their lives. • Jack says that his father left when he was young. Tyler describes his father as a distant figure with whom he would speak on the phone roughly once a year, adding that they are members of a generation of men raised by women. • With no distinct male role-models in their lives Jack and Tyler have largely accepted the role of men in society as it has been presented to them by advertising. The aim is to secure a good job with a good salary, get married, and have children. The men of fight club have seen an emptiness in this model and reject it. 5
• Tyler believes that the use of chaos by Project Mayhem will lead to a better world. Tyler plans to reset civilization to a hunter-gatherer phase, allowing the planet to recover from all the damage done by human beings. • All bosses in the film strongly lack any power or authority. • There is strong themes of consumerism throughout portrayed through an obsession with brands and products, i.e. IKEA and Starbucks. 6
• Zen concepts can be depicted in the film, particularly regarding breaking the cycle of suffering and the rejection of material possessions. In Buddhist teachings, the attachment to material possessions is what keeps a person attached to this world and prevents liberation. Without this, inner peace cannot be attained. • Jack is miserable in his life but is either unsure of how to change or afraid to try. Instead he buries sadness in what he calls the "Ikea nesting instinct”. Tyler shows Jack that suffering is simply a part of life, but is largely based on attachment to material objects. 7
The film repeatedly critiques the values espoused by advertising such as youth, beauty, power, and wealth. Tyler's philosophy says that people work jobs that they don't enjoy to keep up the appearance of a life that "has it all." In reality these people are deeply unhappy. They continue to buy cleverly marketed goods to make themselves feel better. Fight Club is a film built around this idea of rebelling against an ingrained system that emasculates men and emphasizes product over all else. One way that Fight Club only indefinitely supports the system is in its product placement. The film attempts to use these products to show that consumerism has taken over its characters lives. For example, there is a Starbucks coffee cup shown in every scene of the film. In attempting to show a product’s infiltration in daily life, the film only expands the brand’s influence. 8
• The fighting in the film is not presented as a solution to the character's problems, but is a means of achieving a spiritual reawakening. The fighting itself reminds the men that they are alive and not just a cog in the working machine that is society. • Fighting is used as a path to reach the core of who they are. While the fighting can be seen as an attempt by the men to reassert their masculinity, it is more of a rejection of what they have been told masculinity is by prior generations, their jobs, and mass media. 9
• Fight Club presents the argument that men in today's society have been reduced to a generation of men that do nothing themselves. Masculinity has become a brand, a means to sell products to men. "Being a man" then becomes owning the right watch or car instead of knowing who you are and what your values really are. • As a result The Narrator, Tyler, and the other members of Fight Club reject this spoon-fed approach to living and try to find themselves. By putting themselves through the experience of fighting and facing fear and pain, they hope to strip away the unnecessary parts of their lives and discover their true selves. • The threat of castration is depicted throughout the film. First, the Narrator meets Bob at a support group for men who have lost their testicles to cancer. Later on, the threat of castration is used by Tyler and Project Mayhem to get the police commissioner to call off his investigation. The Narrator, too, is threatened with castration for trying to shut down fight club. This loss of manhood is the worst possible fate these men can imagine, particularly because they feel they have just begun to appreciate their masculinity due to fight club and Project Mayhem. 10
• This theme traditionally reflects a character's passage through their late teens or early twenties however, in the film The Narrator's ordeal takes place at the age of thirty, making it something of a pre-midlife crisis. • The Narrator has to come to terms with who he is and must take responsibility for his own life. He instead subconsciously creates Tyler Durden, a charismatic but unhinged ‘id’ that is free in all the ways that The Narrator is not. • Tyler allows The Narrator to reject society's expectations but also allows him to reject all responsibility as well. Instead of coming to terms with his place and learning about himself, Jack retreats into a false character, someone he'd rather be. When Tyler goes too far, The Narrator snaps back to reality and sees that he is losing himself to Tyler. He then must choose to save both Marla and himself from Tyler. 11
• There's a fine line between a religion and a cult. Whichever they are, religion or cult, fight club and Project Mayhem are religious experiences to their devoted followers, and Tyler guides his disciples down a strict path to salvation. 12
• Tyler’s character is representative of hegemonic masculinity which men tend to strive for. His character also highlights everything that Jack isn’t. • The creation of the cult creates a sense of unity within the film although Tyler is in fact the leader. The main aim of the group is to face their fears and discover their true selves. • Jack and Tyler represent binary opposites within the film as Jack is overruled by Tyler which shows the differences in their masculine roles. 13
Fight club can tell us a lot about modern culture as the recurring themes give us strong connotations of our morals which reflect the state of our society and help predict the quality of our future. 14
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Key Themes within Fight Club. Artwork taken from Pinterest. All credit to creators of each piece.
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