Fight Club is one big analogy telling us something…
I love my analogies, and Fight Club satisfies my obsession for over-analyzing movies. Fight Club stars Brad Pitt and it still is one of the more popular movies he’s done. It is off-beat, and directed by David Fincher, a great creative mind. He directed another movie I like, Zodiac (2007), which I think is underrated. I don’t think Fight Club is underrated though, except as an analogy for commercial business, fascism, and confidence.
Something called “Project Mayhem” is featured heavily in this movie. Edward Norton joins up with this group and it is way out there. It is bent on terrorist actions, which develop after Edward Norton moves in with Brad Pitt’s character. Edward Norton becomes a reluctant part of the group for most of the movie. I think of this group like an everyday, commercial business and Norton follows the usual stages of career development.
When Edward Norton moves in with Brad Pitt, he begins a new facet of his life, like many others have done starting new careers. Norton jumps right in, getting started on some work. He eventually becomes apprehensive and resistant though, especially after a botched operation. This mirrors the thoughts and feelings of many people on the job in real life. Many people become more careful after an accident. Norton’s character takes this to the extreme and reacts badly, becoming very suspicious of those around him. He argues with everyone for the rest of the movie, which may be a comment on the business environment itself.
I’m not sure if this argumentative attitude develops naturally or is inherently present in the movie from start to finish. Edward Norton’s character plays like an isolated worker in business, perhaps the stereotypical man obsessed with only his work, or the guy who doesn’t fit in. The “business” world of Fight Club pressures him, but we learn later that he was in charge of the whole thing all along, not Brad Pitt. Since Pitt was all in his head pushing him around and stuff, I guess we can assume the REAL pressure and anxiety was in his head the whole time. Is this movie trying to tell us to be confident?
If the “fights” are analogies for the arguments we have at work, then they are numerous and traumatic. Sometimes the fights are resolved with a pat on the back and a handshake, other times not. The fights also illustrate the power struggle in a business, even on a level playing field. Edward Norton is only recognized as “Tyler” after trying to take charge, yet another reference to confidence. He scours all over the place looking for “Tyler”, which is an obvious search for identity. He’s looking for himself. Literally. He gains confidence when he finds more “truth”.
After he learns the movie plot twist, he takes charge again and rids himself of “Tyler”. He gains the girl and his Operation is successful. It is a demented operation, but it is successful nonetheless. Confidence can get you anywhere, I guess.
I think the idea of fascism in this movie steams from a loss of identity. Project Mayhem wants everyone to conform to the group, to be part of it, to recite its stupid slogan, and become unquestioningly loyal. Members also literally become nameless, which may be the most direct allusion to fascism in the movie. The main selling point of Project Mayhem is that it is a dedicated “collective” and promises something worthwhile, even fulfilling. Joining it, Edward Norton loses his identity, which is the effect of fascism on him. He regains it through confidence and truth-seeking, though comes out changed.
It is curious how the ending parallels all these themes, all at the same time. The building blows up, which we know was set in motion by Project Mayhem, the fascists. Norton shoots himself and regains his identity, but later watches the explosion with a strange disconnectedness. He doesn’t resolve anything and Project Mayhem still achieves its goals, which may be because Norton never had any control to begin with.
Norton comes out for the better in his snap back to reality, despite being physically scarred. This evokes many simple notions about the hardship of change, but also the necessity for trauma. This scene may be a caution against running from reality, which is sometimes exploding in our face. It is better to buck up and be confident than run, though the movie shows that this kind of change can sometimes be traumatic, but necessary.