“Welcome to Fight Club”

By Josué Vargas

A bit obsessed with this movie

It’s quite a challenge to begin this post, so fuck it, I’ll just go with the flow.

I’ve been watching this movie repeatedly for the past month or so, I mean really watching it, studying it. I’ve been doing this partly because I’d like to understand how to build a story that’s so engaging and intense, I’ve been a fan of this movie since it premiered, and I was 13 years old at that time. But then as I analyzed the timelines, transitions, winks, and omens throughout the movie, I also started to assimilate the philosophical, psychological, political, and anthropological aspects that it communicates, which makes it so content-rich and provides so many layers of analysis.

I know this may sound like a lot and it is.

The Big Picture

Probably it’s easier to just start with more general aspects and then zoom into the specifics; now having said that, this is going to be full of spoilers so if you have not viewed this picture before, please do (it’s pretty old now so my conscience is clean when it comes to spoilers 🙂 ).

Fight Club is not for the faint of heart, let’s just cut the crap: it’s a violent film, pretty violent for being on the mainstream side. Now, this last statement could provide for an interesting debate: do we consider Fight Club to be indie or mainstream? LOL; I’d say it’s conceptually a very indie movie, with a cast and budget of a mainstream Hollywood movie, and while this could easily be a recipe for disaster, I believe David Fincher made a gem out of it.

Like many awesome stories, this one comes from a novel of the same name written by Chuck Palahniuk. Reading it is definitely on my TODO list, but I haven’t and I’m analyzing the story based on what’s communicated by the movie, sorry to disappoint you if you’re a hardcore fan of the author.

The movie centers around the psychology of the narrator and a series of events triggered in his life, so a lot of first-person interactions are used freely throughout the movie, this will make it easy for you as a spectator to get sucked right into the intensity of the events very easily. Notice how I wrote “the narrator”, and there’s a reason to it, if you’ve paid attention Edward Norton’s character is never, ever named. There are even certain moments in the movie where the director seems to mock us by deliberately avoiding the subject in situations that require the character to identify himself:

Marla Singer: ‘It doesn’t have your name, who are you? CorneliusRupertTravisAny of the stupid names you give each night?”
???: “Tyler Durden”
Tyler Durden: “Did you know if you mixed equal parts of gasoline and frozen orange juice concentrate you can make napalm?”

In the first scene, he avoids providing his name directly by not giving importance to Marla’s comment and we kind of understand it because they seem to dislike each other and are also into that whole “careless, nihilistic” attitude towards life, so no need for social pleasantries here. In the second scene, Tyler gives the narrator his business card and this calls for a similar reply from the narrator, but immediately Tyler just starts being Tyler and speaking on how to create home-made explosives so that pulls our attention away from the fact that at this point we know a lot about the narrator, but his name. Now I believe there’s a deeper reason for this than mere eccentricity but I will keep that for another article (please subscribe to my blog, LOL).

Besides the starring character and eye of the storm, Mr. ???, the movie introduces us to other three delightful characters and I need to say that even Jared Leto and Holt McCallany have amazing secondary participation, but the other three core characters in Fight Club are in order of appearance:

Narrator: “Bob had bitch tits”
  • Robert Paulson a.k.a “Bob”: Sweetest-guy-ever-Bob, is introduced early in the movie as part of a support group for men with testicular cancer. Throughout the movie, Bob undergoes quite a transformation yet I do believe his essence remains untouched until the very end, he provides a degree of humor to the overall dark humor that permeates the whole movie (think of how he’s introduced: “This is Bob. Bob had bitch tits”) and also a degree of tenderness and human empathy, as he’s one of the few people Mr. ??? seems to genuinely care about.
Marla Singer: “Slide”
  • Marla Singer: Marla is probably one of the most deceiving, ambiguous, and complex characters I’ve ever come across with. I wrote that I’ve been a fan of this movie since I was 13 years old, well I’m 35 now and it’s until the year of this post (2022) that I’ve come to understand how important this girl is in the whole balance of crazy events happening in this movie. Marla is (I’ll try to keep this short), the infamous, despicable antagonist that triggers the chaotic events in this story, and the beloved-actually-deep-adult-woman and decadent-punkish version of the “damsel-in-distress” that brings closure and resolution to the madness of Mr. ???, the most fucked up Prince Charming you could ever imagine. The narrator says it in the introduction to the movie when he’s been threatened with a gun:
Narrator: “And suddenly, I realize that all of this, the gun, the bombs, the revolution has got something to do with a girl named Marla Singer”

Tyler Durden: “Hit me as hard as you can…”
  • Tyler Durden: There’s no Fight Club without Tyler Durden, there’s no hero without a villain, and there’s no mayhem and delightful madness in this movie without the psychotic yet weirdly philosophical architect of chaos, personified by Brad Pitt. Tyler is the ultimate anti-hero, a firm believer in anarchy who’s not only an ideological zealot but also a very dangerous executor of his ideas to bring forth the destruction of our current system. Having said that, Tyler is hypnotically appealing, a strong man who’s a magnet for the outcasts of this world with a charisma that makes him the life and soul of this dark party called “Fight Club”.

Fight Club in 3-D

I don’t think it would be of any benefit to narrate here or summarize the succession of events that involve these characters, I’d say: go ahead and watch the movie, and then come back for the next three articles which is what I’m calling “Fight Club in 3-D”, as I will do my best to analyze 3 dimensions or layers in the narrative of this amazing story and I’m not saying they’re the only ones but they’re the dimensions I’m compelled to write about at this point in time:

  • The mental health dimension: There’s an undeniable mental health topic and conflict surrounding Fight Club that’s absolutely interesting and even productive to analyze and understand.
  • The sociological and political dimension: There’s discomfort and a more globally-significant element in this movie that leads progressively to the manifestation and justification of criminal behavior, behavior that starts becoming terrorism as we understand it. While I don’t think the story is an apology to terrorism, it definitely provides solid elements to analyze the phenomenon from a more human perspective, not necessarily from what propaganda would have us think.
  • The relational dimension: Although it may be a bit hidden from the viewer the first time, studying this movie will start revealing interesting relational dynamics: love-hate-love (narrator and Marla / Tyler and Marla), power and dependence (narrator and Tyler), and more which I believe justify dedicating an article to them.

I hope you enjoy this analysis and the articles to come! I will be posting a lot about Fight Club on my Instagram account jjosu_minded so follow me there for more daily content!

This is the official blog of writer Josué Vargas

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