The Fight Club movie was one of those unique movies that help define a generation. The movie was preceded by the novel by Chuck Palahniuk, who created such a stir with the book and later the movie that people began treating Chuck like Tyler Durden, often offering to “babysit” people at his request. So what was it about your movie that moved people so much? Many were simply interested in the entertainment elements of the movies, but upon closer examination, the movie had a much deeper meaning that this review will attempt to explore. Although we start with the idea of an analysis of Tyler Durden, his alter ego, referred to in the film as “Jack”, is also very relevant to this discussion.
The narrator “Jack” begins the film with a raging case of insomnia brought on by an existential crisis. Like the character of Meursault in Albert Camus’s novel The Stranger, who commented that “life had begun to stalk him”, Jack has reached a point in his life that is also completely meaningless, as evidenced by his quote , “this is your Life”. and it’s ending one minute at a time.” Ultimately, Jack seems to embrace the Buddhist idea that meaning in life can be achieved by actively meditating on one’s own death. He joins various survivor groups where he can see people at the end of life, and this seems to bring him a lot of peace.Perhaps a part of him takes solace in the fact that fate has been cruel to others as he continues to forgive him, and this gives him a sense of peace where he can finally get some sleep .
Everything changes when Jack meets Marla, who suffers from a similar existential crisis. Marla, though just as lost as Jack, does not have a place in America’s consumer mainstream and is essentially a bottom feeder in society. Regardless, Marla and Jack are soul mates, and there’s an immediate attraction that Jack can’t act on, until his subconscious creates Tyler Durden.
So Jack’s spill in Tyler can be partially explained by looking at the fundamentals of dissociation. This occurs when someone’s thoughts become too uncomfortable to consciously process and revert to another state as a psychological defense against these painful feelings. So the question is what was so awkward about Jack’s life that he needed to create an alter ego. The answer can be found by looking at our great American society and how consumerism creates an empty sense of self.
In Adam Curtis’ documentary The Century of the Self, the roots of American consumerism are explored by following the trail of Sigmund Freud’s nephew named Edward Bernays. Bernays had studied his uncle’s works extensively and became convinced that people could be manipulated into buying products based on their instinctual drives toward aggressiveness and sexuality.
To back up a second, Freud posited that our subconscious is made up of three separate functions known as id, ego, and superego. The superego assumes the function of what we consider to be the “conscience” that drives us toward moral and just conduct. The id, on the other hand, is our drive toward destruction and the sexuality that Freud thought was inherent in human nature. The ego acts as a kind of referee between these two forces to create a balance in which people can successfully function according to the rules of society.
Freud believed that we are all inherently aggressive and that identification is the dominant force in our lives, and is only restricted by the conventions of society. In Civilization and its Discontents, Freud stated that “men are not meek creatures who want to be loved, who at most can defend themselves if they are attacked; they are, on the contrary, creatures among whose instinctive gifts must be counted a powerful part of aggressiveness. Consequently, their neighbor is for them not only a potential helper or sexual object, but also someone who tempts them to satisfy their aggressiveness on him, to exploit his ability to work without compensation, to use him sexually without his consent, to sixteen his goods. , to humiliate him, to cause him pain, to torture him and to kill him”.
So, to go back to Edward Bernays, he felt that his uncle’s ideas could be used to exploit the American public and buy things they didn’t need if he could make them feel that these things would make them more sexually powerful or perceived as more aggressive. Consider Tyler’s comment; “Damn, a whole generation pumping gas, waiting tables, slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need” in this sense.
A part of Jack has begun to understand that the constant acquisition of furniture and other things for his condo is a meaningless pursuit, totally devoid of purpose and satisfaction, and he feels a strong urge to act on this feeling. Much of Jack’s dissociation has to do with this empty sense of self that he realizes he’s been filling for years by buying things, i.e. “What kind of dining set defines me as a person?” Tyler also comments that “We’re the middle children of history, man. With no purpose and no place. We don’t have a great war, and we don’t have a great depression. Our great war is a spiritual war, and our great depression is our life.” We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t be. We are slowly learning that fact, and we are very, very angry. Jack has begun to reject the consumerism to which he has become something of a slave, also evidenced by his comment that “the things you own end up owning you.”
Tyler’s comment has a lot of validity and can be supported historically. Before industrialization in this country, most people lived in rural communities where there was a shared sense of community and the values of hard work and self-sufficiency were emphasized. With the advent of industrialization, people began to flock to the cities, and with this migration, many of the core values of the rural way of life were also left behind. As people began to live in close proximity in the US, a desire to “keep up with the neighbors” soon developed where people wanted to acquire as many possessions as their neighbors to keep up appearances. This mindset was soon exploited by people like Bernays, who worked with companies to create ad campaigns that capitalized on this idea.
However, World War II interrupted the county, and the “sense of purpose” Tyler refers to came from standing up to Adolf Hitler and protecting the world from the spread of fascism. However, after World War II, the consumer machine was reactivated and we were soon back to the idea of buying new and better things according to our deep-seated subconscious desires. However, the next generation partially rejected this idea, and in the 1960s a series of social causes such as the Women’s Movement, Civil Rights and the end of the Vietnam War energized people and once again created a sense of unified purpose.
Children born after this generation are Tyler’s “middle children of history”. With more media constantly bombarding them than ever, and no political or social causes to back them up, “Generation X” became one of the most restless and dissatisfied in history, and this is where we pick up Jack’s story.
An interesting part of Jack’s story comes from the analysis of his ideas about women and sex. At the beginning of the movie, we see him holding a catalog that looks like a porn magazine and instead we see that it’s an Ikea ad. Jack, by fulfilling his psychological desires by buying things, suppressed his sexual urges and became celibate. When he creates Tyler, he is finally able to release his pent-up sexual frustration and release the desires of his identity. But when Jack lets this genie out of the bottle, sexual conquest isn’t the least of Tyler’s desires. Freud also believed that our drive toward destruction would arise when the conventions of society were stripped away, and this is exactly what happens in the case of Tyler, who wished to destroy the consumerism that has prevented Jack from acting on his primitive impulses. natural.
Tyler’s actions suggest that destruction may also be evolutionary, as evidenced by his comment that “only when we lose everything do we have the power to do anything.” By destroying Jack’s possessions, he feels he has freed him, but it is also important to understand what Jack can do now. It’s interesting to consider Tyler’s advice that “self-improvement is masturbation, but self-destruction is where it’s at.” Has Jack found redemption by freeing himself? “This all has something to do with a woman named Marla Singer.”
So is love the salvation of Jack? This is certainly a hypothesis. At the end of the movie, when Jack destroys Tyler, we see two things. One, the towers of consumerism collapsing, and two, him joining hands with Marla in perhaps their first moment of true intimacy. Perhaps this suggests that Jack has destroyed the power of his addiction to consumerism at the same time that he understands that there was a drive in the human instinct more powerful than simple sex.
So is that the message of Fight Club? That love can be the redeeming force that frees us from our ties? I think this is a likely explanation. While as a viewer I particularly enjoyed seeing Tyler/Jack break free from the bondage of consumer addiction, we still get Jack’s comment that “this all has something to do with a woman named Marla Singer.” The nature of the psyche is such that the defenses of the ego are not removed without being replaced by another force to protect the ego. In Jack’s case, by killing Tyler, he has freed himself from his dissociation and unified the forces within him on one front. Bringing down the towers exorcises the demonic forces of consumerism that have been filling Jack’s empty self, and he is now free to live through the redemptive powers of love.