Fight Club Fanboys

by Charles Miller on September 6, 2003

After my dream of last week, I decided to watch the movie again today. I'll probably read the book again some time soon, too. As a disclaimer, Fight Club is probably my favourite movie of the last decade.

I was also reminded of a bunch of fan-boy writeups I had read a while back on everything2.

Dear world. Fight Club was not a grand endorsement of nihilism. It was not there to reassure you that it was OK to hate the world and your life. Fight Club was a satire!

A self-delusional man with a fractured personality spouts glib philosophy, and gathers to himself a band of incredibly stupid people to help overthrow the society that they feel they are the victims of. People band together in a pact of mutual self-destruction, and every time they assert their individuality, they're really just subsuming themselves into another fad that will rid them of the need to think for themselves. The whole thing is like that moment in Life of Brian.

Brian: You're all individuals!
Crowd: Yes! We're all individuals!
Brian: You've all got to think for yourselves!
Crowd: Yes! We've all got to think for ourselves!
Crowd: Tell us more!

In the movie, this is even more pronounced. For Christ's sake, we have Brad Pitt telling us we've been lied to by society because we'll never be movie stars, Brad Pitt telling us how we're being sold men on billboards. If you can't see the massive degree of tongue-in-cheek going on there, you need a pretty big reality-check.

As one of the slightly more perceptive everything2 commenters notes

At first, the more times I watched Fight Club, the more this line bothered me. Ed Norton's character had just gotten everything he wanted: freedom from his job, revenge on his boss. "We now had corporate sponsorship, and this is how Tyler and I were able to have Fight Club every night of the week." How triumphant! Everything he wanted. That which did not matter, at last sliding.

We pan to him lurking amidst the throng of grunting, cheering men, surrounded by sweat.

"I am Jack's wasted life."

The self-aggrandizing construct that the Narrator has developed to compensate for his dissatisfaction with life, his nihilist philosophy, his cadre of brainless space-monkeys, all are naught. The Narrator's moment of clarity in that scene is that he is achieving everything he thought he wanted: the cameraderie and adrenaline of Fight Club, freedom from his dead-end job, liberation from the possessions that were weighing him down... and it's all "Jack's wasted life". He's just sinking further, finding bottom, wallowing deeper in his victim's mentality.

In the end, the narrator's painful redemption comes through the only real human connection in the entire story. In a suitably twisted way, he has to defeat Tyler so he can reconnect with the world, even as it blows up to that cool Pixies track in the background.

Previously: A Sense of Wonder

Next: Democracy in Bug-Tracking?