Feminist Approaches

One of the movie's major themes is that of anti-feminism. However, this is not presented in a way that is particularly insulting to females; instead the lack of the feminine ends in disaster. Anti-feminism is particularly shown in the fact that the women (or "women" as the case may be) meet bad ends. Chloe dies and Marla is constantly misused; Bob, who has breasts, is the only member of Project Mayhem to be killed, and the beautiful Angel Face gets savagely beaten.

Women are shown as the "bad guys." Chloe is vaguely threatening with her desperate attempts at "getting laid," and Marla is the bane of the Narrator's existence. Bob's wife has left him, and his daughters won't acknowledge him; another man with testicular cancer has been abandoned by his wife, who has since had a daughter with her new husband. Even Angel Face, with his almost feminine beauty, is a source of aggrevation for the Narrator. Tyler states, "We're a generation of men raised by women. I'm wondering if another woman is really the answer we need." Women are viewed, for the most part, as one of the major obstacles standing in the way of men's freedom. Nevertheless, the lack of a "feminine side" is part of what brings Tyler down in the end.

Stephanie writes:

Fight Club is another recent movie that I feel gives hope for modern moviemaking. It is an intelligent movie with an amazing artistic and visual sense that makes a statement, whether the viewer likes it or not. It seems critics either love or hate this movie, and indeed, it is a movie with both brilliant and flawed moments.

While many critics make a good point in that Tyler Durden's philosophy is neither incredibly original nor brilliant, many who attack what the movie tries to say have flaws of their own. Many modern-day movie critics are far less concerned with good moviemaking than being able to follow what is "hip" and "edgy." Fight Club is not a movie that everyone can like, as it is violent and does make some intelligent commentary on modern society and the plight of the modern male that might not be either "hip" or "PC" enough to sit well with all critics. One critic who gave it a negative review smartly pointed out that part of the movie's problem is that it addresses a specific age group that middle-aged people might not be able to connect to. And with that taken into consideration, one must also smile and think about what a bland, corporate job movie reviewing is. It is one of the most unnecessary jobs in our current times, and one of the many indications that the unnamed "they" don't like the public forming its own opinions. A movie like Fight Club challenges our modern lack of purpose and how we spend so much of ourselves investing in meaningless pursuits. It is not an easy movie, like much of the mindless modern entertainment we find ourselves zombified by. What do many movie reviewers who don't like looking at themselves have to like?

One fair criticism against the film is its demonization of women. "We're a generation of men raised by women. I'm wondering if another woman is really the answer we need," main character Tyler Durder states. The only major female character in the movie, Marla, is portrayed as a strung-out slut that is a consistent thorn in the Narrator's side. She hates life and does not care for herself at all. Besides Marla, women are given a bad name on several occasions, most notably in the support group the Narrator joins for testicular cancer, where most members detail stories of how their wives left them at such a bad time. The movie is an exploration of the modern male, dripping with testosterone. So many wonder how and why so many women actually love the movie (and the book, for that matter)... The real reasons extend beyond the fact that some of us enjoy watching two good-looking men beat the shit out of each other... :)

First of all, many females are intelligent and self-assured enough to see past real misogyny... I personally could care less if a rapper talks about how all women are bitches, for example. America is a free country, and we should be free to speak and believe as we please. Both males and females consistently air their feelings about the opposite sex without the world dramatically changing. The truth is, we need each other to survive, and people should not be so touchy about political correctness...

What does this have to do with Fight Club? Well, the reason I said "true misogyny" is that Fight Club is not truly preaching against women. It is a complicated movie full of symbolism and psychological depth, and nothing in this movie is as easy as a straightforward plot or surface exploration. Take Marla, for example--if you look closely enough, she represents the Narrator's true self, not the ideal he creates in Tyler Durden. She is not truly a representation of a modern woman, nor even of the women in the Narrator's life. She truly is a representation of the Narrator's life itself--from the inability to connect emotionally and form real relationships to a growing hatred of life. In the end, the Narrator realizes that he is a flawed individual who wishes to move away from his Tyler Durden ideal and who finally embraces his real self, symbolized by Marla. In the end, it is realized that the complete absence of women and the feminine leads to chaos, just as in his bland life before, the absence of masculinity led to an incomplete life as well. As I stated before, we all need each other.

Beyond all of this discussion and justification, Fight Club may seem solely occupied with the modern man, while it truly addresses some gender-neutral issues that many people feel right now. Male or female, we are slowly letting our material excesses and possessions become our lives, allowing society to turn us into product-buying zombies with little regard of real issues or problems in the world, or even of what truly matters in life. As Tyler says, "You are not your fucking khakis." We all spend the majority of our young lives in school, then many of us spend the rest of our lives straining at meaningless jobs we don't enjoy. The education that we most need is that of true living and awareness of ourselves and our world. The true job we all have is to know ourselves and go out there and live the life we want--and need--to live. "You are not your job," either. Why do we let ourselves become enslaved by debt to credit cards? Why do we judge ourselves by what the media tells us is beautiful? Why do we have such little access to important, yet taboo aspects of ourselves that we often have to live imaginary lives? These are the questions Fight Club truly raises. In its violence, it is telling us that it takes a fist in the face to snap us out of the zombielike existence we follow, and this movie (and novel) is that fist.


Finding a Balance
by Brandi

Fight Club directed by David Fincher is one man's struggle to gain control over his life. He however has become so feminized by his upbringing and society that the only way he can do this is to create an alternate personality. The Narrator's alternate personality is Tyler Durden, the ultimate alpha-male. The Narrator is also interested in Marla Singer, who is going through the same type of struggle that he is except she has more confidence then he does and is a stronger character. The film is of the Narrator's attempt to find that masculine side he has lost and reclaim it into him.

"And suddenly I realize that all of this the guns, the bombs, the revolution, has something to do with a girl named Marla Singer." - Narrator. Marla Singer is the main female character is this film. She is his match. She reflects the Narrator. They are both people who are on the edge. They are disillusioned with their lives and are looking for an escape. Yet, she seems to be ok with that. This is the main reason why the Narrator cannot feel comfortable with her.

When the Narrator first meets Marla, he is at one of his support groups. He goes to them because he cannot feel anything, he is devoid of emotion. He gets a release from these groups that he cannot get in real life. The catharsis he receives is not even based on his own feelings, but on the feelings he gets from the people around him. This is why when Marla starts joining the groups he can no longer feel. "Her lie reflected my lie and suddenly I couldn't sleep."

He confronts Marla with the problem. In the confrontation he realizes that Marla is stronger then him. He has it all planned out, he is going to tell her off, and she just takes it. The actual situation is far from this vision. She calls him on what he is doing. She walks away while he is still speaking. She completely dominates him in the scene. The scene ends when she asks him what is name is. However, had the scene gone on it can be assumed that the alter ego Tyler Durden is the one who replies. Her domination of the Narrator has forced Tyler Durden to come out and take the power back. The Narrator alone is too weak for Marla; he would be walked on by her.

Tyler Durden is the ultimate example of masculinity. He is "smart, capable and free in all the ways" the Narrator is not. The costuming of Tyler is very feminine, he wears sheer clothing, half shirts, and his pants hang below his hips. Yet, the amount of masculinity that he exudes makes the clothing seem completely reasonable on him. When the Narrator meets Tyler on the plane, he is awe of him. From their first meeting it is clear that Tyler is the "man" the Narrator wishes he could be.

Once the Narrator finds his apartment blown up his first instinct is to call Marla. He calls her but when she answers, he hangs up. He cannot ask her for help, he is too weak. He calls Tyler instead. Even though Tyler is much stronger a person then Marla is he can ask him for help because he is not attracted to him and therefore not vulnerable. The combination of Marla's strength and his vulnerability is too much for him.

Tyler is trying to help the Narrator find his masculinity. The Narrator's father left as a child. He has never had a strong male role model. The Narrator sees himself as "a thirty year old boy." Tyler's response to this comment is "We're a generation of men raised by women. I'm wondering if another woman is really the answer we need." Tyler then proceeds to be that father figure for him and to teach what it means to be a man.

The fight club created in the film is the ultimate example of a male domain. Only guys are allowed and it is about releasing their most primal male urges. They get a tremendous catharsis from beating one another. This part of them has been repressed by society and when they have the opportunity to let this out, they are overcome. After they fight, they hug and cheer; they receive a tremendous rush.

Being a consumer is a central theme to the film. It is what they are trying to reject. Consumerism is directly linked to what would be considered a woman's domain AKA shopping and the domestic world. By rejecting objects they are trying to connect even further to their male primal selves; to the man that existed before society put constraints on them. At the beginning of the film, the Narrator is ordering dust ruffles from a catalog. He says, "We used to read pornography. Now it was the Horchow collection." This is another example of the Narrator's lack of masculinity. He spends his time trying to figure out "What kind of dining set defines me" not masturbating to naked women. He uses generalized terms such as we in reference to this, making it clear that it is not just him but his generation of young male professionals who thinks this way. Once all of his worldly possessions are destroyed, he is one step closer to becoming a "man".

There is a scopophilic moment in the film. One night the Narrator is walking home and when he looks through a chain link fence, he sees her stepping out of one of the support groups. He stares at her, pauses, takes a breath, and continues to walk. It is clear that he still has feelings for her even though he has not seen her a few weeks. He is not ogling her or getting a kick from looking at her. That would not make sense for the character since it is so feminized. Instead, he gives off a feeling of longing, another sign of vulnerability.

Marla later calls the Narrator and says "I got a stomachful of Xanax…might have been too much. But this isn't a for-real suicide thing. This is probably one of those cry-for-help things." She is completely vulnerable and asking for his help yet he still cannot let go and head over to her. He is scared of having real emotions. Tyler steps in and takes over. He heads over to pick Marla up. At the her apartment there is a massive dildo on the dresser. When Tyler sees it, not at all shaken by it she tells him "Oh, don't worry. It's not a threat to you." The irony in that statement is that since Tyler is the epitome of masculinity it is clearly not a threat to him, however had it been the Narrator that showed up that statement would have been far from reassuring.

Almost every time Marla is on screen, she is not only beautiful but also shot as a full person. She is not reduced to fetishistic parts. The only time this happens is in what the Narrator thinks to be his fantasies. In them, it is just a swirl of their body parts. This is the first time he admits to thinking about her as more than an acquaintance. He needs to reduce her to this fetish however in order to maintain some power over her. This is how Tyler always views Marla. He uses her just for sex and completely dominates her; he does not treat her as a person only and object.

The morning after Tyler sleeps with Marla for the first time she and the Narrator meet each other in the kitchen. The Narrator is completely confused by her presence since he does not know he is Tyler and she does not know that he thinks they are different people. He is extremely defensive about her showing up and invading his space. He feels violated by her presence and then hurt when he realizes that it is his fault that they got together. He is jealous of Tyler's ability to take control over Marla, he feels that Tyler "was obviously able to handle it." Where as he cannot. He cannot even admit to Tyler that he has feelings for her when he asks, yet he feels betrayed by Tyler for his actions.

This is the beginning of the Narrator losing control over the situation. He cannot stand up to Marla and he definitely is not strong enough to stand up to Tyler. Instead he ends up having to live with the sounds of them constantly having sex to remind him how weak and powerless he still is. He has a slightly voyeuristic intention one night before heading for bed. He sees the door to Tyler's room slightly ajar and tries to peak in on Marla and Tyler having sex. Tyler immediately catches him but instead of being angered, offers her to him. The Narrator is still not strong enough to accept this proposition; he says "No, no thank you." Even when he is given free reign to step up to the plate and take what he desires he not only cannot but is polite about it, he is still completely under the control of society.

The next morning when Marla comes downstairs, she goes off on a tangent about the bridesmaid dress she is wearing. How it was used for one day then tossed aside. It seems to be a cry from her for more affection from him outside of the bedroom. The Narrator does not get this because he is not Tyler. He is even more thrown when Marla grabs his crotch. Instead of going with it like a "real man" would do, he insults her. He is still scared of her domination of him and is made completely uncomfortable by her advance. He acts like a child as she leaves making sure she understands she is not welcome. After the door is shut and she is walking away, he looks back at her with a pained face. He appears to feel so helpless about the situation.

When the Narrator goes over to Marla's apartment to check if she has breast cancer it is a sign that he is making progress. He did not recoil when asked to do it. This is mainly because Marla has put herself in a very vulnerable position. She is afraid of cancer and is asking him for help, he does not feel threatened by this. He does leave very abruptly, however after she kisses him. She again has the power and he cannot handle that. It is clear that something has changed in him because after he leaves he stops and stares at her window, maybe wondering if there is something more to their relationship then he has acknowledged before.

On another, one of Marla's overnight stays the Narrator confronts Marla on what she is getting out of her relationship with Tyler. He asks, "Why does a weaker person need to latch on to a strong person?" It shows he really feels for her and that he wants her to get out of the destructive relationship she is in. Of course she does not understand the question because she thinks she is talking to Tyler, so when she replies with "Well, what do you get out of it?" the Narrator thinks she is questioning his relationship with Tyler. The Narrator thinks that his relationship with Tyler is different when it is actually much like Marla's.

Once the Narrator finds out he is Tyler and that Tyler has planned to destroy these building he goes and makes the attempt to stop him and to keep Marla safe. He finally takes some control over his life. He tells Marla that she needs to get out of town in order to be safe and admits that he really cares for her. This is a gigantic leap for him to admit to his emotions. She however still is not sure of what is going on but at least she knows how he feels. The Narrator then fights it out with Tyler over the control of the Narrator's body. Tyler however wins the physical bout. It is not until the Narrator uses his brain to understand that Tyler is a figment of his imagination that he can get rid of him. He shoots himself thereby killing Tyler. Marla finds the Narrator with a bullet wound in his face. Her anger towards him immediately slips away, because she realizes that he is vulnerable too. By this point, the Narrator realizes that Tyler is part of him too and that all this has escalated so far because Tyler lacks a feminine side. There needs to be a balance between the masculine and feminine side in all people and in the end the Narrator achieves this balance. In this achievement, he and Marla end up as equals. The buildings fall down around them and he takes her hand, showing that even though the world is crashing down around them everything is going to be ok because they finally found each other. And more importantly he has found himself.

During the first watching of this movie the audience is not aware that Tyler and the Narrator are the same person. The identification with the Narrator is the dominant one since he is the main character. However, upon watching the movie over again knowing that they are the same person it becomes easier to identify with Marla. She could be seen her as a slut the first time around because of her pursuit of both Tyler and the Narrator. She becomes very easy to identify with once the audience realizes that she is in love with a nutcase. Then the audience can understand that her reactions to different things are uniform. It is also hard not to pity her a bit when she is in the situation because she is accepting abuse from a boyfriend that does not realize he is her boyfriend. By re-watching the movie from Marla's position, it becomes clear that she is very close to a "real woman." She maybe a bit insane but most people are, she has a strong side and a weak side, she is a very complex character.

It is the dominance of the masculine that causes the conflict in this movie. Too much of a feminine side and one is rendered weak and impotent. There needs to be a balance achieved in order for life to work.