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Fight club essays very useful

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Fight club essays very useful

  1. 1. ‘Despite the gesture of destroying symbols of corporate power at the end, Fight Club is a film about power and control, not liberation.’ How far do you agree? When looking at Fight Club, power, control and liberation are themes that cannot be ignored. I think that, how far I agree with the statement made would depend entirely upon which aspect of the film I was looking from. For example, right from the beginning of the film we can see that Jack has ‘become a slave to the Ikea resting unit.’ This gives a strong suggestion of the consumerist values of western culture, how materialistic society has become. It has developed a strong consumerist ideology. It would seem to me that the burning of Jack’s apartment (unknown to the viewer at the time but it is in fact himself that causes the fire) is a symbol of his rebellion against this mainstream ideology. He becomes ‘freed’ from the idea that he needs material possessions to ‘complete’ his life and himself. I would be inclined to say that it is in this respect that Fight Club is about liberation. It is about removing yourself from the ties put in place by society and the ideology that is imposed upon us. This Marxist idea that is strongly shown through this escape would suggest that the film is about liberation. However, the character of Tyler has very much control over Jack. This would lead me to agree with the statement that Fight Club is about power and control. We can see right from the beginning of the film, this kind of power Tyler may have, the splicing of Tyler’s image flashing at important aspects of the opening suggests we can expect him to change the way Jack acts, as it could almost suggest to the audience that he is part of a fabrication of Jacks mind (although this is not clear until we have seen the ending). Nietzsche’s theory of nihilism is quite relevant to this film. Despite Jack’s journey being one of what should be self-discovery, Tyler’s power over Jack’s actions turns it into one of self- destruction. Unaware of what he is in fact doing to himself, Jack goes along with the plans of ‘Fight Club’ and is sub-consciously having his path altered into destruction and not into freedom. One of the more prominent scenes to display this controlling idea, would be the scene in which Tyler lets go of the steering wheel of a moving car and Jack tries to take control but Tyler convinces him to just ‘let go’. This scene clearly shows the audience of how controlling and powerful Tyler is towards Jack. He can convince to effectively drive himself to death.
  2. 2. In this scene Tyler also says, ‘we are not special’ I feel that this is quite contradictory to the message he is trying to get through to Jack. He initially begins by getting him to rebel against mainstream ideology and be different, and this turning into ‘we are not special’ throws many different ideas at Jack and it is only when Fight Club turns into Project Mayhem that Jack finally sees what’s happening. He finally begins to see the control this figure has over him. This begins a whole new liberation process; he needs to free himself of Tyler’s influence and free himself of his nihilistic personality to regain his own control and have his own actions overwrite that of Tyler’s. Another theme that runs throughout this film is one of masculinity. In modern western society, women seem to have more relevance than ever before. This is shown through the femme fatale-like character of, Marla. At the very opening of this film, Jacks voice over tells us that “Marla is at the root of it all”. This warning of her is inflated more by the constant diegetic alarms/bells that sound every time she appears in the frame. (Marla is an anagram of ‘alarm’ suggesting she is a clear threat.) It would seem that masculinity if questioned throughout this film and Marla is a character that threatens to undermine Jack’s masculinity. The character of Bob is another example of how men are being feminised, (after having testicular cancer, the medication has given him breasts). The Fight Club initially starts out a form of liberation for them, only men are allowed. It allows them to fight with only there fists, to regain the feeling of masculinity that is considered to be lost in modern society. The underground nature of this club, (literally in the sense that it takes place in a basement) brings the men together. ‘We are still men. Men is what we are’. Again I would suggest that in this sense, Fight Club is about liberation, regaining the male status. Almost taking them back to caveman roots. Nevertheless, Fight Club once again, simply becomes another form of control and a new ideology to conform to. Everyone needs direction, need somebody for reassurance.
  3. 3. Fight Club is considered to be quite a post-modern text, continuous self-referential scenes, most clearly the scene in which Tyler is working as a projectionist. Fight Club also refers to several other ‘cult’ films, one shot in particular is notably famous to be an imitation of the rape scene from A Clockwork Orange. Nearer the beginning of the film Jack says ‘a copy of a copy of a copy’ this almost suggests that a post- modern text is nothing more than a mixture of themes, shots and meanings taken from other texts. This could be a suggestion of how society moving. No longer moving forward, just moving in circles picking up parts of the past to mix into a ‘new’. I feel that this post-modern aspect of the film would suggest that liberation cannot be accessed because there is no way forward out of a society of ideologies that are imposed upon us subconsciously. With that in mind, I would tend top agree with the statement that Fight Club is simply about having power, may that be over a society, a gender or one person.
  4. 4. Fight Club uses cinematic means to produce a fantasy which is also a serious exploration of masculinity”. How far does this statement capture your own response to the film? The cinematic and thematic exploration of the undervalued blue-collar workers of America in “Fight Club” is an expression of the results of the suppression of masculine, animalistic and natural elements within modern society. While viewing the film the consideration the audience makes alongside the protagonist “Jack” (whose identity is questionable) appears to be questioning whether it is right to fight against this society of anti-masculine individuals who strive for materialism is really an emotional struggle. We see that Jack experiences the consumerism of society while he is struggling with insomnia (created by the addiction to materialistic items in his apartment) through the sequence are fast-paced close-ups of popular items such as Starbucks cups, Crispy Creme Doughnuts and moreover a shot of his American dollars. These are noticeably crumpled and not at all patriotic with the logos not facing the framing. This focus upon materialism suggests a masculinity dealing with the feminine love of shopping coupled with the anonymity that American city dwelling brings. The idea that this could be anywhere in America is suggested with a memorable close up of stickers bearing “Hello. My name is _____” that evoke a response of loss of direction and identity within the audience. The anonymity and IKEA-catalogue based sequences we see Jack experience in his hallucinations are also a possible schizophrenic embodiment of this lack of any true identity or even his individuality hinting that arguably his importance as a man is being tested. “Fight Club” embodies the idea of Nietzsche: the idea of a superman being possible is alluded to in the ever-repetitive doppelganger/split-persona of Tyler appearing in a subliminal flicker at the side of the frame throughout the first few scenes. This demonstrates the power that Tyler has over Jack’s
  5. 5. mind, and it gets ever more present as the film progresses. It becomes more apparent when we see him in a tracking shot at the airport on an escalator, almost as if the camera shows a preference to following his movements rather than Jack's. This is because we see this side of the masculinity of the main characters split personality being the alpha male, also displayed when the camera tracks his movements from behind and in front as he is surrounded by a crowd in the basement. “Project Mayhem”, the needless fight of violence and terror, is powered by this dominant figure, giving the audience clues that this individual does not let himself be owned by possessions unlike Jack, and regards himself as his own. Also seen in the masculinity of the postmodern traits of the film is the reference to a rape scene in “A Clockwork Orange”, as the eerily similar, exaggerated disorientation of angle of Tyler after beating up government officials is reminiscent of a more sinister, evil scene from a film about anarchy. This instils a sense of fear in the spectator, as the masculinity of this man appears to be turning into something more power-hungry and fascist. The intertextual reference to 'A Clockwork Orange' also confirms the postmodern significance of this film as it generates so many questions but ultimately and superficially fails to answer them. The film also displays a radical array of misogynistic traits through the character of Marla, an anagram of the word “alarm” and met with the sound of sirens and non-diegetic influences of danger. This gives us the idea that the main character Jack is so terrified by this femme-fatale and disturbed by her appearance that his masculinity is challenged. In a neo-noir style, we see the framing of Marla introduced sinisterly via shadow and with her hat obscuring half of her face dominating the screen, she also gives the impression of power as it convinces us through the low-angle. Her character is also, while present during a scene in which the self-help group has to reflect and meditate, blurred in the background, while Jack thinks when we are catapulted into the frantic hallucination of Jack in a cool-blue icy cave, in his head, is interrupted by Marla smoking (that demonstrates further the hybrid of noir genre incorporated), she is clearly more dominant. It's as if she is the masculine one, she uses the word “slide” and this dialogue perhaps provokes the idea of Jack’s deterioration leading from here into the audience’s mind. When we next see her in the crosscut back to the church-style environment, it is Jack who is blurred and unimportant. The narrative also relies on its use of cinematography to relay certain ideas through stylistic and mise-en-scene elements. Almost pornographically shot in a grotesque way is the footage of Jack turning up to his office beaten and bloody, with close-ups of his bruises after his decline into fighting that suggests that the main character has traded his addiction of self-help groups and materialism for the exhilaration of fighting as a form of release. The film also closely explores elements of homosexuality by referencing the experimental style of directors like Kenneth Anger, as we see that the fetishising of objects and improving the body of the men has elements that arise in “Fight Club”. It could be suggested that Jack is in love with the idea of Tyler, and therefore we are greeted with the notion that he is in fact
  6. 6. homosexual or may have deep emotional struggles with such tendencies. Furthermore, the response at the Viennese Film Festival to the film was an angry one of shock and concern over the films fascist, Nazi style links. The sequence in which we see Tyler and Jack stealing a liposuction factory’s human fat and processing it into soap to sell to the rich delivers a haunting message that there are still Nazi-style thoughts born of a generation in need of a disciplinary style of life to stop their masculinity going downhill. The cinematic means used to portray Jack’s early obsession with self-help groups, such as shot-reverse-shot from his close up face centred in the middle of the frame looking solemn, and then to a list of self-help groups not unlike a religious scroll, back to his face, and paired with organ, church style non- diegetic sound express the vulnerability of his addictive nature. This foreshadows his steady decline into being open to fighting and causing mayhem because of his easy transfixion’s with things. Furthermore, the theme of gender confusion is embodied in the role of Bob, an ex-fighter who was once an alpha male, now resorting to crying at a self- help group and suffering from testicular cancer that physically and mentally feminises him. The viewer’s response is an automatic pity when Jack uses ironic dialogue that injects a hybrid of comedy into the film and we feel sorry for Bob. This emotive response is also strong in our fear that Jack will continue to gradually deteriorate as we see him jeering and fighting alongside the “Project Mayhem” gang – the division between Tyler, the alpha male, and Jack, the less superior character by means such as a phone booth window, trees, furniture and other characters suggest a fighting battle between Jack and his other persona. Because we see this vulnerability in Jack that lacks the usual American ego of a masculine male, we see that the masculinity he craves and worships is in fact slightly evil.
  7. 7. Fight Club’ - social, political and cultural contexts The fight against commercialisation Jack is a character that represents a heavily domesticated male. He himself fears that has become commercialised, asking himself “what kind of dining set defines me as a person?” - personality is something not be assessed when looking at Jack. Instead, we make our judgments on his surrounding objects. There is no emotion, he is a product on the conveyer belt. He is manufactured. However, it appears that he is not the only one. Jack and Tyler form the Fight Club in order to deal with this outrage. They form it to claim male individuality back - as Tyler puts it himself “How much do you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?” This, ultimately, is why Project Mayhem is introduced - it’s aim is to destroy commercialisation through mass chaos. The men who take part all feel the same way. They are sick of being plain, sick of being ‘textbook’. Now that they have re-gained their masculine identities with the help of Fight Club, they are prepared to show this to the commercialised world by destroying everything that they felt had pushed their purpose and existence out of the way. While the press may have argued that a ‘good idea about male insecurity’ became lost with ‘right-wing nutters’, it is also possible that this insecurity was just a stepping stone on the path to extremism. It provides a source, a reason for their actions. Identity and masculinity From the early stages of the film, it is clear that the masculine identity is something that Jack is trying to re-gain. It has become buried and alluded by capitalism. What capitalism has done to this generation of men is taken away their place in the world, and the intentions of Project Mayhem is to destroy capitalism, so that these men can have a purpose once more. They can feel useful for doing what they do. This could explain why Jack is able to view Tyler in such a fascinated way - he is everything that he wants his life to be like. This also could be why so many other men were eager to be part of Fight Club - through violence, they have the chance to cling on to whatever is left of masculinity. It is a place where they can feel like ‘men’ again. Identity crises is also suggested at an early stage in the film - during an encounter with Robert Paulson, a member of the testicular cancer support group who has grown breasts because of his treatment. Jack tells him that ‘we’re still men’. As Robert has gained breasts, he probably feels less like a man, so this is simply an a attempt at a comforting sentence. For Jack, however, it applies that his depressed, domesticated lifestyle has drained away all masculinity from him. He
  8. 8. wants to cling on to what he can. How has this affected culture? “Two schoolboys grapple with each other as bystanders look on and shout encouragement…pupils have set up their own Fight Club, based on the ultra-violent film of the same name starring Brad Pitt. In the film, disaffected young men fight each other in illegal bare-knuckle bouts.” - Daily Mail, February 2008 (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article- 522110/Pupils-set-lunch-break-Fight-Club-post-shocking-videos- YouTube.html) “Inspired by the 1999 film Fight Club, starring Brad Pitt and Ed Norton, underground bare-knuckle brawling clubs have sprung up across the country as a way for desk jockeys and disgruntled youths to vent their frustrations and prove themselves.” - USA Today, 2000, May 2006 (http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2006-05-29-fight-club_x.htm) “A 17-year-old mimicking Brad Pitt’s “Fight Club” character, who plans attacks on corporate America, was arrested on suspicion of masterminding a pre-dawn blast outside a Starbucks Coffee shop” - The Washington Times, July 2009 (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/jul/16/starbucks-bombing- blamed-on-fight-club-fancy/?page=1) Critical reception ‘Fight Club is a dumbed-down extremism, Extremism Lite, no-brainer extremism for the Rush Limbaugh generation, an audience that thinks the "diceman" is a really challenging philosophy’ - The Guardian "This monstrous film brutalises men everywhere" - Daily Mail "Fincher started out with a good idea about male insecurity, but somehow got this snarled up with a daft story about right-wing nutters. It's hard to think of another movie this year that has begun so promisingly and ended so poorly" - The Independent “Shot in a convulsive, stream-of-unconsciousness style... Fight Club does everything short of rattling your seat to get a reaction. You can call that irresponsible. Or you can call it the only essential Hollywood film of the year" - Time Out “It means to explore the lure of violence in an even more dangerously regimented, dehumanized culture. That's a hard thing to illustrate this powerfully without, so to speak, stepping on a few toes” - New York Times

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