I have chosen to do my formal essay on the movie Fight Club. Fight Club was directed by David Fincher and was released in 1999. This movie has countless dimensions to it, and it has been very interesting to have a chance to research these in more detail through out this class. American values, and attitudes are a huge part of this movie, or should I say the destruction of American values, and attitudes. I intend to discuss these values and attitudes and how the director, David Fincher, used interesting techniques to display them.
One huge theme throughout this movie is an anti-society theme. Fight Club is a film based on a novel written by a recent University of Oregon graduate, Chuck Palanhuik (IMDB). The main character is a young man who is tired of his dead end, white collar, corporate job and the empty consumer culture that his generation has been doomed to inherit (IMDB). He, and his newly invented alter ego Tyler Durden, create a new club where young men come to relieve their frustrations by beating each other up. The ultimate purpose of the "Fight Club" is to try and destroy the importance that society places on working and material possessions.
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There are many scenes in this movie that discuss the problems with the attitude of the current society. One of my favorites, however, is a scene entitled "The Middle Children of History", where Tyler Durden is holding a meeting in the basement of a local tavern. I have never taken the time to notice how similar the points Tyler makes about society are to society as we know it. That is why I think this scene tries to shape the viewer’s understanding of particular American values and attitudes. One of the first statements Tyler makes is, "Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate, so we can buy shit we don’t need." This is very apparent in this movie as well as modern society. Advertising is a huge industry in America. There are so many commercials on television that stress the importance of having material possessions. A majority of these possessions are not necessities, they are items that people feel they need in order to fit in to certain groups of people or social circles. At one point, early in the movie, Edward Norton’s character asks himself, "Е.what kind of dining set defines me as a person?" Norton does not ask what dining set would reflect who he is, but asks what dining set would make him who he is. In society today, it seems that people do feel defined by what they own. If a person works a high paid job, has a nice house in a nice area, and drives a fancy car they are probably more likely to socialize with people of the same nature. Tyler Durden and Edward Norton’s characters invent Fight Club to help free people of these material possessions. They believe that it is only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything (Fight Club, Fincher).
In the beginning of the movie, Edward Norton’s character is very into his material possessions. He has worked very hard to furnish his apartment with all the luxuries he can afford, and is very proud of them. The director, David Fincher, shows this in a scene entitled "Nesting Instinct". At the beginning of the scene you see Edward Norton on the phone ordering dust ruffles for his couch while using the restroom. Later in the scene the camera pans around his apartment and beside each piece of furniture is a written description and price of the furniture as it was in the catalog he ordered it from. I thought this was a very effective technique. I think Fincher was trying to make the audience think of their own homes and picture each piece of furniture they own themselves, and how much it cost.
During the scene entitled "The Middle Children of History", Tyler Durden brings up another complaint about the society he lives in that is also apparent in our society. He states, "We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won’t." Obviously television in Tyler’s society has a big influence on it’s viewers as does television in our society. Not only does it advertise the need for various material possessions, but it also stresses the importance of fame and great wealth. Shows like Joe Millionaire, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, and American Idol are good examples. Joe Millionaire is a reality show that has twenty or more women competing over a man and his affection purely because they believe him to be very wealthy, and partly because of the notoriety they could receive for being on the show. I think shows like this send a bad message out to viewers. The message I get from shows like these is that it doesn’t matter how well you know someone or how much affection you really have for someone, as long as they have money happiness will come automatically, and many people in our society do believe this.
One of my favorite aspects of this film is the disease that the main character, played by Edward Norton, is suffering from, and the ways in which the director communicates this disease. Edward Norton’s character is suffering from a disease called Dissociative Identity Disorder. Dissociative Identity Disorder, often called multiple personality disorder, is defined as a mental illness in which a person has two or more distinct identities or personality states which recurrently take control of the persons consciousness and behavior (Spiegel 2002). It is not until the end of the movie that the viewer realizes that Norton’s character has Dissociative Identity Disorder. After watching the movie for a second time, I noticed several techniques that the director used to signal that the main character might have an alter ego without giving it away completely. One example of this is during the latter part of the "Middle Children of History" scene. Tyler and the owner of the basement they are using for their meeting get into a fight. Tyler is letting the owner beat him up and everyone including Norton’s character is watching. At one point Norton’s character attempts to go to his friend’s aid and Tyler simply raises his hand up to him and looks at him as if to say stay back. I thought this was an interesting way for the director to show that Tyler is holding his hand up to keep his other personality from jumping in and changing the whole outcome of the fight.
One of the funniest scenes of this movie to me is after the first time Marla and Tyler have sex. Even though it is actually Norton’s character having sex with Marla, he believes Tyler is a real person and that he himself had nothing to do with her physically. She comes down the next morning and Norton’s character asks her what she is doing there and tells her that she needs to leave. Of course Marla is humiliated, and leaves immediately, probably totally confused. This series of events is very misleading the first time a viewer watches the movie and the director does this intentionally. While Tyler and Marla are having sex, Edward Norton’s character is outside of their door listening in disbelief to the sounds coming from inside. The door is opened by Tyler and there stands Tyler, as well as Norton’s character, and you can see Marla in the background. The viewer would never think by this scene that the two actors were the same person.
Fight Club is probably one of the most interesting movies I have ever seen. It is considered a drama, but has a great sense of humor. It really goes into depth about a young man who is struggling with a disease that he is completely unaware he has, and a young man who is crying out against a society he wishes he could control and change. The best message this movie sends out to it’s viewers is don’t ever let the things you own, own you or determine your position in society.
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