To many, David Fincher’s 1999 thriller “Fight Club” was a glorified coming-of-age film for restless teen boys that go through life with their fists furled. To me, it was a slap in the face.
While the film’s namesake and significant plot point revolve around a group of men that fight underground to blow off steam and reject society, both the movie and book by Chuck Palahniuk facilitate a larger message of questioning a society that runs on consumerism under the guise of individuality. The violence in the film is meant to be a metaphor for the inner conflict felt by our generation, which is tired of working 9-to-5 jobs to buy an endless cycle of material goods until we die.
The film’s main character is a mentally ill, cubicle-bound insomniac named Jack who lives vicariously through his infinitely cooler alter ego, Tyler Durden. After his apartment burns down and he is left with virtually nothing, Jack narrates the film as if he and Tyler are separate people. Jack watches yearningly as Durden materializes all the things Jack wishes he was. The point, of course, is that, in losing everything, he was able to become those things. He just didn’t know it.
As a woman, I sometimes get strange looks when I talk about the impact “Fight Club” had on me because there is only one female character of note in the entire film. While I acknowledge its inherent sexism, “Fight Club” really made me think about the way I was living my life. Because of its impact, I have separated the film from its characters, and I view it through the lens of its message.
One of the film’s most famous quotes is this:
“Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy sh*t we don’t need. We’ve been raised by television to believe that one day, we’d all 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.”
This famous Tyler Durden quote says it all. Stuff is just stuff, and my life is just one in a sequence of infinite lives. Watching “Fight Club” was one of the first times I really accepted these facts. The film wasn’t afraid to call people out — in fact, that was its purpose. By showing someone give up everything in order to live life to the fullest, the film makes the average person think about ways to execute small actions of rebellion in their own lives.
The message isn’t about going into situations with your fists up, or even about getting rid of material possessions; it’s about opening your mind to the possibility that there’s more to life than a job, house and family. There’s more to life than what society expects of you.
While I have no intention of blowing up a chain of credit card buildings or taking up fist-fighting to channel my inner anarchist, “Fight Club” showed me that I am more than my possessions and the system that encourages such beliefs is worth questioning.
To quote Tyler Durden, “This is your life, and it’s ending one moment at a time.” So trust me, watch “Fight Club.” “Where Is My Mind” by The Pixies will never sound the same.