An Analysis of Fight Club by David Fincher
As directed by David Fincher, Fight Club is a movie about both the dehumanizing effects of the consumer culture that forms the backbone of America, and the excesses of the men’s movement. The narrator is a slave to the American dream, whose voiceover discloses a sarcastic, nonconforming, but frail interior life. He’s nameless, but let’s call him ‘Jack’ (as the film credits list him) because he identifies himself with parts of the physical and psychological anatomy:
“I am Jack’s medulla oblongata,” “I am Jack’s inflamed sense of rejection.”
Jack leads a vampiric life, feeding on the suffering and pain of others, while providing himself with a needed satisfaction. In the course of his travels as a recall coordinator for a major auto manufacturer (a job that, in a way, represents the corruption of corporate America), he encounters the outrageous anarchist named Tyler Durden (who is played by: Brad Pitt). It all begins when Tyler asks Jack to take a swing at him (which he does), the fist fighting then escalates into a club, where men can forget their daily lives, imperfections and consumer visions and prove their own masculinity for a brief period of time. As Tyler’s influence grows on Jack, he becomes an accomplice in his game of pranks and mischief, until fight club morphs into an almost military operation, called ‘Project Mayhem.” This new idea of Tyler’s becomes a rebellion against corporate America, and all people trying to live the ‘American Dream.’
Despite the extreme politics and extreme fighting, Fight Club is really about how to become a man. There is a Buddhist proverb which states that on the path to enlightenment you have to kill your parents, your god, and your teacher. Jack’s quest to become an authentic masculine man, makes him follow a similar path. Jack’s been told that if he gets an education, a good job, is responsible, presents himself in a certain way with his furniture, car, and clothes, then he’ll find happiness. He’s accomplished everything his father taught him to do, but he remains unfulfilled in spite of possessing the American Dream. So the movie introduces him at the point when Jack’s figuratively killed off his father and realizes that he’s wrong. But Jack he’s still caught up in the materialism and consumerism that’s part of the American Dream. And then he finds a mentor in Tyler Durden, they do everything they’re not supposed to do–inflicting pain on themselves and others, pranks, mischief etc.
“Our fathers were our models for God. And, if our fathers bailed, what does that tell us about God?… You have to consider the possibility that God doesn’t like you, He never wanted you. In all probability, He hates you. This is not the worst thing that can happen…We don’t need him…We are God’s unwanted children, with no special place and no special attention, and so be it.”
However, when the violence spirals out of control, Jack rejects the masculine model offered by his counterpart (Tyler), thus completing the process of maturing into a man (as described by the Buddhist proverb) by killing off his teacher.
The fight club, which is an ultra secret male society, becomes a substitute for the corporations and other traditional male societal clubs that have disappointed men. It’s a form of manual shock therapy, a way of jolting themselves out of their numbness and reconnecting with reality. The point is not to win, but to experience the maximum amount of pain in a desperate attempt to find a shred of authenticity as a man. In the film, the basement fight scenes are all shot dark and more importantly, damp–with rusty water, gushing blood and other bodily fluids. This style defines the contrast between Jack’s aboveground life and his underground one.
Tyler Durden is everything that the repressed, mild-mannered Jack isn’t, but wishes he could be– he’s a projection of Jack’s fantasies about the ultimate man. Durden (is a cocky, confident, spontaneous, irrational, infantile, aggressive, antisocial, amoral, and uncontrollable person), but for all that, Jack sees Durden as his breakthrough, the voice that will finally tell him to stop defining himself
with the American Dream: “You are not your job. You are not how much money you have in the bank. You are not your fucking khakis!”
Fight Club ends with Jack finally becoming the man he wants to be
“My eyes are open Tyler.”
Jack begins life as an adult man when he sees the error of his violent ways; he rejects Tyler, by finally figuratively killing him off. Throughout the movie, you can see the metamorphosis of Jack, from his idea of a happy American man, to his new sadistic version of the more masculine man, by spiraling through a blur of Tyler’s life and his own. Jack never really had to prove his masculinity to anyone, he just had to realize the truth, and that’s what Tyler did to him, the last task is what finished the process and made him a true man, not in the materialistic/consumerist sense, but in his own
eyes. The American dream is nothing but a shroud held over us by corporate America, when you realize you can step through it, you no longer need it to survive.