Please explain the symbolism of Fight Club (open spoilers)

I love the movie Fight Club. When I first saw it, I thought it was a brilliant “mindfuck” of a movie, what with its unexpected plot twist about 3/4 of the way through.

The second time I watched it, knowing of the interchangeability of Brad Pitt and Ed Norton, I reveled in the subtle clues I had overlooked previously.

But the third time I saw it, I paid attention to the story. And I was enamored by its message, which I always took as a metaphorical commentary on the self-destruction of our “civilized” self in favor of a more sincere existence…an abandonment of the hollow, unfulfilling lifestyles of mainstream society, filled with useless material possessions, in favor of a life predicated on personal character and visceral life experiences…“You are not your fucking khakis”, etc.

Of course, at the time, I was doing a lot of drugs. Now that I’m older, soberer, and stuck in a career, I wonder if Fight Club was just a cool flick, and I was overreaching when I thought I gleaned a powerful, life affirming allegory.

So, esteemed Doper, please offer your own take. Is there a message in the movie? If so, is it a wortwhile one? I’ll still love Fight Club if it doesn’t hold valuable insight and deep meaning, so let me have it.

It was an excuse for Gen-X to feel sorry for itself, and then get pumped up with its own importance. Of course it resonated.

Life affirming? When I saw Fight Club I thought “this is a pretty well done essay on Nihilism”

Granted, I’m just a few years young to be Gen X (b.1981) but c’mon:

Listen up, maggots. You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else.

Tyler Durden: Fuck damnation, man! Fuck redemption! We are God’s unwanted children? So be it!
Narrator: OK. Give me some water!
Tyler Durden: Listen, you can run water over your hand and make it worse or…
Tyler Durden: look at me… or you can use vinegar and neutralize the burn.
Narrator: Please let me have it… Please!
Tyler Durden: First you have to give up, first you have to know… not fear… know… that someday you’re gonna die.

If you could be either God’s worst enemy or nothing, which would you choose? We’re the middle children of history, we have no special purpose or place, and unless we get God’s attention, we have no hope of damnation or redemption. Which is worse, hell or nothing? Burn the museums, wipe your ass with the Mona Lisa. This way, at least God will know your name.

Fight Club was one of those rare movies where after seeing it I said to myself, “This was a really good movie - but I don’t like it because I disagree with its fundamental thesis”

  1. He wrapped up a lot of people in his own nihilistic/existential escape from the mundane
  2. No one but he was freed in the end.
  3. Chuck Pahlaniuk is a flamer and an open mysoginist
  4. It was about a guy who had a love affair with himself
  5. His cult traded one consumerism for another
  6. Ultimately he was creating an ethical structure around his own sociopathy

I don’t know that Fight Club is really all that life affirming. You can accomplish the same goal of detaching from society, by y’know, going to live on Walden pond. He chose to do it in a semi-malicious fashion, by blowing up Delaware.

How is this not hate speech?

I don’t see it as either nihilistic or life affirming. It’s about a pathologic individual dealing with a pathologic society. The ground keeps shifting: you want to write Tyler off as a whack job, then he does something redeeming; you want to root for him, he does something whacked. It’s cynical and optimistic at the same time. I’d go with your first assessment of it being a mindfuck. I wouldn’t say it’s terribly deep, but it’s a fun ride.

It was well made and well acted, but it really wasn’t that deep. I’d just look at it as a fun atavistic fantasy. Who hasn’t been nauseated, at least on occaision, by the shallowness and inauthenticity of affluent western culture? Obviously Tyler Durden and Co. didn’t have a real alternative. While modern society is annoying, their anarchist utopia would be a disaster. But haven’t you wanted to throw a brick through an ad agency window, at least once, when you were young, maybe?

As a satire of modernity and as a fantasy, it’s great. Well made, inventive and smart. As a serious political and philosophical treatise it’s absurd. But I don’t think it was supposed to be anything but the former.

Palahniuk is indeed homosexual. He may have had relationships with women in the past but as of now he identifies as gay. He was also a bodybuilder and a user of steroids, and from what I’ve read of his writing does in fact seem to be in love with himself.

I think Fight Club is somewhat overrated but the Homework scene (where they have to start a fight with a stranger and lose) is ingenious. If you listen carefully there’s actually a Yiddish folksong in the background.

Poor choice of words then. I don’t hate gay people. :wink:

Granted, I’m a little wacky in the head, but I took scenes like the one quoted as above as life-affirming, in the sense that it stood for the proposition that life was about seizing the moment, and living for today, because there is no grand cosmic significance to any of this reality we experience. So we need to live for the moment.

Again, though, I was watching it during a time in my life when I was searching for deep meaning in life (i.e. college), and this just sort of resonated. I posted the OP, though, because I had a sneaking suspicion that I was a little too eager to find what I was looking for when I sat down to see Fight Club, and I was a little too excited by sleak edits and a snazzy script. I still like the movie, and I still like the reminder (for me, at least) of carpe diem, but I’ve decided that it is more my imagination, then the movie, that generates that attitude.

I guess this is like when people watched The Matrix and thought it offered some deep wisdom. I thought it was cool, but I didn’t dig the new-age mumbo jumbo

Atomicktom I find that a lot of people have a tendency to turn away from their youth and turn on the things that they were fond of then. Fight Club was a very good movie. It touched on our societal pathos. There is no reason to denigrate it as a film. It was a truly great film, as that is about all that can be expected of a movie. Some people have used it as a guide for life, and one must grow up from that, but that doesn’t make the movie any less good.

I loved this movie, though I haven’t seen it in a few years. Now that I’m in my 30’s, and a bit wiser, I should give it another look.

That being said, I think it resonates well with my age group, though there are of course those that are going to be turned off by the Nihilism.

Our grandparents fought WW2 and Korea, with clear cut badguys. Our parents fought Vietnam, or protested against same, again, with what were usually some pretty clear cut badguys (on both sides).

My generation was given Gulf War 1, which was alright, but followed up with the current situation. We spent our childhoods being told we were special, and then entered a workplace where the idea of a lifetime spent in the same company is a myth. Where our value to society has been downgraded and denigrated, and where we are represented to the world by Jackass.

The idea of breaking the society we’re given and making something new has a lot of appeal.
Also, Ed Norton is awesome.

Good flick, but I (as a semi-rational human) don’t understand: WHY do young males enjoy kicking the crap out of eachother? Quite apart from the follish “macho” posturing, it HURTS! :confused:

My take of the movie’s message was, essentially, “Life ain’t perfect as it is, but it ain’t worth getting all upset at either.” But maybe it really was just nihilistic and I found that stupid enough to take the message as being the opposite of the intent.

Actually I think you hit on a very crucial point of the movie, and what makes it brilliant. It works on so many levels while being a movie about people just beating each other up.

They want to destroy something beautiful.


I don’t think the film agrees with this viewpoint, though. It does brilliantly eviscerate consumer culture, as in the Ikea sequence and Brad Pitt’s improvised line: “Fuck Martha Stewart” But it is a satire on how far boy-men will go to avoid growing up. They will literally beat themselves up or, ultimately, destroy civilization, just to avoid accepting the responsibility and intimacy that comes with being a Man.*

The Narrator’s first instinct is to reject Tyler’s philosophy: “this is so fucking stupid” but quickly falls for it. The film is making fun of how easy and “sexy” but ridiculous his brand of Nihilism is. But when Marla comes into the picture - a woman, though flawed, who gives The Narrator reason to grow up - Tyler, his immature self, does everything he can to sabotage this. Because he knows that once The Narrator chooses Marla, and thus an existence not focused solely on his own selfish desires, Tyler is dead.

To be honest, I don’t think this is necessarily what Palahniuk meant with the book. I read it years ago, after seeing the movie, but wasn’t too impressed. I thought it agreed far too much with Tyler’s viewpoint. It was Jim Uhls’ screenplay (co-written with Palahniuk) that really brought out the potential of these characters and this story to become the hysterical satire that it ended up being. My stepdad always complained that the movie was too violent and I was stunned. To me it was like complaining that Monty Python movies are too violent. It’s a comedy, and a very funny one.

*ETA: Such as when they are on the bus and The Narrator looks at an underwear ad and says “Is that what a man is?” And in the bathroom when they are discussing The Narrator’s absentee father, setting up “franchise” families. Part of the reason The Narrator is so terrified of becoming a man is that he simply doesn’t know what one is - he has no role model.

But not as awesome as Brad Pitt’s abs.

Self-Improvement is masturbation.