We’re the All-Singing, All-Dancing Crap of the World, or: You’re Doing It Wrong – The Fight Club Identity Crisis — Brianna Berbenuik
Here’s a fierce and pyrotechnic little diversion on the subjects of capitalism, masculinity, violence, movies, Space Monkeys, Tyler Durden, and Fight Club, movie and novel, from Brianna Berbenuik, a 20-something misanthropist and student of Slavic Studies at the University of Victoria in British Columbia. Brianna is an avid fan of kitschy pop-culture, terrible Nic Cage movies, the philosophy of Slavoj Zizek, and Freud. You can find her at Love & Darkness & My Side-Arm. She is no mean hand with an AK47, and her last contribution to Numéro Cinq went viral, as they say, when Bret Easton Ellis read it, liked it and tweeted it around the world (it was about, um, Bret Easton Ellis).
We’re the All-Singing, All-Dancing Crap of the World, or:
You’re Doing It Wrong – The Fight Club Identity Crisis
By Brianna Berbenuik
Missing the point is pretty standard fare in life. People tend to get so pumped up about Fight Club that they miss a lot about the movie. Mainly that the “Space Monkeys” are the worst fucking part.
(Although I will admit that watching Jared Leto get his face beat to pulp is kind of excellent. Maybe even better than watching Christian Bale axe him to death in the film adaptation of American Psycho.)
Fight Club is one of those movies that pretty much everyone in the Western world has seen, and a novel that most people have read (and claimed to have read prior to the film — PRO TIP: Fight Club the novel is exactly like the movie, except for alterations to like, two scenes. So no, having “read the novel” doesn’t give you any fucking cred).
So most people think that is what is being criticized, and overlook the inherent satire within the bounds of Fight Club and Project Mayhem – it is set up within the film to look like a legitimate alternative to the capitalist machine, but it is being skewered just as much as capitalism is.
Thing is, people get really fixated on the ideology of the movie, and fail to distinguish that there are two separate things going on:
1) The obvious critique and satirization of a Capitalist society, and how it is inherently repressive and one must find solace ‘outside the system’ and
2) The satirization of masculinity, and critique of masculine violence as a “positive” venue or positive manifestation of nihilist philosophy.
There are a lot of people who genuinely believe that starting violent all-male “clubs” and committing acts of terrorism are actually being touted as a solution in the Fight Club world. A hell of a lot of fight clubs began springing up after the release of the movie – a cult phenomenon. Cult is a descriptor here for a reason. The “inside joke” about Fight Club is that if you worship the general philosophy and take it legitimately seriously, you’ve entirely bypassed the point and become exactly what the movie is satirizing. Quoting Fight Club excessively does not make you edgy or intelligent (“Sticking feathers up your ass does not make you a chicken”), it just proves that you’ll fall for anything that seems remotely cool and anti-establishment. Plus, Fight Club quotes are so quippy and simple – they really elucidate nothing deeper. Durden’s one-liners (and they are abundant) are like easy-to-digest commandments that everyone clings to as profound. Funny thing about profound stuff – once it saturates the mainstream, it tends to lose its kick.
We’re all grappling for ways to define ourselves outside the status quo. At the end of that day that’s what Fight Club is really about – considering the things we cling to. Nihilism and rebellion are still laced potently with self-definition and ideology. We put ourselves in box after box until the day we die – then it’s just one last box.
And like us, the Space Monkeys feel “free” because they are told they do – the framework of the entire ideology they are following suggests freedom, suggests bringing down the “system” that trapped them in jobs they didn’t want to buy shit they didn’t need – things that ended up owning them. But what have they traded in that entrapment for? Just another set of rules tailored to play up their egotistical, douchey attitudes. Tailored to exaggerate the “underdog” and machismo mentality of the stereotypical men of the lower-middle class. Created to specifically appeal to a sense of helplessness and impotence in order to gain credential. Although Tyler’s one-liners and incredibly quote-able dialogue has much truth to it, the enactment of the ideas within the film suggests another form of brainwashing going on. All these men are willing to become something else and to follow rules in order to gain the coveted label of “space monkey.” To be part of Project Mayhem. To no longer have an identity. Which is just as restrictive as the capitalist society they so loathed in the first place.
The thing is, Palahnuik is not lamenting the loss of masculinity in the sense that he is showing us how Capitalism has made the modern man more effeminate, and therefore the solution is to beat each other up then get all bro over each other after. Or blow shit up. See, the institution that men can only touch each other without being gay is by being violent is pretty fucked up. I’d like to highlight some key moments of the film (and novel) that illustrate why Palahnuik is actually tearing “traditional” views of acceptable masculinity (and by extension, Capitalism) a new one, along with the “modern” masculinity of Calvin Klein models and suave businessmen.
First, and most importantly:
Violent Masculinity is Masochistic, Sadistic and essentially eats you alive.
Everyone is content to ignore, or gloss over, or say it’s just funny, or “not get” the fact that Edward Norton is fucking beating himself up. In his desperate search for a remedy against his “single serving life”, he has created an alter ego who physically and mentally destroys him. He has a psychological breakdown. Tyler looks like the Narrator wants to look, acts like the Narrator wants to act, and fucks like the Narrator wants to fuck. He also pours lye on the Narrator’s hand after affectionately kissing it, giving him the nastiest chemical burn of his life. Tyler/Narrator are both suicidal and self-harming. In and of itself, sure, this is viable and not necessarily negative. Many philosophers and intellectuals have touted nihilism, absurdism and/or suicide as a means solving crises, but that’s not exactly what is going on in Fight Club.
Tyler has an audience in two ways: firstly, the guys who will later comprise Fight Club, and if they’re lucky, Project Mayhem, and secondly, the actual audience (that’d be us) outside the film. Here’s the thing – all the secondary characters who regard Tyler as a great leader, all the “space monkeys”, they’re supposed to be idiots. In the film, they blindly follow the orders of a dude with a split personality who shit-kicks himself on the regular. Jared Leto’s extreme blonde character is laughable. Meatloaf’s Robert Paulson is pathetically comical (although with his ‘bitch tits’ and lack of testicles, he is meant to be the ultimate showcase of failed masculinity – and yet he is the kindest character in the story. Who doesn’t like Bob? You’d go for a beer with him, I know it). Yet audience members who think this is really cool and endeavour to start their own, for real and serious Fight Club, don’t think twice that they are the space monkeys. They are willing to blindly follow whatever awesome model of being a man is put forth to them, and this is just as bad as the men who follow the capitalist model of masculinity and success – once again, exactly what the movie is critiquing so harshly.
But things get complicated because Palahnuik is pretty intricate in his interlaced critiques. See, he is actually saying that capitalism is shitty, and corporations really do have a vice grip on the genitals of humanity, and that this has forced people to desire shit they don’t need, and become pathetic, needy creatures. It’s a different kind of self-destruction. (And this is where his critique is obvious and apt, and the portion of the movie (and novel) people tend to quote fucking endlessly. Everyone knows this movie. Nobody needs to get in a dick-waving, tit-size-comparing contest over who can quote more Fight Club. And Merlin fucking Mann agrees). But because the alternative that Palahnuik is offering seems to be far more productive and positive, people automatically tend to assume that this is what they should be doing in order to subvert the capitalist machine. Once again – they ignore something crucial and revealing in the plot:
Once the Narrator realizes he has had a psychological split, he tries to stop Project Mayhem.
Edward Norton as our Narrator is just as trapped by Tyler as he was by capitalism. The narrator ends up going head-to-head with Durden in an attempt to subvert their act of terrorism – the bombing of several large credit card company headquarters. In the movie, the Narrator wins . . . by shoving a gun in his mouth (Tyler’s phallus; well, their shared phallus), and pulling the trigger. It’s pretty fucking clear: this model of masculinity will eat you alive. It will force a suicide. It is all consuming and entirely narcissistic, just as much as the Capitalist model is. The narrator pretty much gives himself a metaphorical blowjob in the end, and his ejaculation is so intense it nearly blows his fucking head off – it is a closed-loop system of self-destruction. So in this case, no, self-fellatio is sadly not the most awesome thing you can possibly do. But at the moment of “ejaculation”, the Narrator is purged of Durden. He lets go of his bizarre, macho pretences and shares an affectionate (post-coital?) moment with Marla as skyscrapers topple down around them (yeah, all the dicks go flaccid at the end of it all). So the end of the movie is tied up in a pretty neat package: capitalism is brought down, the Narrator gets the girl, and Tyler gets a bullet to the head.
But once again things get conflated – the critique of Capitalism and the call for its downfall is not one and the same as Tyler’s offered model of masculinity/nihilism. Tyler’s masochistic ideology is not feasible – he gets fucked in the end because he is just another damaging ideology that traps you in a sick cycle. So in this manner, Tyler isn’t always an opposition to capitalism, but a parallel to it.
Tyler Durden’s doctrine of being a “man” is a doctrine of self-harm, and ultimately feeds into the same close-loop system as capitalism. In a way, it becomes the same all-consuming ideology it rebels against. There is a point in the film (and book) when Fight Club transforms into Project Mayhem where it becomes something perverse. When followers are gained and ego intervenes, things change very quickly. It never is every man for himself, it’s every man for Tyler Durden. When it is just the narrator and Tyler, it actually is appealing in a way and makes sense. But as soon as it becomes popularized and gains followers who want to be drones but in a different way than they already are, the ideology becomes unsustainable and morphs into its own small culture.
Which means Palahnuik is also up to something else: critiquing pop culture and people who blindly “buy into” shit because it’s “cool.” Like Edward Norton in the beginning of the movie, with his ikea catalogs and single serving life. Everyone wants to escape, but what to? Perhaps ultimately, people need to be told what to do in order to be fulfilled. It certainly makes things much easier and frees us from the shackles of responsibility – which actually isn’t faithful to nihilism at all. In a philosophy that is marketed as being all about profound meaninglessness, we search for meaning. We grapple for a point, for something that can help us define the self and guide us. Even having no self (as the Space Monkeys supposedly don’t) is a form of identity – being free of the self is only what it is in contrast to having a concept of “self.” Both are illusory in their extremes.
And Fight Club is self-aware in this sense. In both novel and movie form, the zeitgeist of Fight Club knows it’s the shit, and that it’s going to attract followers who are unaware of the ridiculous eventuality of the ideology.
Palahnuik’s response to capitalism and the masculinity model it perpetuates is essentially a toxic alternative to an already cancerous existence. The Narrator goes to disease support groups in the beginning, and it’s funny because he isn’t diseased – at least not physically. He’s infected with this empty notion that he needs to somehow ‘man up.’ There’s no support group for men who don’t feel like they measure up, or are trying too hard to measure up and failing to meet the unattainable standard. The Narrator’s constant displacement and fakery are simply more symptoms of a world that offers men nothing emotionally fulfilling. When the Narrator is emotional (when he cries into Bob’s bitch tits), he is placated and can sleep. Yet the only place he is able to achieve this is in a support group for men who have no balls (Seriously?). It’s a powerful overriding notion in society – men can only be emotional when they are emasculated, and even then it is shameful. How sad. The rest of the time? The expectation is barbaric sado-masochism.
This can be seen as slightly allegorical of something, too. Masculinity Studies (it exists, I’m not making it up) is a fledgling field, akin to Women’s studies. But it hasn’t taken off. Why? Men don’t want to talk about what it feels like to be men. So far the central point of this arena of academia is solving that crucial problem.
In an era where God has widely been proclaimed dead and non-existent, and that this fact should make people feel free, the cold hard truth is that it has made people feel helpless and search for meaning elsewhere. Apparently a lot of people have found it in the philosophy of Fight Club. The easy, digestible, single-serving quotes that are so very easy to spew up in response to, well, almost anything. Quotes that make you supposedly sound badass, that are supposed to conceal yet instead reveal innate inexperience and total lack of independent thought. People who actually have cause to be nihilistic and hate capitalist culture usually don’t rely on movie quotes to elaborately craft their don’t-give-a-fuck attitude. The irony is, of course, people who quote Fight Club as if they are some kind of revolutionary underground genius are the beautiful and unique snowflakes that Durden rallies against.
The first rule of Fight Club? Come on, we all know this…
All together now:
You do not talk about Fight Club.
Yet nobody can seem to shut the fuck up about it.
Fight Club offers a little shot of a power-high. Which is why people can’t stop quoting it to death – they want to share what they know because it makes them feel so badass. Just like buying that slick new car does in Capitalist society — it’s a show of power, just in a different way.
Fight Club is a cult phenomenon that people still cling to as a flag post of identity definition. The cult of Durden is just as bad as the Cult of Masculinity, the Cult of Personality, the Capitalist Machine. Which is what is so highly intelligent and scathing about the film/novel.
Listen: Fight Club is a great film. It remains one of my favourites, and something I can watch over and over despite the sickening number of times I’ve seen it. It is intelligent and eviscerating in the skewering it gives capitalism, masculinity and the viewers themselves. It is successful because it appeals to different levels of thought and engagement, and it has become a cult phenomenon to space monkeys everywhere who believe that Fight Club is an alternative lifestyle that offers fulfillment and an answer to capitalist masculinity. And in a way, perhaps, it does offer an answer – because Fight Club/Project Mayhem is a very familiar structured identity.
Just like your single serving self is used to.
Excellet essay, and just as good as your previous essay on BEE’s empire/post-empire concept.
I have to admit, as a huge fan of Fight Club, quoting some of the zingers have their time and place, especially to some apologist of the social order, but alas: almost none of my friends who worship that film also realize the second part of Palahniuk’s critique: the sadomasochistic masculinity is just as fucked up as the emasculated version that exists in late capitalism.
Quoting FC isn’t all bad – it’s when people do it to “boost their cred” that is hilariously point-missing. And yeah, most viewers tend to miss the second point – or at least buy into it as a viable alternative to Capitalism.
Only in death will we have our own names since only in death are we no longer part of the effort. In death we become heroes.
And the crowds yell, “Brianna Berbenuik.”
OUT LOUD I LAUGHED!!!
My name was like, the punchline. And for some reason I pictured Rorschach from Watchmen narrating that?
Thanks for another thoughtful entry. Admittedly when I first saw this film years ago I was enthralled by the seemingly “revolutionist” ethos being displayed by the characters– the Narrator engaged in his provocative internal monologue making his way sullenly through these acidic nondescript and yet oddly romanticized post-industrial spaces. Then I eventually saw an interview with Brad Pitt and the interviewer asked him about the film and its seeming endorsement of violence and Pitt responded by laughing and saying something like “nobody seems to get that this movie is a comedy.” This changed the way I have seen the film ever since.
Looking at “Fight Club” from this perspective also reminds me that what Palahniuk is characterizing here is a postmodern reiteration of the masculinist/ Primitivist intellectual movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the U.S., this was popularly embodied in president Theodore Roosevelt, who in his writings and speeches advocated a lifestyle that revolved around a gritty and continual psychic and physical confrontation with perceived obstacles. In other words, the Modern Man, to counterbalance the emasculating effects of corporatism, consumerism, and mechanization, ought to engage in a regimen of strenuous and extreme athletic training, which was assumed to thereby prepare him mentally for the challenges of the competitive yet emasculating confines of the capitalist marketplace. In this philosophy, manhood was largely staked on such action; and the domestic/ interior realm was cast as the exclusive realm of the feminine; thus the Modern dichotomy between the “masculine” public arena and the “feminine” domestic arena.
The book (and the film) also contain the trope of violence as primitive; which again harkens back to Modernist Primitivism, a slight variant on the masculinist discourse described above. In this, the Modern Euro-American male of the industrial era could “regenerate” his primal instincts through violent conflict with the darker skinned Other (i.e., through colonial conquest) and also through sexual contact with “primitive” women; who were often assumed to be more vital and in touch with nature and therefore sexuality. Both of these ideas were conceptual cornerstones of colonial expansion of the time. Palahniuk’s contribution seems to be, as you state, that he mutual contingency of both discourses (the dominant and the “alternative”) and sees one as simply substituting of even reinforcing the other, which is a characteristically postmodern position.
I appreciate this piece; it makes Zizek’s writings more digestible and understandable for me.
Thank you! I’m a huge Zizek fan as may be apparent. I’m glad you enjoyed the essay, and you make interesting points that I didn’t think of before – about the “primitivity” of violent masculinity.
Just so you know, I have come back to this comment twice now to read it and consider the implications. So thanks for taking the time & thought to respond – it is always the best part to get an actual dialogue and get a new spin on something.
No problem– you’re a good writer so it’s worth it for me.
The first rule of Fight Club is don’t talk about Fight Club, but if you had to talk about Fight Club it’s hard to imagine doing it any better than this.
Hahah thank you!
Good article, I really enjoyed. I think the problem with people’s relationship with this film is that this Project Mayhem identity (dudes hanging out being badass) so mirrors the way most adolescent fratboys WANT to be (see Jackass, Animal House, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Fear and Loathing, the list goes on). It’s kind of the teenager’s wet dream: chaos and no rules and camaraderie and having something to believe in. Hell, I’d love to be a raving drunken imbecile (I’ve been working on it but it’s an uphill battle). In truth this sort of yearning for a mischief-based Dionysian personality permeates almost every aspect of modern culture, be it in our rock-stars, celebrities or artists. Tyler Durden could also be seen as an updated version of pan, except he wields a gun instead of a flute. I’ve always seen Fight Club as a symbolic manifestation of this little urge in the back of your head, the anti-conscience I guess, or the little devil that pesters Faustus. If Freud weren’t so taboo now, I’d say it’s the Id manifested, how everyone wants to be the lovable jackass pissing in the face of The Man, but most of us are too meek and afraid to do anything worth remembering.
Freud’s taboo now? Well I guess I’ve been doing it wrong. I think Freud is more relevant than ever in his updated and filtered aspects.
I understand why the idea is appealing, but it is still utterly ridiculous. Also I was under the impression that the list of Jackass, Animal House, etc. are funny because the people in it are bad people who do mean things to get a selfish laugh and be dicks, not as a viable model for what people really want to be.
Fear & Loathing I wouldn’t put on that list – it has some of the same qualities but is it’s own breed.
And anything we do worth remembering will die when people who know us do. People aren’t “meek and afraid,” many have common sense when it comes to the choice between beating each other up for fun, or, you know, not. And that’s nothing to be ashamed about. Who remembers that fight you got in in a parking lot behind a bar? Unless you get charged for assault.
Fight Club is a fantasy, it doesn’t function in reality.
Despite dressing it up, you’re defending exactly what I’m criticizing the movie. So to each their own.
First off, I’m not dissing Freud. I think he’s great for critical analysis. I’ve just been bitched out so many times in Psychology courses for him being out of date and useless, which I don’t buy.
Honestly I thought our readings were pretty compatible. As you mentioned, after the film came out there was a glut of recreated fight clubs popping up where people try to act like their heros from the film. But, as you said, the film is a fantasy. Just like HST is fantasy and Animal House and Jackass. People can’t actually live like that, but they sure like romanticizing it.
I think the whole purpose of the film was to show the inner workings of fantasy and desire wherein Tyler acts as the other side of the coin to Norton’s character. Norton is the generic modern male—that is his entire purpose in the film. He shops at Ikea, works a scummy office job and takes crap from everyone he meets. Tyler Durden is the other side of this coin. He’s the one who fucks Marla instead of staring at her. He’s the one who gets in a fight instead of walking home. He’s the one who tries to enact the whole crazy scheme that goes on in your head that you’ll never actually do. And yes, I do think HST does apply here. His Raoul Duke character is more or less the fantasy of the sixties—all drugs, all party, driving 120 through the desert. Likewise Tyler Durden is the embodiment, to me at least, of what people think they want to be in the 90s. He says fuck you to the cushy job and the furnished apartment and lives life in that whole carpe diem mode. I think you’re overplaying my comment on shit people. The film at first starts off as Norton’s character releasing a lot of his pent up urges and finally acting in his life. He does not start by blowing up a building, but that’s the natural progression of his changed personality. By flipping over from the meek pushover to the Tyler Durden, he doesn’t simply find a happy balance, he flies over the edge and, as you said very well in your article, becomes just another oppressor. When he finally kills Tyler at the end, he does so of his own volition. He decides to stop Project Mayhem. The book differs slightly from the film, in that the bombs do not go off and the narrator shoots himself and ends up some kind of ambiguous Hospital/Limbo. Either way the film/book differ hardly at all and I think that both show the good and bad sides of breaking free of society.
To me, the point of Fight Club was that Norton wanted this insane and radically different life, but in the end he rejects it because it’s self-destructive. The whole thing works almost like a morality play. I know I shouldn’t read author experience into a novel, and I REALLY shouldn’t read author experience into a film adaptation of a novel, but I’m going to anyways (Mayhem!). Palahniuk got his inspiration for this story by getting in a fight on a camping trip. His neighbours were blasting their tunes too loud and instead of taking it and walking away, he confronted them. And then he got beat up.
I’m not saying people should WANT to be like this, or should be like this. I’m saying that the point of the film was to show that people do live unfulfilled lived and pine to break out of the box, but that going to far in the other direction is just as foolish and destructive. You get nothing, really, from confronting that stupid loud neighbour (other than beat up and, I guess, a best selling novel), but goddamn is it ever nice to think about. I write this as my cokehead neighbours upstairs blast monotonous 4/4 beats through my floor and always I wonder what it would be like to go up there with a heavy slab of metal.
The reason I mentioned Jackass and Animal House is because, around here at least, many young men and women try to act JUST like these characters. They want to BE these weird unhinged fantasy characters. That’s who they think they should be, and so they do stupid stunts in front of a camera or play beer pong on their lawn. They take on this character and try to make it work. Around here I see a ton of people with Tyler Durden posters and shirts and people who want to be Tyler. Hell, the DVD menu even opens with a quick frame from Tyler urging you to pirate the film (as if that’s mayhem). It’s this whole chaotic ethos that a lot of people fantasize about but really do not act upon. I think the sweetest irony about the film is that it preaches anti-establishment on a big budget with two A-list stars smiling back at you. To me that’s the prettiest satire around.
Thanks for the clarification.
Ha, no worries. I have a nasty habit of sounding like a crabby dissenter even when I agree with someone. I think it’s the whole leaving out whole parts of my argument thing.
Also, in history the shit people do that gets remembered often is for BEING “The Man.”
Bush, for example? Tyrants? Hitler? Idi Amin?
I thought this was a very riveting, not to mention thoughtful, essay. You make a great point here and I couldn’t agree more with how blind struck people have become when coming face to face with someone as electrifying and handsome as Tyler Durden and as sparkly as that movie was. What I find interesting is how strongly you could go both ways, assume both paths, partake in either extreme direction. You’re either completely oblivious to the point of the movie to a degree that’s so blind, so idiotic, that you’re a walking example as soon as you step foot outside the movie theater and turn to your friend and say “sticking feathers up your ass does not make you a chicken”. Or you’ve become enormously disgusted with our societal state of affairs to a degree that opens up your once doubtful-pounded eyes and has you take a really hard, close look around you. You take such a hard, close look at everything around you and you’re able to pinpoint the outpoints, spotting the downfall’s cause until you can’t stand it any longer but in this again there’s not really anything to be done and so you’re still trapped and the question lies: would you rather be OBLIVIOUS or AWARE, both without solution? I, personally, have no choice but to be aware.
Again, GREAT essay and you’re an incredible writer. I also loved your empire vs post empire BEE essay.
I think I might love you.
This is everything I’ve always wanted to say about this film (which is one of my favourites as well), but was never able to. You’re quite the writer, and this is probably the best essay I’ve ever stumbled upon completely on accident. I’m currently working on my own analysis of Fight Club, though I may abandon that cause seeing as how you’ve just about said everything that needs to be said.
This piece of work says everything I’ve been dying to get out for entirely too long. I would take time to point out all the perfection, but I’m sure you’re aware of it.
Great read, love the psycho analysis breakdown from your perspective which is simple, believable and founded on solid basis of reasoning. love the way u broke down and compared the parallels of both extremes – capitalism and the ideology of fight club itself then linking both having the same destructive and empty nature where men just want to be told what to do to free themselves from thought; and this is seen throughout history, exempli gratia a more controversial topic – religion. the movie manifests itself in a cult like sense is a testimony to that. got nothing much to add but to say that this is one of the best single serving read (of this topic) for a long time. cheerio.
It’s a very well written essay, but I disagree with it.
Fight Club was very much a zeitgeist film of the late 90s. The book has that feel too. I read it a while ago (after I saw the film). In the book Tyler is much more nihilistic, even spiteful. There’s barely a political agenda, he just wants to destroy people’s overpriced treasures and delusions.
“1) The obvious critique and satirization of a Capitalist society, and how it is inherently repressive and one must find solace ‘outside the system’ and
2) The satirization of masculinity, and critique of masculine violence as a “positive” venue or positive manifestation of nihilist philosophy.”
It’s not about solace outside the system. It’s about giving up trying to aspire to a set of false values that only ever existed to make you buy stuff. It’s about not trying to compete, not trying to be a winner, not trying to succeed. It doesn’t really satirize Capitalism. It satirizes a guy’s attempt to fit in and conform to media stereotypes and predetermined lifestyles that are the right thing for a guy to do. It’s a mockery of the lie we call civilization.
Instead of satirizing masculinity, it’s satirizing media depictions of masculinity that breed the emasculated egotistical popinjays. It’s about it being OK to be a man. it’s even OK to fight but mocks the pursuit of guys competing to look the best ho form in to packs and try to emulate confidence while desperately lacking confidence.
Jack is a guy who has a good job, a nice home, designer clothing but all those things he has been told are the right things for him to aspire to, actually mean nothing, have no value and leave him feeling totally unsatisfied. He is socially isolated by trying to be socially acceptable.
Tyler sees it all as junk. He’s not interested in anything that society tells him is right. Everything is a joke. He’s a discordian. He doesn’t care about being a good lover, he just does it. He wears bunny slippers and combat trousers and doesn’t care how he looks.
Those two characters are in every guy, but in fight club they are split personalities.
Look up the interview with Chuck Palaniuk where he talks about the fight he had with a baggage handler.