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Monday, 03 January 2011

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Anon.

While you're right about the shots and the "frontality", I highly doubt the audience would not sympathize with Norton's character. The audience identifies with him because they, too, fetishize the IKEA catalog. Which is sort of the point, no?

SEK

Which is sort of the point, no?

But we're clearly being told to hate it, right? That is: we're being told we're cooler and better than people with the IKEA fetish, which is why we can relate to its destruction in the apartment fire. Or are we supposed to feel genuinely grieved when we spot the yin-yang table on the pavement?

tomemos

False choice, Scott. We recognize ourselves in Norton's character, so we sympathize; that doesn't mean we like what we see. When I see (say) Charlie Kaufman procrastinate in Adaptation, I neither admire him nor feel superior to him; I recognize his weaknesses as my own, so I'm partly laughing at myself.

Anon.

But we're clearly being told to hate it, right?

Well, yeah. That's just because the material is ham-fisted. It could easily let the viewer figure it out.


That is: we're being told we're cooler and better than people with the IKEA fetish[...]Or are we supposed to feel genuinely grieved when we spot the yin-yang table on the pavement?

The destroyed yin-yang table isn't ours, so we won't really feel anything for it. The idea is (as TOTEMOS said) to recognize yourself in Norton's character. You're not told that you're better than the people with the IKEA fetish, you are told that you ARE the people with the IKEA fetish. While you don't grieve for the yin-yang table, the intended effect is that you go home, stare at your Alessi lemon juicer or your Porsche Design knives, and think "holy shit, I'm a consumerist whore!" I'm not sure what you're supposed to do after that, though.

Andrew R.

Maybe what Pahlniak (and adapter) are trying to do is show the schizoid nature of narrator/Tyler. They show us a man who both feels utter contempt for the life of a successful yuppie and thus feels contempt for his own life. The viewer (and reader) are meant to identify both with both aspects of the personality. A great many white collar professionals have a lingering desire to actually be transgressive, to live on the margins free of bourgeois constraints, rather than enjoying material success. The Narrator and alter ego are thus kind of a perfect sort of everyman.

The same sort of desire to take a path other than high school-->undergrad-->cubicle is what we see played on in this cringe-worthy Blackberry ad:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yctj_nc_oAk&

I think that the narrator confronting Durden near the end of the movie is basically being Freud to Durden's Nietzsche. The one recognizes that we have all kinds of irrational desires that we simply can't give free rein and enjoy any sort of non-horrible existence, while the latter happily embraces them and damn the consequences.

But getting back to the beginning, I think that we're clearly meant to identify with the Narrator and the contempt for his own life so that we can to some extent identify with Durden and thus at least somewhat experience the main characters divided personality.

Okay, that wasn't as coherent as I'd like, but there's a reason I teach in a history rather than an English or rhetoric department.

tomemos

Andrew: Goodness gracious, that ad is amazing. On what channel does it even run, the Smug Network?

Jake

I'll be curious to read how the movie actively criticizes the book (as I read on the Lawyers, Guns etc. blog). I'm not a fan of the book or the movie, but I thought the movie amplified the material in the book that would cause people to think it was prankster manual on fighting materialism and um, phoniness I guess. Rather than a romantic comedy (which I definitely think it is but that's all I'm saying for now).

Wally

The first fifteen minutes of Fight Club strongly suggest to its audience that they're about to watch a much better film than the one they're actually watching—the critique of material culture has yet to embrace to the juvenile punk resistence of the novel and the depiction of insomnia is still pointed enough to be trenchant...

What what what? It's been a long time since I read the book but I think I remember that both it and (especially) the film were mercilessly critical of the 'punk resistance' of Project Mayhem (the Fight Club itself being kind of unobjectionable prior to the first of Tyler's homilies). The final chapter of the book (the creepy 'heaven' bit w/Mayhem followers trying to yank the narrator back into the pseudo-resistance) drives home that interpretation for me - as do the film's innumerable ironies and self-spoofs.

I'm disinclined to go to the mattresses over a movie these days, baby care and sleep loss being what they are, but I'm baffled by a reading of Fight Club that sees the anarcho-narcissism of Act Two as the storyteller's final word on the moral matter. Am I missing something here?

(p.s. Just to lay out a couple more of my cards here: I consider Fight Club the best film of its miracle year, better than The Matrix and Three Kings and Malkovich and Rushmore and all those motherfuckers, even a hair's breadth better than Magnolia which is like a private religious text for me. So there's a personal element here.)

AcademicLurker

I read the book but I think I remember that both it and (especially) the film were mercilessly critical of the 'punk resistance' of Project Mayhem (the Fight Club itself being kind of unobjectionable prior to the first of Tyler's homilies).

I recall that at the time there was some discussion over whether the (film's) critique of Tyler Durden's puerile politics worked or not.

The other question was: if it failed, was it deliberate? Or was it more like Wall Street where, unless Micheal Douglas and Oliver Stone have been lying all these years, they were genuinely surprised and annoyed that so many people thought Gordon Gekko was a hero and that "Yeah! Greed is good!" was the message they took from the film.

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