The Things You Own End Up Owning you: 'Fight Club' Against Capitalism
The first rule of Fight Club is “You do not talk about Fight Club”. David Fincher’s film promises an almost 3-hour journey of a hushed club which eventually gets big because just like everything else herd culture and testosterone-fights become an imminent form of self-expression for the characters, so much so that they start believing in the same principles as the founders of the club. Fight Club’s satirical critique of Consumer Capitalism successfully portrays the shift in their entitlement from being a slave to capitalist goods to running an underground club with a bunch of ‘trapped in their miseries’ men or wait, was it the other way round?
It was Tyler Durden (Spoiler Alert!) the alter ego who had brought in the idea of inducing wasted liposuction fat from the rich into their handmade pink soap bars of capitalist resistance.
The idea was to sell people’s bodies to them. Hence, when the protagonist (Edward Norton) said, “the things you own end up owning you,” about corporate capitalist products, he probably also meant this.
The entire film excels in a lot of foreshadowing of the big twist at the end. Most of the monologues, heard through voiceovers, were his own thoughts about how the corporate life had sucked the life out of him. Tyler, on the other hand naturally being the alter ego had the capability to give expression to those thoughts. And as a result, the Fight Club came into being, with Tyler taking over. Having given up luxury goods, they channel their inner frustration, trauma, and happiness into those fights because that is the only way of dealing with life, for them.
A classic case of Jekyll and Hyde, of moral dilemma and conflict - we see that Tyler’s overtly expressive, violent acts of living and protests against the bourgeoisie often clash with the no-name narrator’s idea of it being morally incorrect. A classic case of conflict of two minds or one mind in this case. It all amounts to one thing - Resistance. Simply, Edward could never form an army, never arrange those blasts or attacks. In other words, his conscience would not allow him to fight capitalism the way Tyler would. Only Tyler could and “In Tyler we trust.”
The narrator’s journey of self-loathing, self-exploration and this want for “terrorist anarchy”, as it has been called by many, begins with his corporate slavery. Funnily enough, one might even find his breaking the fourth-wall monologues to be as if he’s delivering a line in an advertisement. It ought to be credited entirely to Fincher’s genius direction.
It happened after hours of the same monotonous routine every single day for him. Eat-Sleep-Wake up in another city-A flight journey and repeat. And just like that Tyler Durden came into existence. This macho good looking, masculine, ‘I don’t believe in slavery I only believe in kicking the rich’s ass’ guy who the narrator knew he could never become. His alter-ego much like many others is a guy who can do things he has only ‘subconsciously’ thought of.
It is interesting and a big hint for misdirection in the film that despite a lot of clashes in morals of both the people in his head, they find out a way to keep it sane in this otherwise cynical journey. For example, when Tyler in an argument with the narrator said that in the Mayhem Project, they only would do it after people have exited from the offices. According to the Fight Club’s ideal, they only wanted the destruction of those rich structures and not the people, well physically at least.
Marla, a flamboyant and an otherwise ditzy character makes the entire dynamic extremely interesting. The thing about this film is that even though capitalism is a theme shown very subtly but also without any beating around the bush, it is through its depiction of characters. Marla, for instance, who goes around being a part of every other therapy and AA meeting for people with illnesses finds a getaway for her lonely self. Her fight through capitalism is not outright, she is poor and it’s interesting to find a character so centrally detached from the theme of the film, but so relevant in the way she feels. As a matter of fact, she doesn’t have a choice to make on whether or not she wants a luxurious life, unlike Tyler. She goes to a thrift store for a 2 dollar wedding dress not because she wants it but because she doesn’t have it to afford it, not that she even cares. In a way, she and people like her are what Tyler is fighting all the battles for.
It all sums up one thing. Fight Club does not preach. It distinguishes between the want and need of human beings and the want to solve it through violent methods of destruction. The ending, however, is a redemption -- where the narrator controls the out-of-hand situation of Tyler taking over because of his realisations. The incredible shot of him shooting the Tyler side of his head which then cuts to Marla and his holding hands while everything outside turns to shambles. It shows that even though they have won, a part of Tyler also has. It’s no good over evil, in fact, the evil and the good are blurry lines themselves. “Robert Paulsen is dead” after fighting hard and so is the Fight Club or is it?