Fight Club is a movie by David Fincher starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton that came out 1999 and is based off the book by Chuck Palahniuk written in 1996. The movie follows an unnamed insomniac narrator, called Jack in the credits, played by Edward Norton. Norton’s character works as an automobile recall specialist and is often buying items out of magazines in his free time. Trying to find a cure for his insomnia he visits the doctor with his only suggestion is for him to see real pain in a testicular cancer support group. The narrator finds that he can cry and let out his pain at these support groups even though he is not sick himself. This allows the narrator to sleep because of these groups, so he continues to go to more support groups as a way to calm his insomnia.
A little further on he realizes that there is another imposter among these groups and with the imposter presence he then finds himself unable to cry and sleep. Norton’s character confronts this person and finds out her name; Marla Singer, and they then agree upon splitting up days, so they won’t run into one another, and she gives him a phone number just in case they need to reschedule. On a plane back from a work trip, the narrator meets soap salesman, going by the name Tyler Durden who was sitting next to him on a plane. When returning home from his business trip, he finds that his apartment has been exploded and calls up Tyler to meet him at a bar. They both had drinks and Tyler decided to let the Narrator stay at his house; however, he wanted him to first hit him as hard as he could. This ended up turning into a fight that the two would engage in every night, and eventually, other men would join them to form Fight Club.
The two not only run a fight club, but Tyler also shows the Narrator how to make soap out of fat they gathered from dumpsters behind the liposuction clinic. Next, to help the narrator reach a new resistance to pain, Tyler puts lye on his hand which causes chemical burns. When Tyler felt that he reached that point, he put vinegar on the burn to neutralize the chemical. The fight club slowly started turning into a cult and their first assignment is to pick a fight with a random person and lose. The narrator decided to pick a fight with his boss and framed him for beating him up to get a settlement check.
Fight club then turned in to Project Mayhem, with the tasks becoming more than just losing to a fight. The men are tasked with blowing up buildings and working towards Tyler’s master plan that the Narrator knows nothing about. Sometime later, Tyler gets himself and the narrator into a car crash on purpose and goes dark. When the Narrator recovers, he goes searching for Tyler only to find out Tyler is the same person as him. Since the Narrator and Tyler are the same, he discovers that he knows the plan after all. The whole objective of Project Mayhem is to destroy all the credit card buildings to end national debt.
The Narrator sets out to defuse the bombs. After diffusing the first bomb the Narrator gets into a fight with Tyler, which leads the Narrator to hold a gun to his head. With no other choice, the Narrator shoots himself to kill Tyler; however, the narrator managed to survive. Successfully killing Tyler, Marla finds the Narrator, they hold hands as the building explodes and, the credits roll.
The underlining meaning of Fight Club was consumerism in America. As described in an article by Matthew Briggs, “Fight Club challenges the typical American consumer identity by creating two contradicting characters. Jack starts out as a consumer defining his life by possessions, while Tyler lives his life on his own terms”. The Narrator, in the beginning, spent his free time looking through catalogs and ordering anything that felt defined him. The movie furthermore; pushed this idea as the camera moved around his apartment with all of his furnishings appearing, and a price tag for each item located next to them in the scene. In this scene, the Narrator even, says that he is looking for a dining set that defines him as a person. As the Narrator opens the fridge you see It mostly empty, as the narrator grabs a jar and begins eating out of it with a knife. The narrator’s life is boring and the only thing that entertains him is buying meaningless items out of a catalog. As far as the audience knows, the narrator doesn’t seem to have any friends as Briggs defines it, “One part of how people define themselves is through relationships with family and friends. Jack does not have these so he leaves possessions to define himself”. This version of the Narrator is completely different from the one that his insomnia creates, Tyler Durden.
Tyler is the complete opposite of the Narrator. Tyler lives in an old house that is falling apart and wearing anything that he feels like. One of the things Tyler said to the Narrator is, “Things you own end up owning you”. This relates back to the Narrator as everything he does is based around what he can buy next. When the Narrators apartment blew up, he felt that he lost who he was as everything that defined him was gone. Tyler, on the other hand, couldn’t care less about the items he owns as, “Tyler represents an escape from that self-identity as he questions many of the consumer values Americans hold dear. Big houses with big yards, and expensive cars in the driveway are part of an ideology that is based on this consumer identity” (Briggs). The capitalist society that Tyler lives in angers him. Because of this, he tries to persuade both the audience and the Narrator that people are not defined by the items they own but by finding your true self and identity will free you from consumerism.
The way that Tyler could achieve this in the movie was by the destruction of corporate America when they blew up all the debt records. By destroying all debt records, it freed the American people from being trapped in debt giving every person a second chance to escape consumerism. In the article “Fight Club: A Commentary on the Crises of Capitalism” by Nikolai Christofferson, Christofferson explains that the movie, “asks us to relook at these seemingly convenient corporations as tyrants seeking to control our lives. Subconscious mind-control through advertising is this story’s antagonist”. The main character was created to resemble people in America, living day by day spending more money on things they want than the things they need. For example, back to the catalog scene where it shows the narrator buying meaningless items and, in the fridge, he has barely any food to survive off of.
David Fincher, the director of Fight Club had also decided to put in a Starbucks cup that can be found in every scene of the movie. Since Starbucks is a big part of cooperate America and a symbol of Consumerism, Fincher decided to use the cup to further push the idea of consumerism in a settle way.
Upon first viewing of Fight Club it is easy for the viewer to miss this concept that is constantly pushed in their faces, the viewer is instead, seeing a movie about grown men fighting and anarchy. However, upon closer analysis into the movie the motives and its underlining themes are understood. Consumerism runs America and the people within following along like puppets to society, like the narrator, people let what they own define them. When all that someone owns is lost, all that is left is the person, and it is up to them to discover themselves. The question that the viewer is left with is if the idea of freeing your self from consumerism is even possible. People are constantly bombarded every day by advertisements, and trends by society that push people to buy items that they don’t need to define them. Fight Club is just a mere fantasy of seeing this system being broken between the Narrator and Tyler.
- Briggs, Matthew, “America’s Consumer Club.” America’s Consumer Club, writing.colostate.edu/gallery/talkingback/issue1/briggs.htm.
- Christoffersen, Nikolai. “Fight Club: A Commentary on the Crises of Capitalism.” The Prolongation of Work, 18 Mar. 2016, sites.williams.edu/engl117s16/uncategorized/81/.