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Fight Club: The Anti-Hollywood Hollywood Film

Adam Maxwell reviews Fight Club, exploring how the film is anti-Hollywood and its relevance upon society today. (includes spoilers for Fight Club)

BY Adam Maxwell

Fight Club is a rare breed of filmmaking. It is without a doubt a Hollywood film. With an award winning Hollywood director, an award winning cast, and an estimated budget of $63,000,000. Fight Club presents itself as a normal Hollywood action thriller. However, Fight Club is anything but that. It dares to ask the questions about the society we live in, and forces the audience to look inwards and question who they are and why they do the things they do. Fight Club is a Hollywood film, but it’s one which breaks every rule of Hollywood.

‘We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won’t. We’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.’

The ideologies and the messages Fight Clubs sends to its audience are anything but Hollywood. Fight Club is anti-consumerist and anti-government. It spreads the message that humanity shouldn’t be tied down to social constraints but dare to break them. It suggests that the media and consumerism has consumed humanity as a whole, that we are now worthless and obsessed about meaningless things. Fight Club dares to talk about what other films are scared to talk about and breaks the barrier of what a film should be. It dares to ask the question about whether a film should be something which presents a reality or attempt to influence the current one. At several points the film breaks the fourth wall as if Tyler Durden, the character played by Brad Pitt, is talking to the audience. Tyler Durden shares his ideology and convinces the audience to believe it, as if he is the only one daring to say what should be said.

“We buy things we don't need, to impress people we don't like.”

Tyler Durden, Fight Club (1999)

Tyler Durden’s ideological exasperations are not riddled in lies but instead are understandable and relatable. The society we live in is undeniably a consumerist society built around the idea that we need to own things to be happy. Tyler Durden represents a part of everyone which dares to ask the question; what if we refused to conform? What if we realised that the money we have in our pocket doesn’t actually have value? Then what would happen to the world? The film doesn’t dare to show what would happen as no-one can truly know but it asks these questions throughout and forces you to think through the perspective of its protagonist and question what societal norms are and how they change our way of thinking. The film is a satire on our modern generation, showing the disconnect to what we should care about and about what we actually do care about. The film shows how the societal norms we now experience are never broken and Fight Club dares to ask what if they were.  A key societal norm which is both questioned and broken in Fight Club is the idea of rules.

“Fight Club’ is about the most dangerous thing in the world — ideas.”

It is an interesting idea that Fight Club is most notably recognised for the line ‘The first rule of Fight Club is: you don’t talk about Fight club’ yet the entire idea of Fight Club is to break the rules and to break societal norms. The Fight club which is created by Tyler Durden is littered with rules, showing an almost paradox in Tyler Durden’s ideology. Tyler Durden turns Fight Club into Project Mayhem; which is essentially an anti-government terrorist group whose main goal is to try to destroy all of America’s debt. Tyler Durden is trying to break and change society and force everyone into realising that they don’t have to live by the rules society dictates we should live by, yet he himself enforces his own rules to realise his vision. This in itself showing Tyler’s hypocritical and flawed nature. As Tyler is meant to be the Narrators perfect version of himself, it shows that everyone’s view of what a perfect version of themselves would look like is flawed even if they themselves don’t see it. David Fincher, when commenting about the film, said ‘Fight Club’ is about the most dangerous thing in the world — ideas.’  The Narrator has an idea of what the perfect version would look like and that’s dangerous because the perfect version of himself refuses to conform to any rules and therefore commits atrocious crimes. The Narrators perfect version of himself, Tyler Durden, has an idea and he chooses to follow it, even if it means he breaks his own ideology. The danger in his ideas are shown by the people who get hurt along the way while he is trying to realise his vision. There is a tragedy in the film in the sense that what Tyler is trying to achieve can never truly happen, and the deaths which the groups experience are meaningless and don’t change anything. The world we live in cannot change unless everyone wants it to change and the flaw in Tyler Durden is that he cannot see that.

Fight Club never gives answers to the questions it asks yet the questions it asks are important and are very clearly aimed at everyone who watches. Film as a whole is produced to mean something, to have an impact on the audience. This could be fairly unambiguous: a film could be made to make someone laugh or cry but Fight Club wasn’t made with those intentions. It was made with the intention to make the audience think and ask themselves what they really think of the society they live in. While the film is arguably a satire, it reflects human nature in a very real way and doesn’t sugar-coat the flaws in our modern day society. Fight Club shows the problems we face and dares to ask us if we’re willing to solve them.

Films such as James McTeigue’s V for Vendetta have genuine influences on the world; the infamous Guy Fawkes mask which was worn by the film’s protagonist V, is now used as the logo for the online group Anonymous which is famously known for its anti-government, anti-consumerist ideologies. While Fight Club’s impact is less explicit, it is culturally known as a good film; with it being in many top ten lists including the user rated top 10 list on IMDB. Its impact on film and its audiences is undeniable despite the intimidating questions it dares to ask and the messages it sends to it’s audiences. Fight Club has a way of impacting people through it’s narrative, and it continues even to this day.

It’s interesting how Fight Club can still reflect the modern-day society we live in despite being released 19 years ago. Social media has exploded since its release, with the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter being a way for people to share the most perfect versions of themselves. Those who dare to break the system, those who are not on social media (especially for the younger generation) are seen as odd and it seems to be the only way to stay in the loop not only with News around the world, but with what’s happening within inner friendship groups. Society has only become more self-involved since Fight Club’s release, and therefore Fight Club’s messages have become that much more important and relatable. Yet as the film suggests, society can only change if everyone is willing to let it and the truth is not everyone is. Fight club is a satire on not just society but human nature, and human nature never truly changes. Fight Club will always be important and relatable as it questions the flaws of human nature.

Fight Club is an anti-Hollywood film because Hollywood stands for everything Fight Club stands against: rules, societal norms, consumerism and capitalism. Fight Club shows all these things as worthless and things which are used to prevent us from being truly happy and free. Fight Club is a truly unique film and one which is now seen as one of the greatest films as all time. Many have different interpretations and views on the film and that’s what makes it truly great; no two people will see the film the same way. It’s questions about human nature, about society and our obsession with ‘stuff’ are still just as important as they were 19 years ago and it’s sad that we haven’t seen another big Hollywood film like it since. It’s a Hollywood film with many important messages, and it’s one which isn’t afraid to break the rules of filmmaking. It is a film with the intention to make an impact, to talk about the reality of human nature and it isn’t afraid to talk to the audience even when it’s in a demeaning way. As Tyler Durden himself says ‘You’re the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world’.