Thursday, September 4, 2014
What is Wrong About the Film "Fight Club"
I hate the movie. I enjoyed it, but it's a bunch of warmed-over Nietzscheanism dressed up in a tired ethic of authenticity.
Consider some of the absurdly cliche elements:
1) The movie begins with a guy who likes to shop at IKEA. Hmmmmmmmm…couldn't be more obvious if we're going to go for the good old, tired, critique of bourgeois values.
2) Salvation involves some kind of radically westernized Buddhism (a Buddhism that, ironically, is for violence and anger and passion as a means of escape--in Buddhism, passion is the problem, not the solution).
3) The redemption is absurd. So the "alter ego" is killed by a shot to the head that somehow only kills Tyler Durden -- but doesn't kill the "home self." It's a bit of a Hegelian dialectic, but bastardized. Self "a" is inauthentic so it creates an authentic alter ego (self "b"), but self "b" threatens to destroy self "a" so there may be some kind of destruction of the unhealthy self -- after it has done its work.
4) Of course, the end is totally Jacobin. Not only must both the inauthentic and authentic selves be killed (with a new "third self" somehow surviving), but the credit card companies must also be blown up (thanks to the "alter ego" who has already done his Jacobin work with his network of cronies).
5) It is a parody of redemption. Also, if you watch the film carefully there is a penis that has about three frames (almost impossible to see unless you stop the film). The point? He's making some kind of Freudian point about the phallus.
I think it's another film in a long line of films that play at the big questions, but ultimately, when taken apart, is a postmodern miasma of cultural tropes and idioms. The film is certainly "cool," but it is ultimately tied to an ethic of authenticity -- and I think that ethic is profoundly unchristian.