I saw the film first in 1999 when the film came out against the advice of a good friend who was thoroughly disappointed with the lack of fighting. He had hoped that it for a boxing movie to which Fight Club is sure to disappoint. The film is certainly violent, but it serves a different purpose than a film like Rocky where the hero rises against the odds to greatness. Fight Club uses violence as a subtext to explore what is necessary to subvert the dominant paradigm of consumption.
Fight Club is a scathing critique of our branded and consumable identities. The Narrator played by Edward Norton, who remains nameless save a few 3rd person references as “Jack” is shackled by societies addiction to things. The fact that he largely remains nameless is suggestive of two things: 1) that he finds his identity in those things he buys and 2) Jack is a sort of everyman in which we are to see that we too are kept by these consumeristic desires.
In response to the question of police about the destruction of his apartment, Jack states, ““That condo was my life. I loved every stick of furniture in that place. That is not just a bunch of stuff that got destroyed, it was me!” It was ME! His identity had become those things. In a consumer culture we can buy our identity, change it on a whim because we are buying not simply clothes or furniture but a lifestyle that tells others about who we are. For Jack, identity was found in his stuff…his Ikea furniture, his AX ties and DKNY shirts etc. In one poignant scene Jack tells
In that same poignant scene come the most scathing critique of consumerism.
Tyler Durden: Do you know what a duvet is?
Jack: It's a comforter...
Tyler Durden: It's a blanket. Just a blanket. Now why do guys like you and me know what a duvet is? Is this essential to our survival, in the hunter-gatherer sense of the word? No. What are we then?
Tyler Durden: Right. We are consumers. We're the bi-products of a lifestyle obsession. Murder, crime, poverty, these things don't concern me. What concerns me, are celebrity magazines, television with 500 channels, some guy's name on my underwear. Rogaine, Viagra, Olestra.
Jack: Martha Stewart.
Tyler Durden: Fuck Martha Stewart. Martha's polishing the brass on the Titanic. It's all going down, man. So fuck off with your sofa units and string green stripe patterns.
Here we get a glimpse of the final scenes of the film. That this cultures ways of consumption, this lifestyle obsession is coming to an end. We are left to wonder now in retrospect, does
If we are to critique our culture which in embedded in consumption, we must also provide a viable alternative in which we locate our true identity. Which the church has: the story of God in