An analysis of Fight ClubFight Club comments profoundly on Americas problems of meaning (e.g. indenturedservitude to capitalism in a land of freedom, violence in a land of justice, consumer Darwinismin a land of community, meaning in a post-modern reality that understands all meaning as arelative cultural construct, etc.). In sociological terms, Jack, a white male, could represent thehierarchical leadership of the American patriarchy. "I was the warm little center that the life ofthis world crowded around." America seems to love him, but he feels hurt and betrayed by hisculture and the dulled-down consumerist dreams he has inherited.Were consumers. Were by-products of a lifestyle obsession. Murder,crime, poverty -- these things dont concern me. What concerns me is celebrity magazines, television with five hundred channels, some guys name on my underwear. Rogaine, Viagra, Olestra.But according to Fincher, "Were designed to be hunters and were in a society of shopping.Theres nothing to kill anymore, theres nothing to fight, nothing to overcome, nothing toexplore. In that societal emasculation this everyman is created." (2) Where does Jack go todiscuss his problems? What community exists to support him emotionally and spiritually?Seeking guidance, Jack stumbles into a group for men with testicular cancer. He finds that aweekly catharsis between Bobs breasts rids him of his insomnia by allowing him to feel. Butthis apparent solution produces a new dilemma for Jack-crying men. BOB Were still men. JACK Yes. Were men. Men is what we are. JACK (V.O.) Bob cried. Six months ago, his testicles were removed. Then hormone therapy. He developed bitch tits because his testosterone was too high and his body upped the estrogen. That was where my head fit --into his sweating tits that hang enormous, the way we think of Gods as big.Jacks masculinity has been reduced to undifferentiated tears. But from these tears, he finds"strength." Despite the temporary relief he feels from his release, Jack quickly returns to hisinitial dilemma: You are here because the world As you know it no longer makes sense. Youve been raised on television To believe well all be Millionaires and movie gods and Rock stars - but we wont. You pray for a different life. (3)If Jack is not allowed to express his creativity as a "movie god" or "rock star," he can create Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961), a disciple of Sigmund Freud, believed that his mentor had neglected the soul and religion in his understanding of human psychology. For this reason, Jung left Freud and spent years of research in religious iconography and mythical stories. His findings suggest that typical stories exist cross-culturally and that each individual psyche has the potential for two opposing personalities: ego and shadow. Ego controls the psyche, but when ego is disrupted (through Tylers cutting frames into the film) or weakened through sleep loss or an emotional void (in Jacks case), the shadow creeps in to take control. The ego is constructed around societal norms and the desire for behaviour, which "fits into society."
his own god in the theatre of his mind that will grant him permission to feel in a more lastingway.Without Tyler, Jack is a spineless, volume less, emotionless, placid, and flaccid half-man.Jacks creation of Tyler Durden allows him to reclaim his masculinity amidst a culture of post-feminist, cathartic, "self"-help groups.With his addiction to self-help groups, Jack attends a leukaemia group and experiences aguided meditation. When he is told to meet his power animal in one meditation, he finds apenguin in a snowy cave who speaks like a child-a poignant image of Jacks lonely and docilemasculinity. In an article entitled "What Men Really Want," Robert Bly captures this over-emphasized docility:‘When I look out at my audiences, perhaps half the young males are what Id call soft. Theyrelovely, valuable people-I like them-and theyre not interested in harming the earth, or startingwars, or working for corporations. Theres something favourable toward life in their wholegeneral mood and style of living. But somethings wrong. Theres not much energy in them.They are life-preserving but not exactly life-giving.’ (7)In a culture thats been robbed of its masculine principle, Jack finds himself only accepting hismasculinity through tears and the estrogen-enriched breasts of another man who completeshim. JACK (V.O.) The big moosie, his eyes already shrink-wrapped in tears. Knees together, invisible steps. Bob takes Jack into an embrace. JACK (V.O.) He pancaked down on top of me. BOB Two grown kids ... and they wont return my calls. JACK (V.O.) Strangers with this kind of honesty make me go a big rubbery one. Jacks face is rapt and sincere. Bob stops talking and breaks into sobbing, putting his head down on Jacks shoulder and completely covering Jacks face. JACK (V.O.) Then, I was lost in oblivion -- dark and silent and complete.Jacks body begins to jerk in sobs. He tightens his arms around Bob. JACK (V.O.) This was freedom. Losing all hope was freedom.Crying for Jack seems to be one way to address his masculinity and disappointment with aspiritless life. In contemporary America, it seems that an increasing number of men areturning to tears as a way of emoting. Bly discusses this catharsis-obsessed American males.
‘Often the younger males would begin to talk and within five minutes they would be weeping.The amount of grief and anguish in the younger males was astounding! The river was deep. .. They had learned to be receptive, and it wasnt enough to carry their marriages. In everyrelationship something fierce is needed once in a while; both the man and the woman need tohave it.’(8) JACK My mother would just go into hysterics. My Dad ... Dont know where he is. Only knew him for six years. Then, he ran off to a new city and married another woman and had more kids. Every six years -- new city, new family. He was setting up franchises. Tyler smiles, snorts, shakes his head. TYLER A generation of men raised by women. Look what its done to you.With the lack of a male role-model, all that is left for the American boy without a father is theconsumer "product." When there is no other solution, Jack turns to a "modern versatiledomestic solution" to fill the void: Jack flips the page of the catalogue to reveal a full-page photo of an entire kitchen and dining room set. JACK (V.O.) I would flip and wonder, "What kind of dining room set *defines* me as a person?"Jack wants out of his dead end corporate job and his IKEA furnished "life-style." Jack, whodoes not have enough courage of his own, creates a shadow that has enough nerve to breakfree and enough audacity to become his own true individual. Jack creates Tyler Durden as amentoring father figure who will help him integrate his shadow in relationship with sex andviolence and bring Jack closer to the other. TYLER Shut up! Our fathers were our models for God. And if our fathers bailed, what does that tell you about God?Increasingly American boys are raised by their mothers with a lack of any strong male role-model in their life. Tyler becomes such a role-model for Jack who ironically holds all of Jacksrage and all of his love simultaneously. The fighting itself becomes an act of love throughwhich they can relate to one another. However, Tyler Durden is only a temporary experience.The last scene of the film illuminates Jacks final encounter with Tyler. With a gun to Jackshead, Tyler begins the last scene where the film began. TYLER 3 minutes. This is it. Here we are at the beginning. Ground zero. Would you like to say a few words to mark the occasion?Jack is at a loss for words, but realizes he no longer craves the destruction Tyler wants. "Idont want this!" But it is too late. Vans loaded with "blasting gelatine" are set to detonate anddestroy urban phallic skyscrapers in a matter of minutes. Jack realizes the only way to stophis alter-ego gone awry is to point the gun at himself. Tyler dies when Jack shoots himself inthe mouth, but Jack remains a spirit to bear witness to "ground zero." (13)The last image of the film is framed as a vista from within a glass skyscraper. Jack and hislover, Marla Singer, hold hands at the "theater of mass destruction." Two tall towers crumble
to the ground. Premiered years before September eleventh, the film serves as chillingprophecy even more profound and ripe with culture and historical mythic elements than eventhis author had expected.After the TheaterWhen an individual steps into a church, how much do they expect of their experience to followthem out? Great art changes our experience of reality and challenges us to take thatexperience home with us. Is this great art? TYLER3 minutes. This is it. Here we are at the beginning. Ground zero.Would you like to say a few words to mark the occasion?The film effectively holds up a mirror to the male viewer and suggests that the real storybegins at "ground zero" in "three minutes" as the film fades out, the end credits begin, and theaudience exits the theatre. Most of us are confused when we leave a movie theatre and enjoyrevelling in the passivity of the experience. However, the film maintains a moral ambiguity,which challenges the viewer to "say a few words to mark the occasion." One informant saysof his experience, "It didnt let me be a white, middle-class American male, ages 18-24, themost powerful person in the world, and remain comfortable in my seat." (24) During aninterview at Yale University, Edward Norton confirmed this reaction as intentional: I hope it rattles people. I hope it dunks very squarely in your lap because I think one of the things we strove very specifically to do with this was on some levels retain a kind of moral ambivalence or a moral ambiguity--not to deliver a neatly wrapped package of meaning into your lap. Or in any way that let you walk away from the film like this, comfortable in having been told what you should make of it. (25)After interviewing a dozen American male college students, I feel confident that I haveattained some sense of the emotional response it may have warranted from its intendedaudience (American males age 18-24). Though the sample size was relatively small, theinformants included a cross-section of socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. Though thespecifics varied, all males interviewed felt something. One informant was "anesthetized":I guess I felt shock in response to all this destruction, yet the visual image was so beautifulthat I was seduced by it and gave myself over to scopophilic consumption. When I left thetheater, I felt numb. I was anesthetized. (29)Others similarly describe the anesthesia of Fight Club as "stress release," "peace," and"liberating."I felt violated, but not really violated. Like I was tricked into seeing something I shouldnt see.Like taken advantage of. It was a stress release. (30)It was jarring, I guess, because he shoots himself. But theres a sense of peace in thedestruction. Hes sitting there holding her hand, and its just kind of peaceful. Its kind of a
defiant peace. It was definitely one of those moments where youre like, Whoa! Dude! LikeJesus Christ. I got to think about it. (31)Liberating. As unjustified as it was, the buildings were tolerable. Youd expect a feeling ofregret for the antagonist to accomplish destruction. But there was a liberating feelingsomehow. (32)Jack, the character, has a similar experience to the informants when he finishes his fight. JACK (V.O.) Fight Club was not about winning or losing. It wasnt about words.The Opponent recovers, throws a headlock on Jack. Jack snakes his arminto a counter headlock. They, wrestling like wild animals. The crowd CHEERS maniacally. JACK (V.O.)The hysterical shouting was in tongues, like at a Pentecostal church.The onlookers kneel to stay with the fight, cheering ever louder. The Opponent smashes Jacks head into the floor, over and over. JACK Stop. Everyone moves in as the Opponent steps away. They lift Jack to his feet. On the floor is a BLOOD MASK of Jacks face -- similar to his TEAR MASK on BOBS SHIRT, seen earlier. EXT. BAR - NIGHT Everyone files out of the bar, sweating, bleeding, smiling. JACK (V.O.) Nothing was solved. But nothing mattered. Afterwards, we all felt saved.ConclusionFight Club, the movie, exists to solve the very problems of meaning it poses. It holds a mirrorup to young white males and says, "This is who you are." And the very act of holding up thatmirror allows the film to own a dark part of the culture which cannot be experienced within theculture.Fight Club frames America lacking a public venue to integrate the emotional component ofwhite male identity. When there is a communal or cultural void, history suggests that violencecan complete that lack. Fight Club exposes the void and offers three solutions: crying,violence, and movies. Fight Club asks the question, what do you want to do with the Jacks ofour country--those unwanted children of America who were raised on cultural action heromyths and yearn to live those stories? We can send them to support groups to mourn theimpossibility of living this dream, send them to war to partake in the battle, or send them toexperience the "Fight Club" of American cinema.