Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Reempowering the Alternative Male We are Told to be in Fight Club

Since my first viewing of Fight Club as a teenager, I embraced the testosterone-driven passion seen in the basement of the strip club which grew into a cultural phenomenon across the US in the movie and was often imitated in real life. Watching this movie from a more academic perspective, I found the movie to be equally exhilarating and found layers within it that I had never before noticed.
In Gardiner’s essay she writes “In the classroom, the feminist aim of disempowering dominant masculinity can clash with the aims of students who, hearing about the current “crisis” in masculinity, want to find a cure for this crisis, if not a way to reempower men.” I believe that this film is a response to this masculinity crisis in America. As men are asked today by society to talk about their feelings, cry for loved ones, and listen to their wives problems, this film shows men how to act on instinct, take power back from their bosses, and literally fight for everything they want.
The character in which I see most clearly the reempowering of men most clearly is that of Bob, the testicular cancer survivor. We first meet Bob when he is in a true crisis of his masculinity at a Remaining Men Together meeting for testicular cancer patients to support one another. Bob had once been a traditional man. He was a bodybuilder, taking steroids to grow as powerful as he could. However, since his bout with testicular cancer, he has become a symbol of the alternative masculinity Gardiner talks about. He literally is no longer a whole man, having only one testicle. He also exhibits truly feminine characteristics, including his “bitch tits” and his need to cry. He says, he is now “bankrupt, divorced, my own two kids don’t even return my calls.” He has lost his position as a husband, father, and provider.
Through the Fight Club, though, he is able to fight back for his role as the traditional masculine figure. He becomes one of the “boys” again. After his death, he is not remembered at all by the members of the fight club as the alternative masculine figure we had seen him as before. His change back to the traditional masculine figure is etched in the history of the fight club as they chant his name loudly and savagely: “His name was Robert Paulson. His name was Robert Paulson.”

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