I have debated on doing a reflection on Fight Club (1999) for a while now. I know I could analyze and critique hundreds of points in this film but have decided to do a small reflection on Tyler Durden’s Philosophy of Life for today. I found this short snippet labeled with this title (Philosophy of Life) on Youtube and thought it is the perfect slice from the movie to include with this post.
I want to address a handful of items that have stood out to me from watching Fight Club and reading the novel (published in 1996) by Chuck Palahniuk multiple of times over the years.
Tyler’s Critique on Consumerism in America. In the youtube vid, Tyler comments on the evolution of man and how in modern society they have become consumers,
“We’re consumers. We are by-products of a lifestyle obsession. Murder, crime, poverty, these things don’t concern me. What concerns me are celebrity magazines, television with 500 channels, some guy’s name on my underwear. Rogaine, Viagra, Olestra.” (rottentomaotoes.com)
Tyler also advocates, letting everything go and not fulfilling society’s standards for men. Ultimately he wants revolution,
” I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who have ever lived an entire generation pumping gas and waiting tables; or they’re slaves with white collars. Advertisements have them chasing cars and clothes, working jobs they hate so they can buy shit they don’t need. We are the middle children of history, with no purpose or place. We have no great war, or great depression. The great war is a spiritual war. The great depression is our lives. We were raised by television to believe that we’d 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.” (rottentomatoes.com)
The social critique found throughout Fight Club is relevant especially now. We are walking advertisements, branding ourselves through our purchases of clothes, cars, and food. And the products that we buy which are made for pennies, costs us $$$$ just to own. For the middle and lower class, often working two or three jobs is necessary to survive but with the bombardment of messages that tell us ‘How to be Happy’ and How to have a ‘meaningful’ and ‘fulfilled’ life, we are left scrambling to keep up with others, buying products so that we can be perceived as ‘complete’ and ‘happy’.
“You’re not your job, you’re not how much money you have in bank, you’re not the car you drive, you’re not the contents of your wallet, you’re not your fucking khakis, you’re all-signing all-dancing crap of the world.” (rottentomatoes.com)
But what Tyler reveals (and what resounds with audiences even now) is that things don’t make people happy, working shit jobs don’t make people happy, doing what we love to do (what we’ve always wanted to do) makes us happy. This is evident in Tyler’s threat to the convenience store clerk (gun to the back to his head) “What did you want to be?!” (Movie: Fight Club 1999)
Tyler pushes men and the audience to reflect on their lives. We are what society makes us and for most of us we accept this regardless of how miserable it makes us.
Now this is only one aspect of Tyler’s seemingly evolving philosophy which eventually leads to acts of Terrorism that (pre-9/11) are intriguing acts on their own. Tyler wants to dismantle the corrupted society of modern man and free the oppressed.
In these messages, the novel and film have become a legend and cultural icons for the working class and men. Tyler Durden as a character has become a mythical figure that inspires revolution and freedom of thought in the oppressed modern society. He asks us to question our lives, what we value and our roles in society. He asks us to FIGHT BACK.
Tyler has become more than a literary presence but an ideology that has spread across the world inspiring men and women to act, and create their own ‘Fight Clubs’ (real or in other forms). This creation, Fight Club, is a remarkable achievement for Chuck Palahniuk and still inspires readers (and watchers) today.
There is also the discussion that Fight Club (film and novel) is for specifically male audiences. As a woman, I agree only partially with this discussion since almost everything I love is labeled ‘masculine’ by culture that I love. I can see the critique on the male role in society, I see comments on ‘hyper masculinity’ and what it means to ‘be a man’. I can see ties to the struggle of self under the pressure of society (in regards to men) and I can see that the only female role: Marla Singer represents the ‘hitting bottom’ female counterpart to Tyler (give her credit, she ‘hit-bottom’ way before Tyler and lives in it).
As a woman appreciating the film and text of Fight Club, I take away the social critique and acknowledgement of male roles in society, the grittiness (and violence, love that too!) and deep resonance with the aching modern soul that is so perfectly articulated in this legendary story. I would never advocate to change Fight Club for female viewers but I would argue against people that say Fight Club is ONLY for men.
This is only a small reflection, and I labeled it appropriately ‘PART #1’ for a reason. I want to expand more on Fight Club and plan to add more to my discussion sometime this weekend.
other sources: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/fight_club/quotes/
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