fight club

Editor’s Note: Greetings from Kansas City!  Who needs jaunts to sandy beaches and swaying palm trees, when one can soak up the greatness that is exotic Missouri? Meanwhile, as I go in search of exquisite barbecue and Royals baseball, The Matinee marches on. Today, it’s Courtney Small’s turn, and he came up with a selection near and dear to my heart…so I’m certainly glad he eventually reconsidered it. – RM

I Am Jack’s Trip Down Memory Lane.

Two years ago I got into a heated conversation with a co-worker regarding cinematic art and our interpretation of it. She was appalled with the way the young men in her screening of Django Unchained joyously clung to every use of the “N-word”. Her argument was that audiences often miss the real message when a director overly stylizes a film. I could see her point. Frankly, I was her back in 1999 after watching Fight Club.

David Fincher’s sleek commentary on modern masculinity and consumerism left me frustrated and angry upon first viewing. Fight Club establishes a world where men free themselves by devolving back to primal archetypes and women are nothing more than a “tumor” eating away at men. That is of course, when women are not being wowed by the men’s sexual prowess. While many marveled at the film’s anti-corporation stance, I found it down right insulting. I felt nothing for the plight of the nameless narrator (Edward Norton) whose biggest problems were that he was dissatisfied by his white-collar job, and spent his disposable income on furnishing his condo at IKEA.

As a struggling university student at the time, and growing up in a single-parent household where the term “disposable income” was a pipe dream, Norton’s problems seemed insignificant to say the least. Sitting in a packed theatre on opening night, all I remember thinking when the narrator breaks in his numerous “I Am Jack…” sayings was “I Am Jack’s indifference”.

Furthermore, the anti-establishment ideologies spouted by Brad Pitt’s chiseled Tyler Durden, felt more like the pseudo-intellectual jargon offered at drunken frat parties. It is no wonder that the major cultural impact of the film at the time of its release was not the mass rebellion against consumerism, but rather the rise of underground fight clubs on college campuses. Fight Club was the film that, outside of The Matrix, all the guys seemed to want to talk about at school that year. It seemed that many were trying to mimic the cool masculinity portrayed in the film. Roger Ebert famously dubbed the film “macho porn” and, at the time, I agreed with him.

Single Serving Friend

I Am Jack’s Open Eyes

My views on Fight Club slowly changed once I started to revisit the film. While there are moments I have issues with, the last twenty minutes still irk me to this day, my love for the film grew with each subsequent viewings. Once I got pass the slickness of its presentation, boy is it ever well-constructed from a technical standpoint, it slowly dawned on me that Fincher was not asking the audience to wake-up, but rather his characters.

Fight Club is not a film about those who are “slaves with white collars,” but rather men who are reluctant to face adulthood. Fincher is satirizing all those men whose image of masculinity are guys like Tyler Durden. A point I missed upon first viewing. He is taking aim at those who think childish acts of vandalism and destruction are profound statements against society.

It was only when I approached Fight Club from this new perspective that my understanding of Pitt’s Durden’s, especially in relation to the consumerism slant, became clearer. He is the smelling salts that wakes-up the narrator from the self-imposed IKEA prison. Although it can be argued that this awaking comes far too late in the film, we get the sense that the narrator is finally ready to take responsibility for his actions. He is ready to face the chaos and emotions that come with being an adult.

Having watched it several times over the years, I can honestly say that it is a film that gets better with age. It actually feels more relevant now in this self-obsessed “hey, look at me” world we currently live in. A time where, like the narrator laments, people are simply waiting for their turn to talk instead of truly listening. While I can fully understand those who still hate Fight Club with a passion, revisiting the film immensely changed my entire outlook on it. It is one I now look at with fondness instead of disdain.

I Am Jack’s Euphoria.

Courtney’s writing can be found at Cinema Axis