Fight Club Awesomeness
Alexander Gordon Jahans
Everyone knows the obvious stuff about Fight club. the split frame appearances of Pitt early on, the foreshadowing of “I know this because Tyler knows this” etcetera etcetera but sometimes I think we don’t give a film enough credit for the boring stuff.
Before watching Fight Club properly I remember coming during a tv screening of it about the point of “Ah, Flashback humour” a few years ago. I knew the twist going in and my sister questioned why I might want to watch it. This is a woman who worked at a dvd counter and regularly spoiled the films customers bought. I did not give her opinion much credit, after all the ride is as much the point. Which is why I paid attention to the little things. My brain was primed to nitpick.
I do not like twists. I have read John Dies At The End, I have watched Star Wars, I have watched the Sixth Sense and the River Song arc of Doctor Who. I am used to the reveal twists. Which is why I have thoughts on the twist.
There is a trend in writing that the point of writing is to have characters you care about so that the plots matter. Like the Narrator of Fight Club (here after referred to as ‘Jack’) is our perspective character. He is the unnamed disaffected office schlub that we can put on like a pair of trousers as he experiences the manic pixie dream boy of Tyler Durden and the journey Tyler pulls us on.
Tyler Durden is the gold of this film. He is what makes it. The colour pallette of Fight Club is grey, black and gaunt, even the blood from the fights is black but Brad Pitt’s Tyler Durden is a colourful light in the darkness. I have never seen the appeal of Pitt before conventionally attractive men are just dull to me but Pitt’s Durden is charming, charismatic, funny, badass, kinda dorky and also a manipulative shit. (I like my heroes and villains to be manipulative.) He is the film. Even Fight Club and Project Mayhem is just a way to display the power of Tyler Durden.
So, the conventional narrative would be nameless narrator working in a non-descript office. You introduce Bob, he is the sacrificial lion late in the film we need to care about him, but that could just as easily be at an alcoholics anonymous meeting. Something to emphasise how this could be you. Bring in Tyler earlier, have more time to develop Project Mayhem and then reveal, finale, end. So many other films do this.
Yet Jack is Tyler and the film shows you how that makes sense. We see that Jack has insomnia and he is bored of the empty consumerist lifestyle. Then we see him taking on false identities with he juggles with surprising precision. We see how Jack finds peace in the lie of emasculation. In how he will lie about his name and identity in order to find peace between a pair of breasts. In his dealings with Marla we see that Jack is manipulative and threatening as he divies up the meetings in order to protect his life of lies. We also see that he needs to do this because this life of lies is the only way he can find peace but it’s also something that makes him uncomfortable and destroys his peace if he knows that someone can bare witness to his lies. In short, in that moment we see Jack struggling to express that the best way for him to be happy is to lie about his life in such a way as he doesn’t even know about it himself.
The scary thing for me is just how much it makes sense. I mean this in many ways this is a Jekyll and Hyde style made up condition for the sake of narrative. Yet I am someone who created a character intended to be me but found it grew more and more exaggerated as the best and worst features of myself become accentuated by virtue of the character development of plot until the character ended up not too dissimilar from Tyler Durden, a sort of anarchic James Bond. Factor in the Autoexposiprose where I write a piece of fiction in order to discuss things with my Id as represented by the Farsh-nuke and yeah Tyler Durden makes a scary amount of sense.
There are of course three key differences. I know the Farsh-nuke is fictional, I never let the actions of the characters I write dictate what I do in the real world and I am not sure if it would be even possible to do something as one persona then have that memory stored elsewhere in the brain. It is however a fiction that I’m sure has entertained so many of us at one time or another. What if you could just go on autopilot during work or just wake up having cleaned the house? I mean how many of us wish cryogenics were an actually viable way of sleeping out decades safely? If that appeals why wouldn’t it be appealing to just wake up with a steady job and a house?
I think this is ultimately why so many people missed the point of Fight Club, because it works so hard to make Tyler Durden make sense as a part of Jack that it inadvertently made Tyler Durden make sense as something we would want to aspire to. What’s that line? “I look like you want to look, I fuck like you want to fuck and, most importantly, I am free in all the ways you are not.” If that isn’t John Hamm telling you to buy this life style I don’t know what is.
Of course we want to look like Tyler Durden, of course we want to fuck like him and of course we wish we were so free. I’ve commented before that the critics of my morality are frequently among the biggest beneficiaries of it. I am a fan of manipulative bastards and I am a nerd who remembers everything and learns easily. Even if I couldn’t have my fantasy of a gulag for anyone who ever wronged me (Dante ain’t got shit on my version of hell), just considering myself free to lie as a felt like it, even to my own advantage could let me do very very much.
There is something very seductive about an invitation to harm. That line “I wanted to destroy something beautiful.” probably plays a lot more into my fetishistic tastes that I’m really comfortable with. Heck even outside of the fiction I write in my reviews and cynical out look that attitude of finding please in destruction, even if it is the destruction of enjoyment or positivity built on bullshit is still there.
The dangerous appeal of Fight Club and why it is so easy to dismiss its message is that some men are just sadistic bored shit heads who would love for the right excuse to come along. I mean in my fantasies the invitation comes alonmg in a beautiful woman who dearly wants me to destroy her in safe, sane and consensual fashion but I can see how Tyler Durden appeals to a lot of men. Indeed with his appeal to traditional masculine strength and ego Tyler Durden foreshadowed many of the tactics used by neo-nazis and radical misogynists to target our young men and brainwash them.
The individualistic isolationist approach of the left wing to the sadistic shit heads of the world is damning it. We should not abandon our brothers who have fallen to the darkness. We should not leave these broken boys to the predatory Tyler Durden’s of the world. Anti-feminists can be reformed. I am proof. We need to stop seeing this ideological divide as a war with casualties and start seeing it as an illness to be combatted. We need to win over the beaten and the damned, show them another way, a better way. Expecting the shat upon to negotiate insulting and provocative language when what they need is a friend is not the way.