In the 1996 Chuck Palahniuk novel, Fight Club, (as well as the recent movie, which deviates very little from the book), the author uses a club in which grown men fistfight as a vehicle for a plot and analysis of modern culture. After hearing of recent instances of life imitating art poorly in a student “Fight Club” in the Presidents Park dorms, I thought it poignant to begin a short discussion of the book/movie… in which the fighting scenes were meant as analogous devices to examine questions, and not a pro-wrestling guide to body slamming ones cousin.
The books premise lies on the assumption that todays society, although created primarily by males, is one which relies on smooth day-to-day operation, which females are better suited to exist in. The premise also lies on the assumption that todays western society, devoid of war and starvation, is the fruition of thousands of years of men using their strength and aggression to build something. And the book questions, in a sense, what happens when there is little of necessity left to build? Yes, men can create new corporations with their brains, or entertain with their athletic skills, but neither is a necessity like bread or water.
What happens when male testosterone is no longer useful in society? A good analogy would be a superior boxer… What happens when that boxer has beaten everyone else? Who is left to fight? And of course, within this thought lies one of the plot devices the author uses to convey his questions… the “Fight Club” which two characters in the book start. But the book takes that thought a step further by in fact saying that, when men truly unleash their inner selves, they cannot exist within modern society, and modern society cannot exist with them. Have modern men compromised themselves, and if so, is that good or bad?
Of course the movie, containing many well-choreographed fistfight scenes, has had its share of mistaken interpretations of “life imitating art”. This includes the kids in Presidents Park and other instances in the news:
Boy hurt in Fight Club re-creation – Seattle Times (10/29/99)
Police Catch Local Teens Imitating Fight Club – CBS News(11/12/99)
Thus, it is important to draw from this that Fight Club is NOT the WWF.
What the fight club is within the story is part of the character Tyler Durdens vast attempt to both destroy modern society, and teach others why it is wrong. This is countered by the relative lack of females, who we are to assume in the movie are content with the fruits of modern society, and is also countered by the thoughts of anarchy, what it brings, and why we went away from that in the first place and created civilization. What are we to make of the authors character Tyler Durden, and his attempt at destruction of modern civilization, and destruction of his counterpart, the office bee worker?
What are we to think of the central female character Marla Singer, who, after a brief period of finding herself out, only wants to settle down with her beau and simply “exist” in modern society? And as men, what are we to think of ourselves? Is our existence as pointless as the narrators “consumer- driven, office worker bees” really is? The book Fight Club asks these questions and implies, rather than states, that “blow it up and start all over again,” to paraphrase the Nashville Teens in the song Tobacco Road, is what humanity may come to.
After all, those engaging in the self-destructive activities in this movie are not referred to as nasty “outlaws,” “hooligans,” or even “bandits,” but rather pioneering “space monkeys.” Humanity has entered this “Ive beaten all the other boxers, what now?” phase. Fight Club doesnt imply we should start beating each other up. Rather, it states we should question existence and society and make logical decisions for what we want. Tyler Durden chose his path after self destruction… but that doesnt mean one should follow him like an automaton… which, I might add was an underlying self-mocking joke in both the book and the film.