When it comes to early 2000 movies, Fight Club stands out. For example, this film gets into the whole mental illness of dissociative identity disorder phenomena, which basically is multiple personality disorder. As well, it gets into consumerism, which seems to be the dominant ideology in today’s world. Finally, it gets into extremism, which takes the form of “Project Mayhem.” After many years, this movie is still an interesting watch and stands up to the test of time.
During this movie, Edward Norton aka Jack has a mental breakdown. This very distressful event comes in the form of dissociative identity disorder, which is a mental illness characterized by the development of an alternate personality. However, Jack has no clue that his alternate personality, Brad Pitt aka Tyler Durden, is actually him. This film deals with Jack’s collapse over the period of the movie.
Another thing this film looks at is consumerism. Throughout this movie, Jack is obsessed with working and buying Ikea goods. Jack, like much of the rest of today’s society, seems to be obsessed with material goods. With the focus on consumerism in all late advanced capitalist societies, this movie hits home.
Fight Club also looks at extremism. During some of this movie, we learn of a secret project called “Project Mayhem,” which Tyler Durden gets Jack to start. It’s a secret project that has hopes of ending consumerism by blowing up all the servers of credit companies in buildings. However, with data centers in every country, and satellites around the earth, the moon, and Mars, this goal is unlikely to ever be achieved- a very demystifying, disenchanting, and sober fact to say the least, if Tyler Durden were around today.
For your FYI, something more should be said about extremism because so many people associate “extremism” with violent political groups blowing up buildings. That is, today, we increasingly see elderly people practicing freedom of religion labeled “extremists” around the world- like the Jehovah Witnesses in Russia. Anyways, the definition of extremism, as laid down in Fight Club, has become broader to include non-violent religious groups in today’s world. That being said, the definition of extremism becomes ridiculous when elderly non-violent people are imprisoned for exercising their freedom of religion.
One thing I thought was odd about this movie, too, is that it wants to solve structural problems by focusing on the individual. That being said, you can’t focus on the individual if you want to solve class problems- you got to focus on wholes like the middle class, etc. You would need to develop a theory that incorporates both structure and the individual. But to the best of my knowledge, no such theory exists, not even neo-Marxism or agency theories- and all the duality/hybrid theories do is evade the question of structure or agency, as to not pigeon hole the theory. Of course, this is a movie made by Hollywood capitalists, for a consumer audience, so it can be fantasy and not be grounded in reality.
Briefly, it’s an entertaining movie with bits of truth. Fight Club touches on some current things like multiple personality disorder aka dissociative identity disorder, consumerism, and extremism. Also, it’s pretty strange, too, that people can be like Jack, totally unaware or conscious of the fact that they may be someone else like Tyler Durden. And when it comes to underlying social theory of this film, it reads more like post modern theories of self, identity, or meaning, rather than focusing on classical theories of class, power, or race. It’s an interesting watch, if you can fast forward past the sex and violence scenes.