Study Guide

Fight Club Setting

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Anytown, U.S.A. (1996)

When was the last time you went into the basement of your local dive bar? Probably never, are we right? There could be a fight club happening in there right now. Fight Club was shot in L.A., but never actually names a city as its setting because it could take place anywhere.

We often see Jack in an airplane, flying all over the country, setting up fight clubs unbeknownst to us (or even to him). Corporate culture has invaded every corner of the United States, and this is the kind of brainwashing Project Mayhem wants to wipe out.

Jack's Apartment

Unlike Joe's Apartment, Jack's apartment is filled with IKEA furniture instead of cockroaches. He even asks himself at one point, with all seriousness, "What kind of dining set defines me as a person?"

His apartment is filmed with text overlaying each piece of furniture, as though it has become the catalog. The living space is slick, continuous, and clean, the polar opposite of the jumbled-up dirty mess of the Paper Street house we talk about below.

On one hand, who doesn't want to live in an IKEA catalog? (Well, unless you're a woman in Saudi Arabia, then you become invisible.) But the movie shows us how two-dimensional this style of living really is.

This is the House that Jack Built

The Paper Street house pretty much rises directly from the pages of the book and lands on our screen in all its dilapidated glory. Fincher brings the house to life by making it look like death: with a neutral color palette, sparse lighting, and dirt galore. Despite just coming from the pages of an IKEA catalog, Jack seems to have absolutely no problem adjusting to this comparative squalor.

Most of the Jack's mental growth, and his evolution (or devolution, depending on your perspective) into Tyler Durden, takes place inside this house (while its physical action, the titular fight clubs, take place in a dark basement that wouldn't seem out of place below Paper Street) The house feels like its own character, a living, breathing organism: the electricity sparks on and off, the roof leaks, and the basement floods, forcing its inhabitants to adapt to nature, and not making nature adapt to them.

Time Stamped

Theoretically, Fight Club exists in a nebulous "present." As we said, a fight club could be happening down the street and you wouldn't even know it. But one particular scene dates the film in 1996, and that's the scene where Project Mayhem uses an electromagnet to erase a bunch of VHS tapes in a video store.

See, this has to be a time when not only are video stores still in business (i.e. pre-Netflix), but it rents primarily VHS tapes instead of DVDs. The real clue here is the poster in the window. It advertises Independence Day as a new release. Independence Day came out on tape in 1996. All those tapes of this Will Smith action-adventure look like this once Project Mayhem is done with them.

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