JackDurden.com
March 10, 2015 9:20 PM   Subscribe

 
Thank you, I am exactly the right amount of stoned for this.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 9:36 PM on March 10, 2015 [21 favorites]


Was this not obvious?

Next up: The theory that Rosebud is a sled.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:37 PM on March 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


(I mean, it's a great analysis of the mise-en-scène, but, like... right?)
posted by Sys Rq at 9:39 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I disagree.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:41 PM on March 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


No, I think the takeaway to the movie is "supposed" to be that the Narrator and Tyler Durden were the same person, not that any of the other events/people were imaginary.
posted by skewed at 9:42 PM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'll go one step further and say the whole film is completely fictional!
posted by mmoncur at 9:51 PM on March 10, 2015 [80 favorites]




Isn't this pretty definitively refuted by the coming sequel? I mean, Marla and the Narrator are married and have procreated...unless that too proves to be imaginary? trust nothing
posted by namewithoutwords at 9:55 PM on March 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Squall was dead the whole time
posted by Apocryphon at 9:56 PM on March 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


Annnnnnnd.....Ferris never existed...
posted by HuronBob at 10:11 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Anytime you have a sufficiently unreliable narrator, it's possible to imagine the whole story is not reflecting any objective reality. Like the legendary tales of Baron Münchhausen.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:12 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have a theory that Tyler Durden was nothing more than a figment of Cameron Frye's imagination. Cameron, in turn, was actually just part of a fever dream concocted by Harriet Brindle (the Lawson's redheaded next door neighbor on Small Wonder) while she was on her deathbed.
posted by item at 10:18 PM on March 10, 2015 [16 favorites]


Paging Tommy Westphall...
posted by axiom at 10:37 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning on an ever spinning reel
As the images unwind, like the circles that you find in
The windmill kicks of your mind.
posted by Auden at 11:27 PM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


You see, it's really a trilogy. Calvin and Hobbes is the prequel, where we see the inception of the mental illness, with the project of the id in the form of Hobbes the tiger. It's the 'Spring' story, full of delight and whimsy and innocence

Ferris Bueller's Day Off is the 'Summer' story, where Cameron (formerly Calvin) Frye, deeply sick, projects his alter persona, now 'Ferris Bueller', into an amazing adolescent fantasy of sociopathic self-gratification.

Fight Club is Ferris Bueller strikes back. The fantasy persona, now completely disappointed by the schizoid wasted potential of Calvin/Cameron/Jack's life (so many name changes connote the fragility of the Narrator's identity), now embarks upon a roaring rampage of antisocial revenge, methodically shredding Calvin's bourgeois pantomime and pursuing a reckless reignition of romance with the now equally fucked up Susie Marla Derkins.

This really is the great saga of the crisis of modern masculinity.
posted by LeRoienJaune at 11:34 PM on March 10, 2015 [68 favorites]


Huh, I had always thought it was the story of a gun. Because people don't kill people, guns in America kill people. Usually their owners. Let that say what it will about the story. But it is there in the start and there at the end.

In the opening sequence and at the end of the film, Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) holds an older-model Smith & Wesson 4506 (recognizable by its squared trigger guard and frame bulges) in the mouth of the Narrator (Edward Norton). This was the gun the "Narrator" took from one of the detectives that was questioning him. It is noted as a 4506 by its rounded butt and its wraparound grips, as opposed to the non-wraparound grips and the straight butt of the Smith & Wesson 645.
posted by infinite intimation at 11:47 PM on March 10, 2015


I will say this for Chuck. He sure knows how to make a joke last for a long time.
posted by daq at 11:48 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Fight Club isn't a particularly good movie. But it's a cool movie.
posted by telstar at 12:14 AM on March 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


I think the article didn't go far enough. Not only is the entire cast illusionary, but the audience is as well. Nobody who saw the film actually exists.
posted by happyroach at 12:23 AM on March 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think the article didn't go far enough. Not only is the entire cast illusionary, but the audience is as well. Nobody who saw the film actually exists.

I call it the Shutter Island hypothesis. Everything everwhere is fake and I am actually chained to a chair, being force-fed rotten fish heads and pooping in a bucket. Basically, the crummiest Matrix ever.
posted by Literaryhero at 12:28 AM on March 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


How have we made it this far without mentioning this Clickhole video?
posted by with hidden noise at 1:49 AM on March 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


Nobody who saw the film actually exists.

I never saw the film. I was always worried it would fuck up my memory of the remarkable book.
posted by chavenet at 2:49 AM on March 11, 2015


Spoiler: in the Fight Club universe, Edward Norton is in fact the only man on Earth. His days are spent huddled on the dusty ground, rocking himself back and forth, muttering, "the first rule of fight club is you do not talk about fight club. The second rule of fight club is you do not talk about fight club. The third rule of fight club is you do not talk about fight club. The fourth rule of fight club is you do not talk about fight club. The fifth rule of fight club is you do not talk about fight club..."
posted by duffell at 4:23 AM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I get that this is mostly played for yucks, but: I always have a hard time engaging with this sort of analysis that seems to assume that there is some sort of platonic reality that the movie is just a reflection of or window upon.
The answer to what 'really' happened in a movie is: whatever is shown or said in the movie.
See also: the whisper at the end of Lost in Translation.
posted by signal at 4:30 AM on March 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


I always have a hard time engaging with this sort of analysis that seems to assume that there is some sort of platonic reality that the movie is just a reflection of or window upon.

I'm the opposite, I really enjoy them and see them in a lot of works -- not so much as a clever gotcha type thing, but just as a reflection of how stories and representations work. This is even clearer in stories that are told through mediums like videogames or animation, which almost always have to abstract themselves in one way or another. The idea of a story or representation or world that is systematically false generates nice sparks for me in a gnostic kind of sense. :)

The answer to what 'really' happened in a movie is never whatever is shown or said in the movie, except maybe in Dogme-95 type stuff.
posted by Drexen at 5:23 AM on March 11, 2015


So, the theory is that Fight Club is a work of fiction?
posted by eriko at 5:27 AM on March 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think we'll be learning soon that Fight Club is actually a Star Wars prequel prequel.
posted by ardgedee at 5:44 AM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've never seen the movie or read the book. Do I exist?
posted by Mchelly at 5:46 AM on March 11, 2015


Didn't we used to have someone named Mchelly in threads like this? Am I imagining that?
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:24 AM on March 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


I haven't theorized like that since grade school.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:47 AM on March 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


This is pretty weak.

First off, it's a boring argument - "it was all in his head" or "the narrator was dead all along" are "clever" interpretations of almost every movie that people can make if they want to seem smart, and it almost never adds anything of value. There's an argument that the Lee Marvin classic Point Blank is all a dying man's dream. Okay, so...that (a) doesn't add anything to the movie at all, and (b) makes it all pointless. So, fuck that. Seriously, what do you gain with that approach? What makes that a better story? Nothing. It's clever wankery for its own sake, and it's not even that clever. Though it is wankery.

Let's go through this shit. I am Jack's refutations.

1. Marla Is Not Real
"It was all a dream..." Fuck, are you really going to do this? Fine...

"Marla and Tyler Dress Alike" -- This doesn't necessarily mean that Marla's imaginary too. Another interpretation is that since Tyler's imaginary, Jack changes his image of Tyler's appearance over time as he's being influenced by the outside world. As Marla becomes more important to him, he overlays her appearance on Tyler. Also, movie costuming is always done to infer things. Perhaps this is a way to infer not that they're both imaginary, but that they're both symbolizing the same thing, or meant to be seen as complimentary.

"Marla and Jack Dress Alike" -- Again, movie symbolism. Plus, he's overstating their matching appearance by quite a bit. They don't look that alike.

"Marla Has No Reflection, and Neither Does Tyler" -- Tyler has no reflection because he's imaginary, agreed. But it's also quite likely that Marla doesn't show up in mirrors in that one scene because of technical limitations. Movies hate mirrors, because you can see the friggin' cameras and lights and crew in them. Also, this was 1999, so CGI wasn't as big a thing. I'd argue that it's more likely the mirrors were simply pointed away to where they wouldn't accidentally expose anything of the crew, and also to keep Tyler from having a reflection. Marla's lack of reflection may be a side-effect.

"Marla Takes Over Jack in the Laundromat" - This is pure "what if" territory. He argues for symbolism, but nothing he says requires that Marla be unreal. The "pantslessness equals loss of masculinity" makes sense, but again, why does Marla have to be unreal for that to be the case?

"Tyler Takes Over Jack on the Airplane" -- Again, since Tyler's imaginary, it seems more likely that rather than imagine a fake person then another fake person, he sees a real person with funky glasses and then imagines a different person in the real person's place wearing those same glasses. (See the "Tyler and Marla dress alike" note above.) Also, it seems likely that the Tyler/Jack conversation is not out loud. The idea that "Jack didn't pack his bag, Marla did" is unnecessarily complicated. Tyler packed the bag to fuck with Jack. That was always how I interpreted the action.

"Testicles and Balls, Marla is Jack Post-Testicular Cancer" -- Why is it weird to this guy that a movie focused on men mutilating themselves to fit their notions of masculinity would also have a huge fixation on balls and fears of castration? It'd be weird if it didn't. The rest of the section is supposition that doesn't stand up to the "Marla isn't real" theory.

"Big Rubbery One" -- Again, dildos are "artificial masculinity," so yeah, they make a lot of sense as a symbol in the movie. His interpretations of how the dildo motif (and yes, you can name your band "The Dildo Motif," I'm not claiming that one) works are all needlessly complicated. No part of that section requires that Marla be unreal.

...and now I'm bored. Too much stuff here.

I'm not saying he's wrong, but I'm saying I'm unconvinced.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 6:49 AM on March 11, 2015 [14 favorites]


"Marla Has No Reflection, and Neither Does Tyler"

Vampires.
posted by thelonius at 6:57 AM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


I never saw the film. I was always worried it would fuck up my memory of the remarkable book.

You should see the movie. It's one of the few examples of a perfect translation from page to screen, even occasionally improving on the book.
posted by saul wright at 6:59 AM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have this theory that there are multiple Ash Ketchums just as there are numerous Nurse Joys and Officer Jennys. Each Ash has a Pikachu. This is why Ash's Pikachu is still at a low level in newer Pokemon series. Also, Pallet Town doesn't exist.
posted by drezdn at 7:14 AM on March 11, 2015


...in turn, was actually just part of a fever dream concocted by Harriet Brindle (the Lawson's redheaded next door neighbor on Small Wonder) while she was on her deathbed.

Oh, wait, has anyone done one where the Small Wonder daughter is actually a real girl and the whole "robot" thing is a Munchhausen-by-proxy scenario?
posted by nobody at 7:14 AM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


My take on this is that the director DID insert all these parallels between Tyler and Marla and all of these small ideas of Bob being a symbol of Jack's lost masculinity, but that all these things fall into the category of "plausible interpretation." Artists don't really consider their work to have any platonic ideal of what it "really" is. Marla isn't real because she is a fictional character in a film. Same with Bob.

If the director had a few shots in which Marla was treated as a parallel to Tyler, it was because it made for a clever aesthetic thematic choice. If that provides you any additional enjoyment of the movie, then the director feels he succeeded. But what "really" happened is something that no one making the movie probably even cares about.
posted by deanc at 7:26 AM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Fight Club isn't a particularly good movie.

New rule: You say something like that, you have to fight.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:47 AM on March 11, 2015 [11 favorites]


Anytime you have a sufficiently unreliable narrator, it's possible to imagine the whole story is not reflecting any objective reality.

Possible, but not productive, since this sort of thing is almost always just a thin shade away from declaring authorial intention. If it's all in the narrator's head or if it's just really, really skewed in the narrator's head, we're still looking at the same symbolism and the same psychological themes. What would change here if we replaced "the *narrator* does this because symbolic effect which contributes to our interpretation of the characters and their world" with than saying "the *narrative* does this and achieves this symbolic effect which aids our interpretation of the characters and their world?"

The reason we generally assume that most of the signs of external context around the unreliable narrator are merely refracted, not wholly invented, is because that opens up more interpretative possibilities, or at least means that we end up at the same general ideas without having to defend an unnecessarily elaborate view of the text. I'm not seeing what we get here that we don't get without the extra "it's almost *all* made up" thing.

Once the narrator is unreliable, the narrator is unreliable. Everything else is about figuring out the "angle of refraction" imposed by the narrator, the thematic *effects* or *impact* of that unreliability, not the quantity of things and characters that are unreliable.
posted by kewb at 7:49 AM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


On preview, what deanc said.
posted by kewb at 7:50 AM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


You know, I actually think the Marla-as-additional-alternate-personality angle makes a fair bit of sense. It explains why no one ever comments on her being out of place, especially at the Paper Street House. And I think I buy that her and the narrator splitting the days of the week at the support groups is actually a very non-subtle clue that is meant to be an early foreshadowing of the timeshare that narrator/Tyler have going on.

The "self-improvement is masturbation" symbolism the author of this page talks about is exactly the sort of hidden symbolism I can imagine the director taking great pleasure in including. And Tyler and Marla later playing revolving door games entering and exiting rooms also seems like a pretty convincing clue.

I hadn't really considered it before today, but I'm now feeling more than halfway convinced that this might have been explicitly the authorial intent.

I still don't buy that Bob and Project Mayhem are imaginary. Sure that's possible once you have an unreliable and insane narrator, but it dilutes the story too much.

I guess I'm going to have to both rewatch the movie and reread the book.
posted by 256 at 8:31 AM on March 11, 2015


First off, it's a boring argument - "it was all in his head" or "the narrator was dead all along" are "clever" interpretations of almost every movie that people can make if they want to seem smart, and it almost never adds anything of value. There's an argument that the Lee Marvin classic Point Blank is all a dying man's dream. Okay, so...that (a) doesn't add anything to the movie at all, and (b) makes it all pointless. So, fuck that. Seriously, what do you gain with that approach? What makes that a better story? Nothing. It's clever wankery for its own sake, and it's not even that clever. Though it is wankery.

I was ready to write a comment saying something like this, but now I'm thinking that it's fundamentally different in Fight Club's case -- the characters aren't real, but the events are. This theory is just an extension of the reveal that Tyler isn't real; for him, we get that ridiculous montage that includes Jack hitting himself in front of the bar, and presumably we'd have something similarly ridiculous for the rest of the movie if the theory is correct.

Now, I don't like that particular reveal, but it does add something to Jack's character. If Tyler is real then Fight Club is just a story about Jack and a guy he meets. If not, then Tyler is a manifestation of what Jack wanted to do all along, which is relevant to the plot because we know where Jack is coming from (first act of the movie). Similarly, if Marla isn't real then that tells us something else about Jack.

I wouldn't like this theory to be correct, though, as much as I enjoyed reading about it (the movie kind of invites this with all the subliminal stuff. See also: The Shining and Room 237). But I don't think this is something unreasonable for a film to do (although perhaps not Fight Club); it's certainly more reasonable than, say, the theory that Homer has been in a coma for 20+ seasons of The Simpsons.
posted by maskd at 8:31 AM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Marla Has No Reflection, and Neither Does Tyler"

Vampires.


Serious and important query:

Are reverse vampires invisible unless you catch them in a mirror?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:10 AM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Calvin and Hobbes is the prequel, where we see the inception of the mental illness, with the project of the id in the form of Hobbes the tiger. It's the 'Spring' story, full of delight and whimsy and innocence

Hey!
posted by Sys Rq at 9:10 AM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


See also: the whisper at the end of Lost in Translation.

Oh, c'mon. Everybody knows that he's whispering 'His name is Robert Paulson. His name is Robert Paulson. Ok?'
posted by eclectist at 9:40 AM on March 11, 2015


If not, then Tyler is a manifestation of what Jack wanted to do all along, which is relevant to the plot because we know where Jack is coming from (first act of the movie). Similarly, if Marla isn't real then that tells us something else about Jack.

In a way, I think this is rather damning, because it says that Marla may as well not be an actually distinct character from Jack and Tyler given her function in the narrative. Even if we go with the standard gloss where Tyler is a projection of the self-loathing narrator's masculine ideal, Tyler's desire for Marla and Jack's mix of desire and denial reduce her to the image of Jack/Tyler's desire *anyway*. It might be worth noticing that the "Marla isn't real" interpretation makes this a film in which the only prominent female character turns out to be the delusional projection of a male character. (There's Chloe, yes, but she really only has the one scene.)

In other words, it may not *matter* if Marla is/isn't as "real" as the narrator, because narratively she functions no differently either way.
posted by kewb at 9:44 AM on March 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


krinklyfig: Like the legendary tales of Baron Münchhausen.
Legendary? Surely that term implies... but... no.

I refuse.

He existed.

(LeRoienJaune, you are my new MeHero, and I will henceforth refer to that as the LeRoienJaune Trilogy Theory of Manhood.)
posted by IAmBroom at 10:26 AM on March 11, 2015


This is all very fascinating, but being a stickler for rules, I refuse to talk about it.
posted by zakur at 11:29 AM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Dumbo is the fantasy of a sad old circus elephant.
posted by gottabefunky at 12:34 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


My take on this is that the director DID insert all these parallels between Tyler and Marla and all of these small ideas of Bob being a symbol of Jack's lost masculinity, but that all these things fall into the category of "plausible interpretation." Artists don't really consider their work to have any platonic ideal of what it "really" is.

Sure, but is possible to misinterpret a movie. If someone walked out of Fight Club without having realized that Tyler and the Narrator were the same physical person, I would feel comfortable saying that they had failed to take in the textual narrative.

Then there are cases where the text contains (presumably intentional ambiguity), like whether Tony Soprano dies at the end of The Sopranos. In these cases, it's interesting to look at the clues and analyze whether the ambiguity is actually as ambiguous as you think. I've come to believe that Marla-as-alternate-personality falls into this category. It's definitely arguable in this case whether or not authorial intent means anything. When the writer comes out and says "yes, I definitely did mean for it to be X," that carries some weight in the interpretation as far as I'm concerned, but isn't the be all and end all of the analysis.

And finally, there are the cases where it's just that the shown facts could possibly align with a particular interpretation without there being any clear indication that that is meant to be the primary interpretation, like the Homer is in a coma, example.

I don't hang a lot of weight on authorial intent in general, but there is a big difference between "there is an obvious and probably intentional ambiguity in the text" and "it could have all been a dream."
posted by 256 at 5:09 PM on March 11, 2015


In the movie Once Upon a Time in America, the end has a flashback to the main character at the opium den he was smoking in at the beginning of the film. A "plausible" interpretation is that the movie was his dream about what his life might have been had he gotten out of the opium den in 1933. I don't think it's wrong, but I don't think it's "the" way the movie is meant to taken, while the director has never said "no it isn't!". I just get the impression that the audience has a much, much higher stake in what is "really" happening that the movie creators themselves do.

Setting up those parallels between Marla and the Narrator/Jack and between Marla and Tyler probably started out as clever thematic Easter eggs. What the movie was "really" saying about the existence of Marla or not is probably something that isn't really a concern of the director, outside of the idea that the movie itself hits on a lot of themes of reality and identity. The audience cares an awful lot about what the movie is "really" about. My impression is that the director cared an awful lot about things like getting the shot of the Narrator and Marla to look "just so" in the final scene and was less concerned about whether Marla was real or not-- that was something the viewers whip themselves up about-- for the filmmakers they're just another set of non-existent characters to serve as visual set pieces.
posted by deanc at 6:34 PM on March 11, 2015


True story, and SPOILER ALERT:

The husband and I went to see Fight Club in the theater when it came out. It was pretty empty, we were at a matinee, and we weren't particularly hellbent to see it or anything. It wasn't the CULT OF CLUB it turned into--people liked it, but there wasn't a huge upswell of fandom. It was just a movie.

But it was pretty great. We enjoyed watching this really well-crafted, fun, anarchic, iconoclastic movie that satirizes pretty much everything worth satirizing, especially things like artisan, hand-crafted soap and Ikea. I mean, WHAT'S NOT TO LIKE? First with the harmless nipple-twisting of Jack's spleen, and then the fraught manly struggles of men looking to be manly, and then the more penetrating and uglier radicalism for the sake of filling a void...

...the whole thing is coming to this point, this moment, it's all rising to a bursting head, and we could feel it. The fever had been rising exponentially: Marla, the slimmest voice of reason in a completely unreasonable world, is out of the picture, and Durden's merry band of ne'er do-wells are getting radically idiotic.

I really, really had to pee.

So I left.

To go pee.

And then I sat back down in my seat. "What happened?" I asked my husband.

"I...don't know," he stuttered, and shot me the most forlorn and haunted expression I've ever seen in a fellow movie viewer.

Needless to say, I left during the ONE MOMENT YOU CANNOT LEAVE. Man-boobs? No problem. Not having been fucked like that since grade school? Whatevs. Basement brawls with Jared Leto and robbing fat from liposuction clinics? No big. But when I sat back down in my creaky, uncomfortable, popcorn-buttered seat, EVERYTHING HAD CHANGED.

It was like I missed Armageddon after stepping out for a milkshake.

I could not for the life of me believe that I missed the BIGGEST REVEAL since The Crying Game came out.

It was so heart-rending that I became a Fight Club die-hard, always trying to un-see what I knew was coming--the big reveal. I watched it so many times I can STILL recite whole chunks of that damned movie, even though I haven't watched it in over a decade--but all I was trying to do was recapture that moment that everyone in that theater--that everyone in the whole effing movie-going universe--experienced. It didn't even matter that it might be gimmicky--once the moment was stolen from me, I felt personally robbed.

This bit of mind-fuckery might just be the best reaction Fincher could have hoped for: He fucked with everyone else in the audience only once, but he fucked with MY head forever. Bastard.
posted by readymade at 8:04 PM on March 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


Readymade!

1st Rule 1A: You do not talk about watching the Fight Club movie.
2nd Rule 2A: You do not talk about watching the Fight Club movie.
posted by Cog at 10:12 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't see what this interpretation adds to the story. The narrator being uncomfortable with sexuality and gender roles is already there, his unstable mental condition is already there.

The author has got the tools of film critique but doesn't know how to apply them (or perhaps, when to stop). Films have people whose job it is to dress the sets with props and the actors with costumes. Sets and costumes are there to create the temporary illusion that you're watching something really happen, and where <possible to provide support for the themes of the story. It's an art as well as a craft, and it kind of shits me when people only look at it to see "clues" to a mystery that isn't there.
posted by harriet vane at 2:23 AM on March 12, 2015


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