Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What is male identity? Fight Club

Fight Club is a movie that reinforces the gender stereotype that "boys will be boys." I say this assuming that people will understand the stereotype that boys like to rough house when they play. What is interesting is how the characters and the attendants of Fight Club all seem to find a spiritual lifting when they attend and partake in the activities that occur underneath the bar. The first and second rules of Fight Club is "you never talk about Fight Club." Why would this rule be so emphasized for new attendants of Fight Club? I think the answer of this lies within how the members of Fight Club conduct themselves in and out of the club. Jack is having an emotional crisis at the beginning of the movie that seems to stem from his inability to define himself. This can be seen in the scene where he is choosing certain things for his apartment. One of his lines is "what kind of dining set identifies me?" He is trying to look for some sort of happiness within his purchases and other actions that he takes in life. None of this is fulfilling, and in fact, starts to harm the well being of his character. He begins to find hope and happiness in the meetings that he attends which lead to his and Tyler's creation of Fight Club.

So what does this have to do with defining masculinity and whether or not that oppresses men and women? There are many scenes that one can look at to find an answer to this question, but what I want to focus on is the speech Tyler gives to Fight Club before the owner of the bar comes and disrupts the club (chapter titled The Middle Children of History). During this scene Tyler discusses the potential and squander of the men club's attendants, how advertising drives the motivation of men, how this generation's great depression is their lives, how they will never become movie or rock stars, and how this pisses them off. This speech is accepted with nods from the crowd. What Tyler, and one of the messages of Fight Club, seem to be doing is claiming that for these men to function and be happy in society, they need to take matters into their own hands by "fighting the man." An example of this is given when immediately following Tyler's speech, he takes a beating from the bar owner than spits his blood all over the bar owner's face. This is symbolic on so many levels. By fighting against authority and creating one's own authority through violence. Fight Club literally oppresses authority and what people perceive as a functioning person in society by replacing this thought with violence and independence through violence. By the end, Jack's and Tyler's identities are one which would allow one to believe that part of being masculine is having a fighting edge and not taking orders without a fight. This idea is reinforced throughout the movie in other scenes besides the one just mentioned.

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