Fight Club in 2021: Has The World Changed?

Picture of By Quynh (Stephanie) Bui

By Quynh (Stephanie) Bui

As a self-proclaimed cinema aficionado, it took me too long to finally watch the cult classic Fight Club, directed by David Fincher and starring Edward Norton and Brad Pitt. Since the film has become more (not less) relevant in our contemporary society, the ideas it portrays have become a self-fulfilling prophecy for the modern, capitalistic world. But as our world has been turned upside down in the past two years with our fundamental understanding of everything being dismantled and reconstructed, it’s time to revisit whether this movie still stands the test of the millennium.

*The article will contain light spoilers of the film, so I recommend watching it before reading to thoroughly understand the opinions expressed in the article.

What is Fight Club?
Without giving away the magic of Fight Club, the story surrounds The Narrator (Edward Norton), a typical bet10bet salaryman working as a recall specialist for an automobile company. Becoming sick of his mundane, material-driven life and acute insomnia, he would try anything that reminds him of human connection, including going to support groups and crying out his misery. But little does he know his life will change forever after encountering the eccentric yet alluring “soap” maker named Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) on a business trip, subsequently leading to them starting an underground Fight Club.

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The Post-COVID world from the lens of Fight Club
Lockdown and quarantine were rough, but they also helped us realize some crucial things about ourselves: who we are, who we value, and what we consider essential in our lives. When we didn’t focus on impressing others, we looked into ourselves and re-connected with our friends and families. Our needs and demands significantly diminished because we didn’t go outside nor have any guests: no new clothes, make-up, or fancy furniture. And that was the anti-materialistic and anti-capitalistic mindset that Fight Club wanted to convey, where we are boiled down into essences of ourselves and break away from societal chains. This is Tyler Durden’s utopia: a world free from greed, “fluff,” and pretense, where everyone strips away their material possessions to be only left bare with themselves. We would only understand what truly matters in our lives when we hit “rock-bottom,” and I’m sure many of us had experienced this feeling during the pandemic.

Yet, as our “normal” lives restarted from their long, overdue slumber, we returned to our old habits of feeling the urge to prove our self-worth through material things. While it is true that consumerism and capitalism never truly disappeared, we continue to chase frivolous ideas promoted by corporations like Amazon, Facebook (now Meta), Google, Apple, and many more. Do we need to bet10bet giriş line up for hours and hours to buy the new iPhone 13, a barely modified model? And do we quickly move past the socially harmful controversies caused by a platform only because the CEO changed its name? It seems like, after all, our post-pandemic world has not deviated much from the eerily realistic dystopia that Fight Club predicted: we are still surrounded and controlled by brands and corporations. I can’t even fathom how Tyler Durden would feel – would he be disappointed, angry, or resigned?

Tyler Durden: Idol or Fantasy?
Many Fight Club fans connect with Tyler Durden because he is “everything you want to be”: anti-establishment, reckless, attractive, and most importantly, live by his rules. Brad Pitt’s charming, charismatic and evocative portrayal of Tyler Durden makes it impossible not to fall for a character who is so sure of himself. He’s no lost soul when he started the Fight Club – he has a plan sketched out and wants to destroy society to restart as equal beings not bound by wealth and credit. We probably have felt like the world is unfair at least once in our life: those with privilege will continue to flourish and live their comfortable, cushy lives, while most of us will be stuck in the vicious cycle perpetuated by capitalism.

Not a lot of us have the balls to do or even fathom the idea of invoking mass chaos (unless we are psychopaths). He’s the standard when it comes to defiance – he is free from the shackles of society. Yes, Tyler Durden is something we are not and will probably never be, and that’s a good thing. To me, the idolization of Tyler Durden is concerning: after all, he’s an extremist and anarchist who will not take no for an answer. He is explosive and his actions and leadership fuel his ego and rage. I would never wish to become Tyler Durden; instead, I want to grow like The Narrator.

The Narrator: The most underrated protagonist
In a sense, The Narrator represents who we are as a society. We are obsessed with minute details that make up our fragmented selves and struggle with understanding reality. We are (somewhat) bound by societal expectations – how we behave, think, and believe. The Narrator also falls into the trap of consumerism, furnishing his house with every new IKEA item and spending his sleepless nights watching TV commercials to fill the void in his life. We sometimes feel lost and lonely in a hyper-materialistic and constantly moving world. We just want to be heard, embraced in the human warmth, and deeply connect to someone. And we are, in a way, also inflating and embellishing our identity with social media. We are glued to our phone screens for hours on end and chase the latest trends, trying to find meaning through mindless scrolling.

Nonetheless, The Narrator is an endearing character because he is real. He struggles, he rebels, and he hits rock-bottom, falling prey to his emotions. Throughout the film, if you remove Tyler Durden, it’s about a man’s journey of regaining his sense of meaning and identity, something any individual in today’s society badly needs, even if it takes the help of a “friend” like Tyler.

The Two Sides of the Coin
The Narrator is who we are, and Tyler Durden is our repressed thoughts and emotions. While I respect the ideals for which Tyler Durden embodies and advocates, I would not want my suppressed emotions to take over. Yes, it might feel satisfying to just f*** it all and leave everything all behind, escaping our reality and rejecting the economic competition we face. But as the film demonstrates, this impulsion will never lead us to happiness, and detachment will only result in further emptiness. Enlightenment can come in many forms but destruction would not lead to inner peace.

Fight Club is full of violence and bloodshed – but the true beauty of this classic lies behind the gore. It represents our fight against ourselves and the world, where we need both parts (The Narrator and Tyler Durden) to be completed and move forward in a bittersweet reality. Therefore, it will be our lifelong struggle to balance these sides of ourselves and not allow them to overrule each other. Sorry, Tyler and The Narrator, I know the first rule about Fight Club is that you do not talk about Fight Club, but your secret is too magical not to be shared.

Cover: Law & Liberty (Credit: Alamy Stock Photo; Copyright: Credit: Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo)

Edited by: Katrien Nivera

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