ANALYSIS OF FIGHT CLUB
Most of the people who watched Fight Club on Big Screen left the theatres disappointed. They paid for an action movie like Rocky or some Jean Claude Van Damme sort of movie. They were not the audience meant for a movie like Fight Club. Movie, unsurprisingly tanked at Box Office with Worldwide gross of $100M.
Movie was inspired from a book written by Chuck Palahniuk which was also a big failure having sold around 5000 copies. A story, a message, an ideology or propaganda irrespective of how you bracket the concept of Fight club, finally found acceptance in DVD market. Once WOM finally kicked in, it found its target audience and sold millions of DVDs.
Since then the movie and its interpretations have found a widespread acceptance and cult-following among critics , snobs and masses. A failure at Box Office and many dismissing it as a propaganda movie could not bridle the movie from becoming a topic of endless debates over mindless consumerism , isolation, Job satisfaction and how we become puppets in the hands of materialism. The things we own end up owning us, we are pushed to buy things that we don’t even need and come to a point that buying these things remains the only source of pleasure providing that fake sense of achievement and a ground for bragging on what we have achieved I life. Because being happy or having a sense of fulfillment is not a priority, showing others that we are happy is.
It was unfortunate that a movie, taking a swipe at marketing by capitalists failed to market itself. It was hard to market it among target audience without spoiling the twist. Trailers designed for promotions either made it appear like an action movie, or a movie preaching the side effects of consumerism or isolation.
Movie gained a cult following in the long run, first through DVD success and later through internet downloads. Movie quickly rocketed to the top of Imdb(Click here for Imdb) and other movie database’s rankings and its fanbase exploded.
Here is a brief analysis of Fight Club.
INSOMNIA, CONSUMERISM and ISOLATION
Narrator(Edward Norton) is a timid, frustrated person suffering from insomnia. He has no friends, he hates his job, he is alone. The only source of happiness is the material possessions at his home that he bought thanks to the marketing overdrives. Unable to sleep, he finally visits a doctor who dismisses his situation as trivial an redirects him to support groups and communions to truly understand what real pain is. There he meets Bob(whose entry and exit both serve as breakthrough moments In the movie) After crying his heart out during communion meet with Bob, finally the narrator was able to sleep thanks to satisfaction derived from those communion anecdotes. All went well for an year until another fake Marla Singer, encroached in the support groups thus disturbing the peace. Back to the square one, the narrator is unable to sleep again.
This part of the movie is a critique of obsession with consumerism. Narrator’s alter-Ego later described that such consumers are by-products of a lifestyle obsession. People who try trading happiness for material possessions are brainwashed by marketing gimmicks of capitalists into believing that such material possessions are directly proportional to the status one has achieved in life, a key to escaping inferiority. Having them in their house a person gets bragging rights, a showcase of their affluence. A person feels special and unique, quite ironically, by owning the products that are produced on mass scale, that have nothing unique about them and are consumed by thousands of people. Eventually “The things you own end up owning you” as Tyler Durden said. People can’t leave their job, despite hating it, and do less lucrative stuff because they won’t be able to afford the lifestyle and owning these things. People are only driven by ownership of unnecessary things which don’t add anything to their lives. All that at the cost of happiness or human relations. Situation gets to the point where they can’t even sleep at night. Here the narrator suffers from insomnia. The situation could have been averted with some friends to confide his situation to. Eventually the narrator found peace by visiting a support group for Testicular cancer, possibly finding solace in the company of people in worse situation compared to his own. This fragile peace was shattered when Marla Singer, another fake infiltrated into these support groups.
TYLER DURDEN ENTERS
The narrator meets Tyler Durden in a flight during one of his official visits. Tyler’s eccentric persona, carefree attitude, something that narrator yearned for, enthralled him. A greak accident blows up narrator’s condo and the first person he called to seek help turne
Narrator’s condo blows up effacing all the worldly possessions he accumulated over the years, his only companions. With nowhere to stay and no one to seek help, he calls Tyler Durden. They meet in a bar where the narrator expresses his worries about the destroyed condo. Tyler pinpoints that the reason narrator called him was because he needed a place to stay and he can’t summon up courage to ask it directly. The narrator reluctantly agrees and moves in with Tyler to his dilapidated house where he was probably squatting but before this they enter into a fistfight outside the bar. More such fistfights follow. More and more people captivated by these fights join them and a Fight Club is formed with rules recapitulated by Tyler Durden during every session.
More and more people, fascinated by the alternative Fight Club provides to their commonplace boring jobs and lives join their ranks. Insidiously it transmutes into a movement with chapters in various cities and acts of violence and anarchy committed by them, significant enough to be reported by media.
Coming back to what Tyler Durden said ”The things you own end up owning you. It’s only after you lose everything that you are free to do anything”. One of the most layered and overlooked quotes ever written. Just before the first fist-fight that later expanded to Fight Club, Tyler Durden was turning spotlight on ill-effects of consumerism and fixation to unnecessary mass products. Later the acolytes of Tyler and Fight Club philosophy, themselves turn into an equivalent of those mass products – All with shaved heads, with no names, with no rationality, with a common purpose, even when they die they get a common name – Robert Paulson. All powers are assumed by a single person’s ideology and scores of people became blind followers of this ideology, which provided an alternative but no solution.
NO CREDIT NO ISSUE
Following a freak accident , Tyler Durden mysteriously disappears. The narrator finds out that Fight Club has exploded into a revolution Project Mayhem. Addled by the disappearance of Tyler Durden and the crptic nature of Project Mayhem, the narrator is left is to figure out for himself what it is all about. During his investigation, he unearths that Tyler Durden is his alter ego. By the time the narrator realizes the truth, the movement was bordering around terrorism. He attempts to abort it but to no avail as his alter ego Tyler has fool-proofed it for every possible interference by narrator, even his acolytes didn’t listen to him, worst they tried to castrate him for his attempts at impeding Project Mayhem. The narrator discovers that project mayhem’s ultimate aim is to blow up entire credit card infrastructure to bring everyone to an even keel with zero debt.
As discussed, Tyler provided only an alternative to people, not a solution. Tyler was opposed to capitalists controlling minds of people by their marketing gimmicks, by selling them the idea of consuming goods to to get a feeling of fulfillment. Instead of a solution, he sold them the idea that opposing the status quo tooth and nail is the only solution. In this endeavour for his solution, his acolytes dehumanized themselves. They had no name, same shaved hair, they cheered when media reported their mindless acts of vandalism. When Bob died during a botched vandalism attempt, their was no grief among members, instead a common name Robert Paulson was given to those who died. People dead were seen as evidence that need to be buried, no emotions attached.
Destruction of Credit card companies to erase all records and bringing everyone to level ZERO, the ultimate aim of Project mayhem was flawed in many ways. Though not covered in the movie, but such an act along with credit records also destroys livelihood of thousands of people working in these institutions and those indirectly rely on it. Besides threads of multiple sectors are attached to such financial institutions and ripples of damage travel to others ending up destroying entire economy. The alter ego Tyler Durden presumably died, but the ideology remained and even the husk of Tyler Durden- the narrator could not control it.