Study Guide

Fight Club

Fight Club Introduction


Release Year: 1999

Genre: Drama

Director: David Fincher

Writer: Jim Uhls, Chuck Palahniuk (novel)

Stars: Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham Carter


Have you ever been in a fight? Been on the receiving end of a black eye or broken nose? Maybe even lost a tooth? No? Well if you ever badmouth The Great Gatsby while we're in earshot, you might find out what it's like… punk

But if you want the closest artistic representation to what it's actually like to get the snot (and other fluids) beat out of you, then you're going to want to check out Fight Club. (If you have been in a fight, um, please don't hurt us.)

Produced by Fox 2000 Films, Regency, and the Linson Company, Fight Club hit theaters (not literally) on October 15, 1999. Adapted from the Chuck Palahniuk novel of the same name (Haven't read it? We have), it's about a man fighting through an identity crisis unlike any you've ever seen. And we mean fight literally. What starts as bareknuckle boxing quickly evolves into a battle against capitalist society itself.

Director David Fincher, who was a master of weird by this point with Alien3, Se7en, and a couple other films without weirdly-used numbers in them, sticks close to the source material, translating its fierce frenetic stream-of-consciousness style to the screen with a clever use of narration, flashy special effects, and buckets of fake blood.

Speaking of blood, the brutal drama generated controversy as one of the most violent films produced in years and was missing a couple buckets of blood by the time it crossed the pond to the UK, where some scenes were snipped by censors

Main character Tyler Durden, who moonlights as a film projectionist, would not be happy about this.

The film stars Brad Pitt, who had worked with David Fincher on Se7en and was in the middle of his about-to-marry-Jennifer-Aniston hey-day, as Tyler; Edward Norton, fresh off of American History X, as the unnamed Narrator; and Helena Bonham Carter, in one of her biggest Hollywood roles, as Marla Singer. Without Fight Club, we might have seen some other muggle playing Bellatrix Lestrange…and Carter might still have been stuck in period piece limbo

  

Fight Club also features Meat Loaf, who stopped trying to find paradise by the dashboard light and jumped into acting. Mr. Loaf plays Bob, a man with giant breasts, making it one of the most daring roles in the film, especially for a manly rocker like the Loaf. Finally, Jared Leto, who had previously broken hearts on My So-Called Life, breaks faces as the nameless, but beautiful (sigh) Angel Face. There's someone for everyone here, Shmoopers.

Fight Club, with its $63 million budget, was more like Flop Club on the big screen, but it gained steam through word-of-mouth and became a cult hit on DVD. Maybe it wasn't a rousing success because the anarchistic film hits a nerve with disaffected youth, especially young men, the kind who aren't spending their money at the movie theater.

But now you don't have to support the man by spending $37 on a few kernels of popcorn and a small soda. You just have to grab the DVD or stream Fight Club to see what a knockout punch it is. Put in your mouth guard, Shmoopers, and get ready to Fight...Club.

What is Fight Club About and Why Should I Care?

The first rule of Fight Club is: you do talk about Fight Club.

In fact, the second, third, fourth, and millionth rule of Fight Club is: you do talk about Fight Club. Because there is tons of material to discuss.

Our lives are more saturated than ever with corporate advertising, and Fight Club is both a movie that employs product placement to the extreme (with enough Starbucks cups to keep you caffeinated 'til 2186) and skewers it with its anarchistic message of bringing down consumer culture and returning to a more hunter-gatherer state of life. And we don't mean hunting for deals on Black Friday.

Fight Club is also about angry young men. Project Mayhem, like silly old Gamergate, is populated with dudes who are seeing red because they're denied a power they feel entitled to. Fight Club is basically what would happen if men's right's activists actually got up from their keyboards and did something with their anger. The results wouldn't be pretty.

So if you want to get into a verbal altercation instead of a physical fight, watch Fight Club.

We're willing to bet you a few cases of highest-quality luxury soap that you'll get riled up about something: be it rampant consumerism, the logistics of anarchism, whether or not Project Mayhem is fascist, why everyone in this movie litters so much, and whether or not to be nervous that a Marla Singer-style thief will jack your clean laundry the next time you go to the laundromat.

Trivia

A blogger named Rob Conery has a theory that Marla Singer doesn't exist. Do you agree with him? Here's an even better question: Does Rob Conery exist? We have no proof of that, either. (Source)

We told you about the theory that there's a Starbucks coffee cup in every frame of the movie. Check out this Tumblr dedicated to Starbucks screenshots within Fight Club. Did you spot any they missed? (Source)

A guy named Galvin P. Chow loves Fight Club. He also loves the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. He has good taste. However, he wants to try and convince you that our narrator, the one who goes by Rupert, Cornelius, Jack, and Tyler Durden, is actually Calvin all grown up. We think he might need to lay off the Starbucks for a while and get some sleep, but it's worth a read. (Source)

The "financial news and information site" ZeroHedge uses a line from Fight Club as its motto ("On a long enough timeline the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.") and its key author goes by the username Tyler Durden. Who is this Tyler Durden, and what is his mission? (Source)

Most likely helped by the success of the movie, the book Fight Club has become a runaway hit, too, resulting in the inevitable sequel, this time in graphic novel form. (Source)

Fight Club Resources

Websites

Officially Lame
The URL fightclub.com will take you to a fantasy basketball website. Even though that has nothing to do with Fight Club (and is something Tyler Durden would hate) it's arguably more fun that the super-boring official Fight Club site.

Book or TV Adaptations

Cult-ure Club
Chuck Palahniuk, with his devoted fan following, calls his website the cult. Join the cult here.

Shmoop Club
The first rule about Shmoop is: you do talk about Shmoop. We even talk about ourselves, and the guide we have on Fight Club right here.

Articles and Interviews

Them's Fighting Words
Leave it to Interview magazine to get an in-depth interview with Edward Norton about Fight Club.

A Critical Knockout
Criticize Fight Club and Brad Pitt might show you a thing or two he learned on-set.

Video

Re-Watch
You might have to watch this video twice to absorb everything Brad and Ed say about Fight Club.

Subliminal Interview
This interview employs subliminal blink-and-you-miss-it techniques just like the movie.

The Art of Fight Club
Tony Zhou analyzes Fincher's artful frames in many films, including Fight Club.

Happy Anniversary
Fight Club is old, and to celebrate, this dude ordered himself the special edition Blu-Ray.

Project Menu
Even the Fight Club Blu-Ray menu has weird subliminal extras.

Audio

Hardcore StoryCorps
This fight club is one you don't have to participate in to learn about it.

You are not your Public Radio Host (Starts at 7:00)
This radio show explores consumerism, feminism and Fight Club.

Bloody Pulp Fiction (starts about 2:10 in)
The Wall Street Journal doesn't enjoy the anti-consumerist film.

Images

Quote Soap
We'd bathe with this.

The Rules
We doubt the design for the actual fight club rule sheet was as fancy as this one.

Identity Crisis
This poster has us seeing double.