Fight Club: A generation of men raised by women

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Fight Club may seem an odd choice to review on a site about gender: it’s got one female character, and it’s all about a man’s search for identity in the form of manhood in a world of men. But one line of dialog says it all:

A generation of men raised by women. I’m wondering if another woman is the answer we really need.

This is the finish to a conversation about the rather underwhelming guidance the two main male characters had gotten from their fathers: go to college, get a job, “I don’t know – get married”. In other words, follow the formula.

But the point of the whole movie is that the system is breaking down. What once supposedly guaranteed a life of rewarding employment, a gold watch at retirement, and hopefully a reasonably nice family life just doesn’t cut it. Employers would rather deal with cheap hires who don’t know what they’re doing than pay for talent. They punish loyalty because they’re too busy looking at the steady raises and earned retirement benefits they’ll have to pay. And even if a man makes enough to keep a wife and kids in nice style, his family will want more. In fact, they want the same elusive thing he wants: identity.

Fight Club is the story of a nameless man (nicknamed “Jack” by fans for convenience) whose system is literally breaking down. He’s got a job, he’s got a condo and the complete Ikea package to furnish it, he’s finally got his whole life together, according to the system laid out by prior generations. And yet he can’t sleep, and it’s starting to interfere with his life. When he goes to the doctor, the doctor doesn’t want to give him drugs – no, no, he recommends chewing Valerian root: a cunning woman’s cure, a witch’s cure. The doctor’s solution is a “feminine” one which doesn’t even begin to address Jack’s real, underlying problem: that he has a second personality which is getting well out of hand.

(I’d like to note here that I don’t believe in hard and fast definitions of “feminine” and “masculine” as a rule, but our society does, and it is these values that the movie is playing with to make a point.)

Misplaced “feminine” energy is as much a part of the problem as displaced “feminine” energy. And the men in Fight Club have all experienced an odd feminization process, due to a society which has tried to diminish feminine energy, only to have it bubble up and fill the vacuum, ready to explode: the equal but opposite reaction to be expected in any system of balance. Jack’s boss is heavily into the color “cornflower blue”: a soft, desaturated shade of blue (the color for infant boys), the name of which combines the ideas of “corny” and “flowery”. Jack’s own fascination with setting up house properly represents sensibilities to his surroundings that are traditionally considered something only women concern themselves with. Notably, his alter ego’s first serious intrusion into his nicely mapped out little life is to blow up Jack’s condo – a hugely “masculine” gesture.

And it’s Jack’s fascination with a self-help group for men who have literally lost their balls to cancer that gives Tyler (the alter ego) a starting point for creating Jack’s identity. Tyler and Jack start their own self-help group: Fight Club. Where men go to beat the living crap out of each other and find out what they’re made of. Neither had ever actually been in a fight before.

As the Fight Club gains members and progresses, Jack and Tyler find themselves looking at Calvin Klein ads and asking snidely, “Is that what a man looks like?” They no longer need to be told: they have become men of their own making – not of their fathers’ making, or society’s making. Fight Club answers the question “If men run the world, why can’t they stop wearing neckties?” It’s because those neckties running the world aren’t really men: they’re just power mongers. And there is nothing positive, impressive or masculine about someone who only feels empowered by standing on the shoulders of others.

I relate to this completely, despite the Orwellian lack of corresponding feminine terminology: being a real man means being self-reliant. Doing what you believe you should, not what you’re told. Cooperating because you see the benefit, not because you’ve been trained like a monkey. And fighting when necessary, not to prove a point.

There is no way in the English language to express these things for women. Grow up and be a woman! That’s what separates the women from the girls. She’s really got balls! Girls are presented with no goals for adulthood. No matter what a great woman they become, it’s hardly worth the trouble because only the achievement of manhood is respected in our language – and therefore, in our thinking.

So I vote we steal the terminology, or at least the concepts from the men. Fight Club’s message about becoming a real adult instead of the adult you were programmed to become speaks just as well to women as to men. Fight Club portrays a society that is completely breaking down, and taking individuals of both genders with it. It’s going to take both genders to turn it around.

Tyler Durden issues a rallying battle cry to the men of Generation X, the smallest generation of the 20th century, the tiniest target audience in a society driven by demographics. But consider how much it sounds exactly like the complaints women have been making for decades:

I see in Fight Club the strongest and smartest men who have ever lived. I see all this potential; and I see it squandered. God dammit, an entire generation pumping gas and waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We are the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no great war, no great depression. Our great war is a spiritual war. Our great depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised by television to believe that we’d be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars – but we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed-off.

Our society hasn’t just broken its promises to women; it’s broken trust with all of us. And the people at the top are neither men nor women; they are genderless piles of insecurity in the form of human flesh. They are as afraid of real men as they are of real women, and tricking us into thinking we’re pitted against each other has been their greatest weapon all along. Our language doesn’t bother giving us a way to talk about the importance of growing up to become a real woman, because it’s not considered a laudable goal. It’s up to all of us – women and men – to change that. It’s in our best interests to put individualism ahead of “manhood” because “manhood” has always been defined by the folks who are in power. You think the folks in power are going to train you on becoming powerful enough to challenge them? Think again, boys.

And I’ll take one part of Tyler’s speech and raise it by a point: advertising does a lot worse than keep us chasing crap we don’t need so that we’re too busy to actually achieve anything that might overturn the powermongers at the top of the food chain. It has been pandering to the weakest instincts in young men and boys for a couple of generations now. 18-25 year old white boys don’t want to see strong women? Solution: don’t put a strong woman in your movie! For heaven’s sake, don’t show them that a woman can be strong and traditionally “feminine”. Or that a woman can be rather manly and still extremely sexy and attractive to manly men. Or that a woman can be a failure, and the failure have nothing to do with her gender.

No, don’t show them these things, because then they might become strong and secure. And they might in turn encourage women to be strong by not running from strong, smart or secure women in terror. And then the power mongers at the top might suddenly find themselves in their proper place on the evolutionary ladder.

Comments

  1. Gategrrl says

    I’m going to have to rewatch this movie. I saw it a long time ago, and was a little bewildered by it, to be honest.

  2. no-thing-there says

    For a young man seeking an identity that may fullfill the promise of this life, being raised by women is only slightly better than being raised by wolves.

  3. Jennifer Kesler says

    Did you mean that to sound as insulting to women as it came out?

    I’m sure we could come up with a few choice stories of how, for a girl, having some fathers are worse than having no father at all, but I’m not going to compare men generally to wild animals since that’s insulting and inflammatory. ;)

  4. Gategrrl says

    That’s a romance trope I’d love to see Go Away: that when the woman gets pregnant, to marry the idiot who helped her get that way, is better than having no man around the house at all.

    There ARE other ways for girls to get valid, helpful, warm and compassionate role models in the lives without having a father around. Here’s a great movie where that’s a major theme: Akeelah and the Bee.

    I completely object to that notion; a bad man around the house is worse than no man around the house.

    Aren’t movies rife with examples of father figures (who aren’t the actual father) substituting for incompetent fathers or absent fathers in movies? Not nearly as many mother substitutes…I can think of at least one off the top of my head in “Pleasantville”.

  5. no-thing-there says

    No disrespect intended, BetaC. You could substitute “young woman” and “raised by men” in the stated comment, i guess. But not being of your gender, i don’t know if that would make any sense. The statement was a little tounge in cheek and was meant to convey an absence of any role model that may present, at a critical period of development, an “explicit” or (nowadays) “subtle” right of passage that functions to provide direction and a sense of purpose to the budding young male mind.
    Returning to my comment and now that you force me to think a little deeper, I would imagine that males raised by (healthy) females may be better off than the obverse, since the female is hardwired for nurturing (excuse the generalization).

  6. Jennifer Kesler says

    I don’t believe females are hardwired for nurturing. I know I’m not, and neither are a lot of women I know. My grandfather certainly was, though. ;) We’re trained by the media, TV, folk tales and tradition to gloss over indications that some women are not nurturers and some men very much are.

    I do agree that everyone benefits from positive role models of BOTH genders, since they need to have some standards both for who they want to be and who they want to associate with.

  7. no-thing-there says

    So then, you think that what you “believe” in this immediate generation somehow defeats millions of years of evolutionary biology? I had hoped to avoid that branch of reasoning with the caveat “excuse the generalization”. Of course, there are nurturing men. I like to think that i am one. I also realize that i am the exception rather than the rule. And there are times when nurturing isn’t effective and i must be firm as my familial role dictates. My home-schooled child may say “i don’t want to do my homework”. His mother responds “if you want, you don’t have to do it now, but it has to be done because this is the path of education that we have chosen for you”. This nine year old is not quite capable of choosing his own curricula or if he could he would choose a multitude of inappropriate activities that would do little to insure his survival in this world. Let us say that this time the homework doesn’t get done. The mother says, “you know if you don’t do it there will be consequences!” There may be a timeout, which has worked in the past but no longer works because sitting alone in his room is now preferred to doing the work. Well, how about positive reinforcement. Do your homework and you can go swimming with your friends. To which the retort is “i don’t want to go swimming anyway!” You get the idea. Two days and the homework is not done. At this point, i get serious, and say…”unless you can give me a reason why you shouldn’t do it, get in your room right now and finish your homework!” He thinks and thinks, sometimes coming up with various rationales. If none of those are satisfactory, he reluctantly goes to his room and in twenty minutes has completed his work. I guess my point is that there is something in my demeanor (i am not a violent or even angry person) that motivates him to respect my wishes and the homework gets done.
    Bottom line the (generic) mother says, “no matter what you have done, or not done in this case, i still love you.” I say “get in there and do it or i’ll kick your butt (implied, of course). I love my children and would never and have never resorted to any physical discipline.
    Now Beta, you seem like an intelligent person and i know you’ll respond to this honestly. Did you write your own curricula, or did you have loving parents and grandparents that traditionally guided your development? If the former, please enlighten me on how this was accomplished. If the latter, then you were brought to this point by traditional methods. If you were raised by TV and disinterested parent(s) then maybe i should renew my cable subscription.

  8. Jennifer Kesler says

    The reason I deleted this comment when you made it before is that you’re in violation of commenting guidelines. Please take a hint. All future comments from you will be deleted, and here are some clues.

    So then, you think that what you “believe” in this immediate generation somehow defeats millions of years of evolutionary biology?

    Are you blissfully unaware of the many scientific theories which do not support your interpretation?

    Now Beta, you seem like an intelligent person and i know you’ll respond to this honestly.

    This is a bullying tactic. It attempts to extort an answer from the person by implying that if she chooses not to share her personal history with you, a random stranger, she is not being honest and has something to hide. Classy.

    Did you write your own curricula, or did you have loving parents and grandparents that traditionally guided your development?

    This is another bullying tactic – the attempt to trap me into a reply which, either way, will support your interpretation. If I say I got guidance, you will say that supports you. If I say I did not and came to my thinking on my own, you will start down the path that assumes I’m only a wacky feminist because I didn’t get love as a child. And if I say that my parents were hippies or something not “traditional” to use your word, that will also be used by you to prove what’s “wrong” with me that I don’t recognize the status quo for the beautiful thing that it is.

    It’s not like I haven’t seen this routine a thousand times before. Do you guys have a manual or something? ;)

    Your comments are also completely off-topic at this point.

  9. Patrick says

    It’s not like I haven’t seen this routine a thousand times before. Do you guys have a manual or something?

    Aw, I never got a manual. Maybe that’s why I had to learn to think for myself.

  10. eyevaan says

    Excellent review and reflective insight on the story. It is a story and it may have some validity as a parable but as the writer once commented when everyone started rallying around it, “It is a piece of fiction. It is not meant to be a self help book”. I wonder if you have read Robert Bly’s “Iron John” and what you took away from that in its more forward approach to the male and female relationship? There is a point in educating one’s self in all things that you take what you want and leave the rest behind.

  11. says

    This womans interpretation of fight club slowly takes my mind from “powermongers” to how women do not get the social equality rights they were promised by a society that’s just not cutting it. And giving credit where credit is due, she did address many of the ovious intentions of perception of Chuck Palahnuik in her review.

    A community of men living like slaves in a “free” country. All dies some time or another, what does it matter when? Does anyone else ever get the feeling like they would be better off in the times of the first human existince? Hunting and gathering, what we were made to do.

  12. says

    To Jennifer Kesler.. great analysis of his argumentation and tactics. I haven’t been pleased about reading a retort like that in some time. Usually it’s just the neanderthal-esque “YOU’RE stupid” response. Anyhow.. getting back to the thread. Great ideas on a great movie. Simple question though.. even prior to reading this e-article do I get non-sexist credit for liking Fight Club?

  13. says

    AJ, LOL, I have come across guys online who liked Fight Club for what struck me as very sexist reasons. It’s not so much what a person likes as what they like about it. ;)

    I’ve been thinking about FC again lately – I will be writing a new article on it sometime in the near future.

  14. Harry says

    This is quality stuff, seriously

    The same questions been playing on my mind a lot recently,

    the powers changing though, men are becoming men, Only a few now granted, but it will spiral

    really liked this thanks a lot

    -Harry

  15. Phantasy says

    I watched Fight Club for the third time last night after a 3 year hiatus. In the time since my last viewing of FC i have studied Philosophy and Martial Arts so i was able to gain a clearer insight into the matter at hand.

    From my perspective it seems that FC is a comment on how Materialism is damaging to our Spiritual well being. In the first section of the movie we see how Society trys to bandage over its problems through the avoidance of pain. The “false gods” of IKEA and Starbucks attempt to subvert the individual by offering a lifestyle, which if one invests in is detrimental to true inner happiness.

    Inner happiness can only be found within ourselves (no…i’m not a Buddhist) through confronting the problems we face as opposed to avoiding them through Group Therapy and excessive, unnecessary retail purchases. Tyler Durden’s purpose is to force Jack to learn to deal with the pain and pressures of modern day society (Middle History / Generation X) by looking inside himself. In my opinion the actual fights which take place are a metaphor to help us understand the conflict in our own souls: that is what we need and what we “think” we need.

    Obviously advertising has played a part in hypnotising society into feeling that their lives are incomplete without the inclusion of material goods. This point is made apparent throughout FC and the lack of Spirituality in today’s society is reflected in the mis en scene and bleak lighting which the Director has employed.

    Fight Club utterly condemns Materialism and it is rare for this to opinion to be portrayed in American Cinema succesfully (American Beauty), a genre of Cinema which is typically used to glorify the ideals and values of the American Dream.

    Tx

    Phantasy

  16. Iron Hans says

    I want my Golden Ball back and I sure won’t get the key by sucking on mommies tits. The modern “man” lacks the rites of passage that has been previously practiced for thousands of years. Due to the lacking of father figures, and the awakening of the feminist movement in recent eras, men began drawing strength from the strong women around them. Never to have separated the maternal bond that was so tightly enforced as when they were boys. Hence the “…generation of men raised by women…” As a result, we’ve became half grown “boys” who ultimately had never stepped into the realms of manhood. Our society praise the “receptive man” who in contrast lacks any sort of vitality what so ever. The receptive man who has no intentions of war or violence, the receptive man who advocates the harmony of the universe, yet the receptive man who is just as miserable and lifeless as any 35 year old boy who’s got bills to pay and mouths to feed. I see it as the receptive man who never got a pair. “I’m wondering if another woman is the answer we really need”

  17. says

    Iron Hans, I actually think it’s something else, and have been contemplating writing a new article because I’m not sure I was clear the first time around. I believe the point of Fight Club is that men have been fed an image of manhood by their fathers THAT DOES NOT WORK. Period. That’s why it’s broken down – not feminism, not changes in culture. The old model of manhood is simply wrong.

    Jack is trying new models throughout the movie. Touchy-feely stuff, violence, harming himself to scare the boss into more than submission, etc. It’s that last one that comes closest to bringing him any sort of fulfillment, and that’s only because he’s suicidal!

    The movie doesn’t tell us what the new model of manhood is going to be, but there are hints. Tyler says after the system is destroyed, we’ll go back to hunting and gathering, but Tyler’s wrong about many things. And throughout, it’s Marla who knows who she is and isn’t looking for answers. She gets that there is no answer.

    Ah, now we’re down to it.

    The old model of manhood was all about one thing, one desperate need: to feel useful. Some men thousands of years ago looked around themselves and thought, “Well, women have a purpose – babies! I’m sure they’re perfectly content, but what about poor me? What’s my purpose?” And then they invented one. But nothing ever changed the fact that we are worm food. Born to die. Doesn’t really matter who gets born and who doesn’t, nor who dies young. Not in the grand scheme of things. We are not unique snowflakes. We don’t matter.

    That’s the essential truth human beings need to grasp. That’s the “rock bottom” Tyler wants Jack to hit, and he never gets there until the end of the movie.

    The old model of manhood keeps feeding men the lie that they matter, that there’s something they can do that will make them immortal, that there’s some enduring god/culture/whatever that cares. That if Shakespeare hadn’t been born, we wouldn’t have just found some other playwright to celebrate in his place – no, no, history would be damaged.

    The new model of manhood has to be a model of humanhood – both men and women need to realize we are not unique snowflakes and we don’t matter. And yet, here we are, so we might as well do something with our time. Find a passion and go with it – but don’t think your culture has some answer that’s going to make you Someone Special. There is no such thing.

  18. gategrrl says

    That does take a lot of the pressure off of individuals, doesn’t it? And as a paradox, manages to *allow* individuals individuality within that humanistic framework. Without the pressure of having to be special, you have more *room* to be special, as long as your culture gives you room to be and makes space for thinking and improvements.

    (and if I’m not making too much sense, I’m thinking what you wrote through in my own mind)

    Isn’t that what feminism (perhaps should be renamed “humanism”? but that’s already taken) is all about, eh?

  19. Jennifer Kesler says

    Without the pressure of having to be special, you have more *room* to be special, as long as your culture gives you room to be and makes space for thinking and improvements.

    Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m saying. When you realize it really doesn’t matter what you do, that can be depressing at first. But if you continue it and realize this means you’re free to do anything, that’s when life gets interesting without the pressure of imagining you have specialness to achieve or live up to.

  20. Jago says

    I just Dugg your Artical, i don’t know if it will get much views because its my first time. But i hope it does, you made a good point in men not being truly masculine in todays modern society. Our countries and lives are run by power mongering little men in suits and ties, who think they are men but they are not, true leaders would fearless lead their men into battle at the head of the army.

    A true man stands up for his rights and the rights of those around him.

    A true man without protect what he loves, be it country or woman, without fear in his heart.

    All i see now days is timid men, who shy away from confrontation and work shitty jobs with no goals in life, or couch potatoes who are so filled with apathy they have no purpose in life.

    Modern society has really screwed men up.

  21. says

    Thanks for the Digg. :)

    But the point is not that men need to become all “masculine” and butch and macho again. That failed because it was doomed to fail. Go back to it at your own peril.

    It’s time to move on and accept that manhood is nothing special. It’s being an ADULT, whether you’re female or male, that matters. Macho is a cover for being an insecure little boy. Macho has nothing to do with being strong or grown up or having the courage of your convictions.

    So I would say real leaders can figure out how to avoid war. Real ADULTS stand up for rights and the rights of others, but there’s nothing in this arena men can do that women can’t – and haven’t been doing already since time began.

  22. Jago says

    You do not understand what i was pointing at, Materialism is a feministic psyche, you even pointed it out “why do we need to wear a tie” Man has lost what it truly is to be masculine, not false masculinity which you have claimed to be macho etc.

    Being an adult is just the same as being a zombie to society, the word adult is just a preconstruction of what others believe to be a true human.

    A true human changes and changes things, People fear change and in that insecurity become slaves to materialism and a life of repettive cycles.

    A great man once said “we have nothing to fear but fear itself” he was correct, you can see it everywhere you go and in everyone you meet, they are all afraide of being hurt that they may even start a confrontation just to scare you away.

    You see it in our countries when they go to war, they fear and try to make us fear to support their horrible ways.

    We have lost our survival instincts because of being fed by our countries and we have gotten fat because we cannot respect the thing we hunt and eat when its processed in factories and pumped with additives.

    Society must evolve or fall, earth was not ment to be this populated and our children and their children will suffer for our hubris.

    If we do not fight then we deny our true nature, which is change, change from the stagnation of weak leaders and private industries that pollute and exploite us while harvesting the earth of all its natural resources.

    In that fight we become true men and women, who will give up their lives for a cause they hold in their hearts they know is the truth. To not fight is to let the chains around your wrists rot your will until you become like a zombie everyone else is, working day in day out at a shitty job they cannot stand as the hate and stress builds up in their soul, their health declining and mentality becoming negative which spreads to others.

    So fight the fight, not against man or women but against those who would clip your wings to keep you in a cage, fed and ready to sacrifice for their “greater good” its not yours but theirs.

    This is what i believe.

  23. says

    I think we’re having terminology problems. I don’t use “adult” to mean zombie, I use it to refer to MY ideal for a grown-up, what I was taught to aspire to: a self-sufficient rugged individual. I think you’re talking about the same thing but using different words, in which case we agree…?

    However, I’m not sure what this means:

    “Materialism is a feministic psyche”

    “Masculine” and “Feminine” are the zombie brainwash constructs society has pulled out of its ass and forced onto us all. I said in the article I didn’t believe in hard and fast definitions of the term, because if I’d gone into more detail the article would be much longer. But what I was trying to convey is that masculine and feminine are NOT naturally occurring dichotomies. People are people. It’s slightly different in some ways to be male v. female, but it’s just as different to be very tall as to be very short. We are all roughly the same, with roughly the same capacity for responsibility.

    So while FC seems to exemplify that men need to return to rugged individualism, that doesn’t really work out so well for Jack at the end… until he throws in his lot with Marla, who was already a rugged individual.

  24. JustMe808 says

    Our countries and lives are run by power mongering little men in suits and ties, who think they are men but they are not, true leaders would fearless lead their men into battle at the head of the army.

    A true man stands up for his rights and the rights of those around him.

    A true man without protect what he loves, be it country or woman, without fear in his heart.

    All i see now days is timid men, who shy away from confrontation and work shitty jobs with no goals in life, or couch potatoes who are so filled with apathy they have no purpose in life.

    Modern society has really screwed men up.
    ——————————————–

    I think what Jago meant was that the “true” masculine ideals like honor, courage in the face of danger and peril, determination, and not being afraid to personally suffer for something you believe in, are what’s being taken from the modern man. You could conceivably say that men were less evolved during the times when these “knightly” virtues were more commonplace, but I would have to say that it was society that was less evolved. It is a sad fact, even to this day, that individuals will generally emmulate the common beliefs and practices of their society as a whole. Sadly, sadly this is how things like witch hunts, holocausts, and genocides happen.

  25. Derek says

    Power is only granted from those who already have it.

    “We’ve all been raised by television to believe that we’d be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars – but we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed-off.”

    There is no power to take for ourselves. I’m only given power if someone else decides that I should get it.

    What i want to know is, how do we take our own power? Obviously, begging for it like we have been hasn’t worked so well for us. We do the formula, because that’s what we’re told will grant us power. But it doesn’t. We’re still slaves asking the master when we get to have a whip too.

    Force is the only logical solution. You can’t ask the master to hand you the whip. You can’t negotiate with the master to hand you the whip. You must overtake the master by force and pry it from his hands.

  26. says

    While your words sound inspiring, I am still left wondering exactly what you are trying to say. you seem to laud over the point that fight club, through courage and machismo, reinvents the role of the average cog in society’s great machine. This I understand, but then what about feminism? your evidence is based on Freudian psychoanalysis and therefore weak (the regular occurrence of phallic imagery is deemed significant, as is the lack of such imagery), evident in your “cornflower blue” segment (a color chosen at random to represent the maddening minutiae of consumer society). This is echoed in his apartment scene, relentlessly listing the names and details of his ikea furniture. Furthermore, you contradict yourself blatantly in the 7th paragraph, where you deny standard gender roles, then use them in your argument.

    Certainly a very stirring “speech”, but not very coherent.

  27. says

    Spencer J, you misread. I was analyzing the possible symbology of the movie – just because Freud has been discredited doesn’t mean the symbology is not Freudian. And I certainly did not contradict myself – I explained that while *I* don’t believe in the “masculine/feminine” dichotomy, the movie is clearly using those traditional delineations to make points about the breakdown of society and the individual.

  28. says

    I read it perfectly. You just contradicted yourself, twice. If you don’t believe in a dichotomy, you cannot argue that someone is using it, because, according to you, it doesn’t exist. Your position, I think, is that you do believe in traditional gender roles, as per the basis of your argument, but it seems more trendy and progressive to deny them.
    And you misunderstood my point about Freud, that he was discredited is not the issue; the problem with using psychoanalysis on a film (or any artifact, for that matter), is that, akin to the observer effect, it tends to reveal more about the reviewer than about the text itself. While there might be some merit to your conclusions(though this is debatable), it is more likely that you found them because you were looking for them.

  29. says

    If you don’t believe in a dichotomy, you cannot argue that someone is using it, because, according to you, it doesn’t exist.

    That’s ridiculous. It’s that I don’t believe it’s valid, not that I don’t believe it exists. By your logic, an atheist could not argue that the Bible is about God.

    Quit yer trolling and move along.

  30. Nick says

    Pretty damn good article, got me thinking a fair bit which is a feat in itself :P

    What amused me is that I learned more about people’s enlightened/naive views and personal visions of society and gender roles from the comments.

    (and spencer j needs to go and get blown, nitpicking that much is a sure sign his life hasn’t turned out the way he wanted)

  31. Patrick says

    Let me see if I understand Spencer J correctly: not believing in something also requires refusing to accept that others believe it?

    Huh.

  32. Karakuri says

    Damn, this thread and the comments are brilliant. I practically teared up at one post. Maybe I’m overreacting ridiculously but I can’t help it, it’s so bloody refreshing. So many pieces click into place with that analysis, even the song lyrics, it makes total sense. Now I have to go watch that movie again (saw it years ago, I wasn’t sure what to make of it then).

    It’s interesting how this movie polarizes its audience to sexist/feminist(I reckon this term needs to be changed…again) interpretations according to the very state (of following your social programming) it addresses.

    I wasn’t sure what to make of the film before, as I’ve read a short story ages ago I believe was a take on feminism written by Chuck Palahniuk that I found pretty unrealistic and insulting, in which a “women’s group” abuse a new member of their group who is of questionable gender and accused of trolling their group. They were a pretty crude parody, exactly what a lot of men, including my own father, thinks feminists are – exclusionists guilty of exactly what they’re opposing…though knowing how observant the author is, I do have doubts he’d have written that story just to criticize feminists…

    Sorry, was going off topic. But this really made my day.

  33. Owen says

    Nice, that was great, I loved Fight Club and I like what you got to said. I got to say I am in Forestry and we have logger sports team and a woman with a crosscut saw is a thing of beauty.

  34. Scarlett says

    Sorry, the link from the comment that was just above my comment. Guess it got deleted but the gist of it was men and women are both miserable and it’s all feminisms fault.

  35. Luis Felipe De Siqueira says

    “I read it perfectly. You just contradicted yourself, twice. If you don’t believe in a dichotomy, you cannot argue that someone is using it, because, according to you, it doesn’t exist.”

    Simply because someone does not believe that an idea is true does not mean that person cannot understand what the idea is. The same person while not believing something is true can very well believe that someone else believes it is true and comment upon that belief. It’s called abstract thinking.

    There are plenty of people in this world who do not understand the concept of thinking in systems and terms which do not exist. These people are called “morons”.

    Welcome to that prestigious club.

    Also:

    Symbology????? LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

  36. says

    Symbology is a word.

    However, “moron” is ableist terminology we do not allow on this blog (I approved your comment even so, because many people are unaware of the problematic nature of the word.)

  37. photondancer says

    interesting article. I found Fight Club somewhat inexplicable, but have since read enough intriguing analyses of it to feel I ought to watch it again.

    I think there’s a typo where you’ve used ‘”feminine” energy’ twice instead of ‘”masculine” energy’.

  38. says

    No, it’s as I meant it. Not sure what the hell I was trying to say now, five years later, but I remember having that thought.

    Sorry, it’s been one of those weeks. :)

  39. Korey says

    Good article, like the way you talked about the people at the top being genderless piles, keeping men and women fighting and divided ust like political parties keeping us apart as humans!

  40. Kilokahn says

    Hmmm … the most important thing that you’d want to avoid here is name calling. Kinda detracts from the analysis, doesn’t it?

    To that effect let me quote Jiddu Krishnamurthy : “Labels seem to give satisfaction. We accept the category to which we are supposed to belong as a satisfying explanation of life. We are worshippers of words and labels; we never seem to go beyond the symbol, to comprehend the worth of the symbol. By calling ourselves this or that, we ensure ourselves against further disturbance, and settle back. One of the curses of ideologies and organized beliefs is the comfort, the deadly gratification they offer.”

    So, stripping stuff like “Masculine” and “Feminist” out of the whole discussion ought to let us get to the clear picture of what the real point is.

    @Mod: What do ya think?

    • says

      I think you’re yet another privileged brat who feels entitled to mansplain to the womenz how we should be looking at the world. The fact that you resubmitted your irrelevant drivel comment after seeing the message that it was awaiting moderation further supports the probability that you think everyone has nothing better to do than revolve their lives and work around you.

    • veganrampage says

      “To be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society is no measure of health.”

      He said that too. Feminism seeks to eradicate kyriarchy, which includes patriarchy.

      After a years of pondering I’ve come to the conclusion that FC is a feminist film mostly by complete accident. Feminism being in the eye of the beholder so to speak. The type of fan who started a real fight club
      certainly didn’t get it. The screenplay by Jim Uhls is a miracle and incredibly well crafted, epsecially compared to the wreck of the book.

      Chuck is certainly a misogynist. When I say I admire FC I always qualify by adding “for the exact opposite reasons most people love it.” HBC added much to the skeleton of that written role and never got the credit she deserved. Fincher’s finest work is behind him if the last few movies including the again needlessly misogynist The Social Network are predictors.

  41. says

    Wow I’d never really thought of fight club in terms of masculinism and feminism before but now that you point it out it’s really clear! Jack has been emasculated by conforming to society so he’s reacting in the most “manly” way possible-beating the rap out of people in the basement.

    Really interesting read. Glad I StumbledUpon you.

  42. V says

    Excellent read to Stumble onto. Thank you very much.

    If you haven’t read it already, I think you would find Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver interesting.

    Regards,

    V.

  43. sandy says

    thank you for the article. I’m writing an essay and using a close reading of the Ikea scene to support my argument. I just don’t know what that argument could be yet, though. Anyway, thanks, this helps me generate ideas.

  44. Sally says

    Thanks for your great insights!

    Kipling is another hypermasculinist, yet, by replacing gender-specific terms with gender neutral ones, I find “If…” a useful compass (except for that awful couplet that goes “IF neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you / IF all men count with you — yet none too much”).

    It makes me shiver when I overhear my girls (students) telling each other to “grow some balls.” However such is the power of the male perspective in most areas of public discourse that they don’t even notice the inanity of what they are saying, let alone the sexism.

  45. Ida says

    Amazing discussion here! What I think a lot of fans miss about Fight Club is the ending. Jack kills Tyler, quits Fight Club, and leaves all that destructiveness behind. This is the synopsis of Fight Club as I interpret it:

    Beginning: Jack identifies a problem in his life and society as a whole.
    Middle: Jack goes on a destructive binge, which he believes is the solution to the problem.
    End: Jack realizes that the destructive binge was not the solution, it was just more of the same problem.

    The middle part is sexist, but when you see that Jack forsakes what he did in the middle part, then perhaps the movie isn’t so sexist. Sadly, 99% of fans seem to think that the middle part is what it’s all about and they don’t see it through to the conclusion. I’m not sure if Jack found another solution in the end. Maybe human connection is the solution, schmaltzy though it is. Or maybe just acceptance. But Jack definitely found that Fight Club and its philosophy was not the solution at the end.

  46. Jhamin says

    Ida:
    Amazing discussion here! What I think a lot of fans miss about Fight Club is the ending. Jack kills Tyler, quits Fight Club, and leaves all that destructiveness behind. This is the synopsis of Fight Club as I interpret it:

    Beginning: Jack identifies a problem in his life and society as a whole.
    Middle: Jack goes on a destructive binge, which he believes is the solution to the problem.
    End: Jack realizes that the destructive binge was not the solution, it was just more of the same problem.

    This was always my reading as well. In the early part of the film Jack felt emasculated by the larger society he was taking part in and so decided to chuck it all & use Tyler to become the king of a new subculture he/they had created. Then he realizes that he is doing all the same stuff to the world that he was sick of the world doing to him.

    I think the structure of the move is the main reason that so many don’t “get” the message.is that most of the energy in the film is focused on Tyler’s wacky antics and charismatic manifestos. Jack’s personal journey is fairly quiet in comparison. It is sort of like making a documentary about the life of the actor who played the Marlboro man and focusing on all the wealth and fame the actor got from the role, how much all that helped his family, and the big sales boost to the company. Then mentioning “oh and he died of Cancer” in a titlecard right before the credits.

    Sure, it puts a real different spin on the story, but when you put your storytelling muscle on a plot point A and sort of let plot point B slide by with a whimper you can’t be surprised that folks mostly remember Plot Point A after they leave the theater.

  47. I'vereadthebook says

    Phantasy,

    Fight Club has a lot of Philosophy on consumerism and society and societies rules and how those rules shape us. HOWEVER, that is not the theme behind this story. This is not a man vs. society or man vs. nature story…this is man vs. HIMSELF..literally. Its a coming of age story…even though he’s an older man and seems to be “set up” in society, he missed a view things that are necessary for actually maturing. People get so hung up on the anti-consumerism anti-societal rules thing..that they forget that this is a book and a movie, about the individual. This man “kills” his parents, his god *which was his idealized lifestyle* and his teacher, Tyler. So that he can stand on his own as his own individual. Someone now capable of confronting real emotions, such as his love for marla *which he previously continuely cast off out of the fear of the commitment* and someone who can now make reasonable decisions, for himself.

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