Fight Club (1999) is directed by David Fincher and is based on a novel of the same name published in 1995 by Chuck Palahniuk. It stars Edward Norten and Brad Pitt.
The theme for our discussion films this month is, Masculinity: Collateral Damage.
When I used to teach Introductory Psychology, I had the students participate in the following exercise:
Imagine that when you wake up tomorrow morning you discover that your gender has changed; If you are a male imagine that you discover that you are now a female, and vice versa. Now write an essay that describes how you think that change in gender would change your perspective on life.
I learned something very interesting when I read the students’ responses to this assignment. Males would typically say something pretty innocuous such as, “I would suddenly develop an interest in going to a nail salon to have a pedicure.” However, the response of females was much more dramatic, and often something along the lines, “Wake up as a man? OH MY GOD – Gross!”
I bring this up because I think some of you might have a similar reaction to the way masculinity is portrayed in the film we are going to screen tonight: Fight Club. There are many scenes that are either violent or gross or both. So what I want to do as an introduction before we watch the film tonight is try to convince you not to get hung up on that aspect of the film because there is so much more to it, particularly its complex structure and use of an extended metaphor (conceit of the double) to delve into psychological issues pertaining to masculinity.
This film deals with a number of complex psychological themes involving masculinity and gender and is open to multiple interpretations. Everything you will see is filtered through a narrator played by Edward Norton, so you will want to pay special attention to questions such as, is this narrator reliable, can he be trusted, is he delusional, does he himself really fully understand what is going in this story he is revealing to us?
Also, you will want to pay close attention to the actions of the character, Tyler, played by Brad Pitt because a major key to understanding this film has to do with figuring out, Just exactly who is that character?
So as you enjoy watching this very entertaining film, also keep these questions in mind.