Continued from I am Jack’s Vagina: Marla Singer of Fight Club. WARNING: This will probably make no sense unless you read Part 1 first, and it will contain “spoilers” for the movie. Go ahead and read it anyway: you know you want to.
Previously on The Hathor Legacy:
I was yammering on about how the whole movie is (as the author asserts) “about a man reaching the point where he can commit to a woman.” I said that Jack’s problem is not a repressed drive for violence, but the repressed twin urges to find a purpose in life, and care about something or someone. Fight Club ostensibly solves the first problem (purpose), but fails miserably on the second (caring). Without caring, purpose is empty, so Jack has solved nothing.
This is where Marla comes in.
One of the points Fight Club makes is that a society is only as strong as its individuals. To stay strong, focused and happy, individuals need a purpose and passion in life. Fight Club suggests that we’ve lost both purpose and passion, and society is trying to give us possessions, commercialism and busywork in their place. But the balance between strong individuals and strong society has been lost.
Marla Singer has been so disconnected for so long, she doesn’t care about anything, including her own life. While Jack thinks Fight Club has given him a new lease on life – awoken him from his sleepwalking state – Marla knows he’s still not connecting with the most subversive force in human experience: caring. And so she remains unimpressed.
By the end of the movie, he gets it, too. He realizes Project Mayhem will weaken society, but it won’t strengthen individuals. Then he realizes he cares about Marla, and takes steps to isolate her from the results of Project Mayhem – sending her away to safety in a display of false nobility and self-sacrifice. But in the end, she’s brought right back to him by his own goons, and he’s forced to rise to the occasion. Forced to make the commitment.
Like most of us are to some degree, Jack was disenfranchised, unfulfilled, and isolated. We’re a “single-serving” society – every person an island, with no sense that the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. Despite all its hypocritical idealization of love, civilization sure spends a lot of time dictating when and how it’s acceptable to love. Commitment is paid lip service, but is it really encouraged?
We see it as something that weakens us. It’s one thing to chase your dreams and take risks when you have no one to answer to. Once you commit to someone, your life is no longer yours alone. Jack’s journey follows the single-serving lifestyle to its ultimate logical conclusion, and teaches him that the things he may lose in caring about someone pale next to what he may lose by not caring about anyone.
Marla doesn’t represent love, the feminine side, the damsel in distress, the hero’s prize or any of the usual drivel. She represents caring about someone more than you care about your duty, your honor, yourself – and this is the real subversive message of Fight Club. It’s telling men that all the deeds by which they measure themselves will come up short unless they learn to love.