Fight Club was released in 1999 and immediately became a major success. The film shows a man’s search for his lost identity in the form of manhood. Fight Club presents the idea that women’s empowered position in the society has caused men to create a more female behaviour. The film also creates a focus on how the consumer lifestyle and fulfilling social expectations might not be the key to happiness.
In today’s society the gender roles are shifting. Women’s position and status in the society has greatly improved over the last decades and caused a problem according to the plot in Fight Club. Fight Club presents the idea that women’s new position has caused the male gender to become for feminine and therefore weaker in the characters eyes. They have lost their primary nature and with it their identity. Realizing this, the main character, Jack (named by fans for convenience), starts his journey to recreate the dominant ideology of men. The character of Jack represents the new generation of men. He states the problem as “a generation of men raised by women.” By this statement he means that young boys lack male role models in their lives as a result of women’s empowered position. The modern woman does not need a man as a protector and financial provider; something that has made the modern man confused about their function in the new society. Another result of women’s new found power is higher divorce rates. When women no longer need men they do not have to stay unhappily married. In a divorce it is most common for mothers to get custody of the child. This is only reasonable since the child carries the strongest link to its mother biologically. Divorces cause a lack of male role models in young boy’s lives, and so the new generation of men is raised by women, and become more feminine.
Jack and Tyler are two binary oppositions created to represent two opposite pictures of masculinity. Jack is symbolising every repressed, drowned and alienated man. He has grown up to meet all the expectations of the society: he has a beautiful apartment and a good job. In most peoples eyes he would be looked at as successful. All this focus on material wealth has caused him to loose his own identity. He felt that his possessions owned him and not the other way around. This is the reason for him to blow up his flat something that is a hugely masculine gesture. Tyler is the opposite of jack. He is strong-headed, masculine, sexual and animalistic. Tyler has no focus on material wealth what so ever. He fulfils his primary needs by living in an abandoned house and working to fulfil needs like food and clothing. Tyler is what Jack looks at as the perfect man. Tyler is a fighter while jack is the female man who originally would do anything to avoid a fight. Jack talks with words while Tyler talks with his fist. This becomes very clear in the end when Tyler beats Jack up while he tries to talk some sense into him.
In the film self-help groups are of big importance. Jack represents a generation of men who are having trouble finding themselves. They turn to self-help groups to reconnect with their inner self. In Jack’s case he is having trouble sleeping because of his lack of identity. This is how he turns to self-help groups. The fact that the self-help group Jack turns to is for men that have lost their “manhood” (meaning testicles) is by no coincidence. Even though he has not lost his testicles he still feels like he is missing his basic instincts of being a man. He feels tied down by the society and turns to the self-help group to find peace. It is not before he is forced to cry that he is able to sleep again. He finds peace by being female. After meeting Tyler, Jack has no longer need for the self-help group. He now finds peace by fighting. This leads him back to the basic nature of being a man and not feminine and weak. He no longer feels tied down by the expectations of the society and starts living his life without any rules. Also the lack of material things is making him happier. This is a sign that money can’t always buy you happiness.
Marla is the only female character in the film and is meant to symbolize all women of the society. She is used as an example of how the fast moving society with a consumer lifestyle influences its inhabitants. Fight Club gives the idea that the constant focus on materialistic and financial wealth takes all the focus of the inhabitants and makes them loose their basic emotions along the way. This is why Marla goes to self-help groups. Just like Jack, she is trying to reconnect with her basic emotions. Her clothes and make-up show her lack of status and the audience makes her out to be of the lower class, which turns out to be true. Marla is presented in a very sexual way. The way she talks and the way she carries herself all radiate sexuality. Her sexuality is overrated since she’s only a woman but not particularly feminine. Marla’s presence in the plot shows that she is the source of all problems for the narrator. Before she interrupted his self-help groups everything was going better for him. Her interruption caused him to find another stress reliever and so he ran into Tyler. This is related to the idea that women are the cause of men’s trouble. Without women men wouldn’t be so confused.
Fight Club presents the idea that women’s empowered position and status has influenced men to become more female as they are becoming more masculine and dominant. The fact that women are now independent are causing men to become confused and wondering about where they belong in the society. The two characters of Tyler and Jack are binary oppositions representing two different types of men: the more female and the masculine one. It is not before Jack reconnects with his basic instincts of being a man that he finds peace. The character of Marla symbolizes every woman even though she is not feminine. She is a woman and therefore presented in a very sexual way. Her presence show that she is the source of all the narrators problems enforcing the idea that women are the reason for men’s present problems.
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