Hopefully not Cliched Thoughts About Fight Club

For some reason, I have been super writer’s blocked lately, and haven’t been able to finish one single goddamn movie to write about.  All I’ve been doing lately is reading (specifically, this GREAT book called Personal Days by Ed Park– which I got him to sign, thankyouverymuch) & going out.  Not too productive!  Anyway, I just read Scott Tobias’s latest “The New Cult Canon” entry about Fight Club.  I don’t think I’ve ever read a review by him that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy reading.  Man, he really is SUCH a GREAT writer when it comes to writing about film.  Anyway, here it goes…

Art and Social Responsibility

Scott Tobias writes, “If Fight Club could be considered ‘dangerous,’ the responsibility for that lies more with the willful obliviousness of some viewers than the moral deficiencies of its creators.”

Hm, really?  Granted, I haven’t seen Fight Club in a very long while.  In fact, what comes to mind the most when I think about that movie is how fucking retardedly hot Brad Pitt looks in that movie, and not really being able to hear what’s going on in the actual movie due to the various bunches of loud guys I’ve watched it with in my life. Perhaps Tobias is right that it’s a movie “by men, for men, and about men” and that “it’s the quintessential Generation X film…[a]t least for men, anyway. Women may respond to it, too, much as an anthropologist might study a foreign species, but its raw appeal is strictly for the XY set.”  Though, I definitely find myself identifying with many of the themes, I guess I can’t ever really know what it IS to be a “man.”  Whatever.

But, here’s the thing, the very ideas & themes in this movie speak to a sort of general (though I guess Gen X and/or Y?) dissatisfaction with the status quo.  And clearly, one of the “answer” options this movie provides is that one should get all “Project Mayhem” on the world:

‘Project Mayhem,’ a complex, militaristic operation that carries out his brand of anarchic mischief. Some early missions are playful, like demagnetizing tapes in a video store or planting alarming safety cards on airplanes. But the grand design is that of a terrorist organization, with independent cells concocting explosives out of household items and conspiring to attack the system at its core.

I think that might be part of the “problem” with why people may not like this movie, or find it excessive, irresponsible, or whatever.  Tobias addresses this:

Fight Club seriously questions the limits of anarchy with the same fervor with which it dismantles the trappings of consumer culture.  The problem is, this tends to be the part that critics of the film (and some viewers, too) usually miss when they dismiss it as nihilist garbage, just like members of Tyler Durden’s ‘Project Mayhem’ choose to ignore their leader when he has a change of heart. It’s easy to accept rebellion, because it’s what we desire, but harder to examine the consequences, because we don’t like the hangover. [italics mine]

But doesn’t the filmmaker have some responsibility there?  I mean, maybe a little?  Where do you draw the line with your art?  I don’t really have a firm opinion on this, and it’s obviously something I think about a lot.  I mean, when you make a movie about dismantling the status quo, isn’t it ironic that you might be perpetuating it with regards to traditional/normative masculinity?  Or is that maybe the point?  To “return” (even though I’m not quite sure it actually “went” anywhere) to this sort of, “lost” ideal. 

To this affect, I don’t see the character of Marla, as just the one flaw of the movie.  I think the fact that she exists in the film solely as a deux ex machina really speaks to the level of change Palahniuk actually wants.  Does he really want to blow up all of our social institutions and culture as we know it?  Or does he just want a slight readjustment, and an excuse to behave badly?

“Project Mayhem” = My Life?

Clearly, the themes in this movie are fantastic, and I actually like a lot of the ideas found within.  One of these is the concept of the “Project Mayhem.”  I kind of feel like I live “Project Mayhem” sometimes, to a very, very small degree. 

I mean, first and foremost, on a very basic level, I like to fuck shit up sometimes.  Nothing too major, most of the time, but just to make life interesting or to express my disagreement.  It’s fucking funny and amusing to me.  But on another level, I really do feel like I’m sort of doing it to provoke critical thought about ideas we as a culture take as a given.

Not to get all over-share-y, but I feel like, in a way, living a real life of “Project Mayhem” can either totally stunt you as a human being, suspending one into perpetual adolescence (cough, Palahniuk, cough), or it can be a means used towards more productive, revolutionary, innovative goals, propelling one into much-anticipated adulthood.  The difference? Is it responsibility?  Social responsibility?

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One response to “Hopefully not Cliched Thoughts About Fight Club

  1. Joe Rice

    Fight Club is kind of a problem movie for me, but it has nothing to do with social responsibility. It’s partially from internal, unfair sources, and it’s partially from film nerd technique issues. The internal stuff . . .the movie started getting heavy trailers and buzz in, what 98? Something like that. My junior year of film school, whatever year that was.

    I fell in love with the trailers and what I thought they were saying. It seemed to align with a theme very present in my life at that point; basically a focal point of my entire psychic or emotional state. To me, it seemed to be about the return of basic human feeling in an age of post-modern detachment. Sort of a vaccine for the kind of thing Thom Yorke would sing about at the time. People, it seemed to me, were growing more and more distant, both from each other and their own emotional cores. And I was sure something needed to be done to counteract this, but had no idea what. I’m not the sort that would have been into hippie-style giving flowers to everyone; horseshit idealism without a bit of pragmatic workability.

    The early trailers for Fight Club got me thinking that perhaps to counteract the “thesis” of postmodern detachment, an antithesis of pre-modern savagery would break through. Feel the most primal of emotions first, the most easily accessed and hardest to deny. Lustfucks and fistfights, goddam all Viking and shit. I was writing a lot about this stuff at the time, trying to process how to feel again. (Ugh, that sounded very college-dramatic.)

    Anyway, obviously, that’s not what the movie was really about. That was a disappointment to me, but I could have still loved it; in fact, did still love it, until the ending. It’s a film pet peeve of mine to have a twist ending that really had no basis in the text proper of the film. I haven’t read the book, though I’ve heard it’s better set up. In the film, though, can you really go back and re-watch and it makes sense with what you know at the end? Not really. I mean, if you stretch things. There are no signs of that reveal anywhere. It pops up out of goddam nowhere. It’s a bullshit move I’ve noticed in other Fincher works. I don’t watch film to play “gotcha,” especially if the movie cheats.

    Anyway, that’s what fucks this movie up for me. This is an epic blog reply, by God. Homer would totally fucking write a poem about this shit, with rosy-fingered dawn appearing somewhere.

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