In Defense of “Fight Club”

Good news, everyone! I’m going to be skinny after this weekend, from all the damn sweating I’ve been doing. I just spent a couple hours down by the river, soaking up some sun (little known fact: I am powered by photosynthesis) and trying to slog my way through Dune: House Atreides. A friend of mine loaned it to me, telling me that since I enjoyed Dune, I would enjoy this prequel very much, as it sets up the story as well as developing the characters and being a much more exciting plot. While I did love Dune, I’ll grant you that it’s a little dry (pun not intended). So I decided to give the Kevin J. Anderson rendition a go.

Guys, this is like pulling teeth. The plot is painfully forced, the characters are so trite that my teeth hurt, and it violently fails the Bechdel test.

Now here’s the thing–I don’t expect, or even want, everything in life to pass the Bechdel test. The original Dune story was just chock full o’ dudes! I love Lord of the Rings and that is kind of like the shining festival of Dudely Dudes Being Superbly Dudeish. The cast of LOTR probably greets each other not unlike The Todd in Scrubs by asking everyone, “How’s your penis?” (Based on internet fanfic, I know I am not the only one who has imagined Aragorn and Legolas answering that question for each other.) The interesting thing about the Bechdel test, though, is that you can apply it to more than just movies–TV shows, books, comics, etc–and it’s kind of a fun mental exercise. I find that a lot of the stuff that I come back to again and again passes the Bechdel test, or my own adjustment to it (if the cast is limited to having only one female, or the females who have names do not interact with each other, do they at least serve a purpose beyond just love/sex interest?). It is media like this reimagining of Dune that makes me cringe–oh, there’s women, but it feels like they’re there because well, shucks, if some folk didn’t get it on back in the day, the cast of Dune would never be born! I would be much happier if this had been a Celebration of Penis Owners instead of the jilting, fingernails-on-a-chalkboard attempt at including females. Eee.

And so that brings us to those things that DON’T pass the Bechdel test and that people tend to get hung up on. The shining gem of this issue is Fight Club. We (and by “we” I mean the big bad scary evil Feminist Hive Mind (TM)) seem to be really hung up on its evils. It’s even been alluded to in some installments of “how to date as a feminist” that one should rule out dating men who list Fight Club as a favorite movie or book.

I… I can’t go with that. I can’t even see Fight Club as all that evil.

Like LOTR and Dune, it is a bunch of dudes grabbing their crotch and grunting. It’s just that LOTR and Dune had a neatoriffic sci-fi/fantasy backdrop to make said crotch-grabbing seem detached from our everyday world of crotch-grabbing. Hell, Star Wars was so fortunate as to have ONE female (sorry, Mon Mothma really doesn’t count, because unless you’re a giant freaking geek like me, you have no effing clue who the hell that is) and even the oh-so modern prequel trilogy really didn’t change that (again, Padme’s cheery doppelganger crowd doesn’t count). But Leia, Jessica, Eowyn (or Arwen if you’re one of THEM) gave us women to admire.

I guess the problem with Fight Club is that Marla is kind of a bitch. I always saw her as a bit of a sympathetic character to be honest–probably not sympathetic to the dudes watching it, but I felt for her. She was a mess, and living in a fucked up world, and so she responded that fucked up world in the best way she could think of. None of us are flawless at coping, so what are we doing up on our high horses? Poor Marla was a product of the ridiculous society we live in. Her coping mechanism was toxic and vile, just like our buddies the Protagonists De Machismo. Cause no matter how you cut it, punching people in basements is not exactly what I’d call well-adjusted.

But it resonates. I would like to meet the lady who has never kind of wanted to beat the pulp out of someone. Give me a chance to be part of an all-girl Fight Club? I’d be pretty damn tempted. We live in a world–ALL of us; men, women, and everything else–that exults daily in stripping us of power, denying us voice, shunting our agency to the side of the road to bulldoze through more bullshit. It’s not like any one of us angry feminists can’t empathize with having all this frustration and rage that we want to work out.

We’re just lounging around in the Oppression Olympics at this point, okay? I, as a middle class white lady, get to look down my nose at the problems of a middle class white DUDE, cause, like, he totally has the Wang Advantage. Are we for fucking serious here?

I think that’s a destructive mindset. Far more destructive than anything in Fight Club. This isn’t an “us vs. them” in this case. People are drawn to Fight Club because they can relate to the feeling of quiet desperation and desire to break out of a toxic system that breaks us down instead of building us up.

In general, I usually encounter two kinds of dudes who love Fight Club (and I generalize). There’s the one group of dudes that feels strongly about the fact that we live in a fucked up society and eventually the only natural reaction is to flip out and go a little crazy. They are generally down with my feminist ranting and don’t blame me when I freak out a little about shit–because hey, it’s a fucked up world. If you aren’t angry, you aren’t paying attention, as they say. The second category of dude is all about the punching and bromarnce of shirtless grappling and whatnot. They don’t really, at the risk of sounding like a douche, get it. They are the guys that take you on dates in their khakis while they talk about how you are not your khakis, and they pause in that rant to complain about how they can’t find a parking space, because it is downtown Boston on a Saturday night, so honestly, what did you expect, but they refuse to take public transit because ZOMG HOMELESS PEOPLE AND GERMS.

Are you catching my drift?

There’s a lot of semi-misogynistic BS in Fight Club. It’s there. It happens. But when a bunch of ladies get together to tell a woman-centric story (although I cringe to use this example, it’s the best I can think of on short notice) such as Mists of Avalon, you end up with some kinda sexist BS going the other way, too. People, it happens. I’m not saying I like it, and I’m not saying we should write it off and forgive it just because there’s a PRECEDENT of it happening before. Not at all.

However, I see Fight Club as an opportunity. If someone is resonating with the message of how fucked up our society is, let’s talk about that. Let’s see where that conversation can go.

I happen to like the shades of desperation and the acerbic, dark humor of Fight Club. It’s right up my alley, so I find it easy to connect to someone over the subject, and try to take things to the next level of where can we go with this, instead of just railing against its misogyny. There’s plenty of things that I just rail against blindly that probably someone else could use as an opportunity. But I can’t say I’m too terribly worried about Fight Club undermining our society. Basically, it was made to be an “OOK AAK CAVEMAN THUMP” type man’s-man penis-waggling movie. It was never meant to be anything else. In a sense, it doesn’t hide what it is. I find the subliminal “oh, we’re so warm and fuzzy!” movies like Knocked Up and whatnot so infinitely much worse.

I would, in a heartbeat, much prefer that the men in my life loved Fight Club over any of that bullcrap.

Advertisements

07/05/2010. Tags: , , . Uncategorized.

4 Comments

  1. bibliophile replied:

    Jane Austen Fight Club:

    • Cuppy van der Cake replied:

      I love that trailer! I’ve been so tempted to write an entry about it, but it seems slightly superfluous. 😉

  2. Andie replied:

    Found your site through Sociological Images. I list fight club as one of my top five favorite films of all time, and from a woman’s perspective I’ve never once felt that it was sexist. I don’t feel like Marla Singer is supposed represent female-kind.. if she is, I’d interpret it as almost a nod saying “Yeah, it sucks for women too”

    I’d tend to agree with the sentiment that the underlying messages regarding anti-materialism resound more heavily than the fact that the only representative woman in the film is kind of.. well.. messed up.

    Anyway though, just wanted to say I’m enjoying you blog and look forward to reading more.

  3. Daniel Latta replied:

    “Fight Club” is about the refusal of grown men to accept responsibility for their actions… of course it fails the Bechdel Test. The habit of men to view the world as something completely separate from ourselves is directly related to our objectification of women, and Marla is most definitely an object to Jack.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback URI

%d bloggers like this: