Thursday, July 16, 2009

Did he miss the point of Fight Club?

Noel Murry over at The A.V. Club contends that the deranged Fight Club acolyte missed the point of the film. I'm not so sure, because it's unclear to me what the point of the film was.

Oh, sure, there was certainly an anticapitalist--or, more accurately, anticonsumerist--bent to the first two acts, and it seemed like the film tried to insinuate that "Tyler Durden" was insane for wanting to blow up the credit card companies, but doesn't Ed Norton's eventual acceptance of the bombings negate that reading? And, by the way, why were some of Norton's goons in the building where he just shot himself? Didn't they know that it was supposed to blow up? I really feel like the movie really came to pieces in the last five minutes--like they suddenly found Marla and brought her to the exact place where Norton happened to be? Did he inform them that well?

I suppose one can interpret the ending as some sort of postdeath sequence, and in that context the last few minutes can make sense as being essentially plausible because they're all implausible. Having not watched the movie recently, I'm not sure how much one can use to back up that interpretation. But I really think that, despite being frequently entertaining and occasionally profound in its first act, the movie really careens wildly after the initial formation of the fight club, to the point where I think it's difficult to identify any real themes in the film. Even the anticonsumerist stuff is weak in the final analysis--I mean, it seems more than a little contradictory for a movie to object to the surface-level charms of consumer capitalism when it is an extraordinarily efficient purveyor of those very charms. Now, if they'd made Brad Pitt look awful in the movie I might buy it. But the "condemnation" of violence is belied by the final scene, effectively conveying the message that the proper response to difficult social questions is nihilism, which is an answer but not a good one. Again, I enjoyed this movie (and still do), and while I think it can be enjoyed, it takes either quite a bit of irony to do so, or quite a bit of ignorance to not make the connection between the style and the content. That this probably goes over most of the heads of the movie's fans does make an interesting point about our society, but not an encouraging one.

And, ultimately, despite its charms, anarchy simply isn't all it's cracked up to be. I suspect that most anarchists have exceptionally rosy views of the average person invariably done in by The Man, but the reality is that all people--not just those who have money and property--are inclined toward self-interest. Of course, there's also the inclination toward altruism as well. The tension between the two is a constant in the human experience, and while a society like that of Star Trek might not be attainable, it is possible to create societies that place value on selflessness and giving and disapprobation on selfishness. The balance can be tweaked, and I would like to see our society tweak it a little more, but it seems to me that self-interest simply cannot be transmuted, and that we therefore need a society and a government to protect us from the self-interest of others. Thus is my defense of civilization to the Fight Club bomber. Then again, maybe this guy just watched Fight Club a few too many times. Who knows?

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.