Fight Club's Philosophy Today, a large part of society revolves around entertainment, such as movies, television shows, and novels. Many of these forms of entertainment contain hints of philosophical ideas in the content.
They aid in the exposure of philosophy to the public through obscure meanings hiding behind interesting plots. No matter how intricate or how simple the plot may be, philosophical lessons could always be concealed in the characteristics of the protagonist of a book, or in the script of a movie. A clear example of these hidden meanings in works of entertainment is the movie Fight Club.This movie tells the story of a man that remains nameless throughout the movie. This man, who is the film's narrator, is portrayed as a mediocre businessman. The narrator mainly keeps to himself and stays invisible to the world, feeling somewhat trapped and restricted by an unknown cause.
His dull life is flipped upside down when he becomes acquainted with Tyler Durden. Tyler and the narrator start an underground club together, and they call it Fight Club. The purpose of the club is for men to fight with one another for various reasons, such as blowing off steam or venting from stress.They do not fight to win, nor to settle any score with other men. Tyler's assertiveness and leadership qualities allow him to become known as the respected leader of the club. The Fight Club branches off into other areas and neighborhoods, as it inevitably grows in members.
The narrator is noticeably happier than how he is at the beginning, and he appears as if he has found some meaning in his life. Tyler starts a project called Project Mayhem, which consists of the members of the club committing acts of vandalism targeted towards financial companies all over the area.The Fight Club becomes similar to a large underground terrorist organization. Feeling discomfort towards the growing terrorist activity, the narrator finally confronts Tyler about Project Mayhem. Tyler does not respond and then unexpectedly disappears.
After a long search for Tyler, the narrator finally comes to a realization that he and Tyler are the same person, after suddenly being addressed as Tyler by various members across the country. Frightened by this revelation, the narrator tries to escape from the consequences of his actions, which are caused and influenced by Tyler Durden.Going back to the point made about hidden philosophical meanings in works of the media, the movie Fight Club demonstrates Soren Kierkegaard's ideas on meaning in life, the Cynics' thoughts on happiness, the philosophical ideas of Sigmund Freud, and the viewpoints of Karl Marx. The characters in Fight Club exemplify the ideas of Freud. The narrator's actions can easily relate to Freud's theory on human consciousness. Freud viewed the unconscious as a defense mechanism for repressing thoughts and desires that are unaccepted by one or by what one may think society accepts.
According to Freud, the unconscious contains many parts that are not easily available to one's awareness. It is the source of one's motivations, and one is often driven to resist becoming conscious of these motivations, causing them to only be available to one through a disguised form (Boeree). The narrator realizes that he has unconsciously acted as Tyler Durden, the alter ego of the narrator. Tyler displays the repressed desirable characteristics of the narrator, such as being popular with women, and lacking the fear of breaking society's rules.
The narrator tries to deny that Tyler is the disguised form of his own repressed motives.However, Freud believes otherwise, and therefore the narrator's denial closely reflects Freud's theory on human consciousness. On another note, Tyler's character depicts Kierkegaard's thoughts on humankind's meaning in life. Kierkegaard stated that a person's existence has no purpose, but he or she strives to find his or her own purpose in life. In relation to this point made by Kierkegaard, Tyler always talks to the narrator about finding his own meaning in life, and to live how he desires to live. One of the main reasons for creating Fight Club, according to the Tyler, is to fight for the chance to find purpose and meaning.
He tells the narrator that in order to say that you have lived, you need to throw a few punches. Consequently, after the creation of Fight Club, the narrator begins to enjoy his life more. Prior to the formation of Fight Club, he feels that his life is meaningless, and he attains a hobby of attending various support groups and lies about having deadly illnesses, as a therapeutic way of coping with his depression. In other words, after meeting Tyler Durden and creating Fight Club with him, the narrator shows signs of enlightenment, and anticipates his nights at Fight Club.He finds a purpose to live for, after striving to find it by creating the Fight Club. Therefore, Fight Club hides some of the philosophical ideas of Kierkegaard throughout the movie.
Lastly, the Cynics' views on happiness closely relate to the statements and impressions made by Tyler Durden. The Cynics believe that happiness does not have to be attained by means of tangible objects. They reject luxuries and wealth, and they believe in submission to sickness and death, so they welcome death with open arms. Tyler Durden constantly looks down on consumerism and says he does not need materialistic items to be happy.He also consistently displays a lack of fear in death, as he displays a numerous amount of reckless acts, mostly life-threatening, in order to prove his points.
The Cynics' views on death and happiness are hidden in the traits of the character Tyler Durden. Fight Club also illustrates the ideas of Karl Marx. According to Marx, humanity produces for itself. Marx stated, “Labor, life activity, productive life itself, appears to man in the first place merely as a means of satisfying a need – the need to maintain physical existence. Yet the productive life is the life of the species” (Marx).
Tyler agrees with Marx on this view in that humans mainly work to produce for the sake of humanity. Tyler expresses these views during the scene when he and other members of Fight Club invade a corporate bank and tie up a police chief. Tyler tells the police not to mess with the Fight Club, because they are the ones that do all the background work of the society, such as cooking meals and hauling trash. Another topic that Tyler and Marx tend to have similar viewpoints on is religion. Marx believes that religion is created by humans, and humans have an unnecessary reliance on religion.
He finds it naive to assume that if God does exist, God would be a merciful God. Tyler expresses similar views as Marx's, when he tells the narrator, “You have to consider the possibility that God does not like you. He never wanted you. In all probability, he hates you. ” Therefore, one could conclude that Tyler Durden and Marx share similar views on both labor and religion.
The movie Fight Club is a great example of a movie that hides the philosophical ideas of Marx, Freud, the Cynics, and Kierkegaard, within the film.For instance, Tyler Durden's viewpoints can easily relate to the viewpoints of Marx on labor and religion. Tyler Durden's character, as well as the Fight Club, itself, display hints of the ideas of Kierkegaard about humankind's meaning in life. The Cynics' views on happiness and death are relatable to Tyler Durden's ideas.
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