The Return of Hobbes
November 18, 2004 10:47 AM   Subscribe

A little dated, but too good to pass up. Deconstructing Fight Club, Watterson-style.
posted by cohappy (19 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I remember when this was published. I'd be astonished if this hasn't been posted here before. OTOH, "There are eight rules of Fight Club" always makes me grin. I deserves resurrection. Thanks
posted by mojohand at 11:04 AM on November 18, 2004

While it's doubtful that I deserve resurrection - but would appreciate it awfully, thanks - the piece's resurrection is what I meant.
posted by mojohand at 11:08 AM on November 18, 2004

I had not seen this and am glad I have read it now. Thanks!

I wonder who Jason Fox will grow up to be?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:16 AM on November 18, 2004

That was awesome.

Jason Fox = Dilbert?
posted by o2b at 11:19 AM on November 18, 2004

"Objection, your honor! The defense continues to talk about Fight Club in direct violation of the court's instructions."

Oh, sorry, I thought you said Waterston-style Fight Club.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:30 AM on November 18, 2004

Great piece! It seems like a dire warning against the process of "un-imagining" happening in growing older, or even worse happening in our culture generally. Do we really need a flood of redux movies? What happened to imagination?
posted by brolloks at 12:09 PM on November 18, 2004

I tried looking at (it seems they posted this there a hundred times) to see if the author's ever commented about this, but can't find anything. Anybody a better searcher than me?
posted by fungible at 12:48 PM on November 18, 2004

Perhaps irrelevant, but historically interesting: metaphilm is run by a bunch of evangelical Christians, headed by this guy. It's one of a new bunch of evangelical publications that don't advertise they're evangelical, presumably to keep folks who'd otherwise be turned off by the evangelicalness from being turned off. Schuchardt is published in pretty much every such evangelical publication.

As for the essay, it has to ignore the obvious to make its points. For example:

In the film Fight Club, the real name of the protagonist (Ed Norton’s character) is never revealed. Many believe the reason behind this anonymity is to give "Jack" more of an everyman quality.

But the protagonist (played by Ed Norton in the movie version) is Tyler Durden. His name isn't revealed because that would ruin the surprise at the ending, which is the literary trick Palahniuk relies on for every one of his books.
posted by eustacescrubb at 1:27 PM on November 18, 2004 [1 favorite]

eustacescrubb: Sorry, the protagonist's name isn't Tyler Durden. If it was, this sequence would make no sense:

You fuck me, then snub me. You love
me, you hate me. You show me your
sensitive side, then you turn into a
total asshole! Is that a pretty
accurate description of our
relationship, Tyler?

We've just lost cabin pressure.

What did you say... ?

What is wrong with you?

Say my name.

What... ?

Say my name! What's my name!?

Tyler Durden! Tyler Durden, you
fucking freak. What's going on? I'm
coming over there...

Marla, no, wait...

As Marla HANGS UP. Jack stares at the receiver, dazed...

We've got six fight clubs in Chicago

Jack spins, dropping the phone -- TYLER sits beside him.

Four in Milwaukee.

What's this all about, Tyler?

And, we're definitely filling a void
in the rural South.

Why do people think I'm you?
posted by o2b at 2:50 PM on November 18, 2004

eustacescrubb: I also challenge your statement regarding Palahniuk's frequent use of the trick you describe. I've recently read 4 of his books (Fight Club, Choke, Lullaby, Survivor), and I don't recall its use in any of them.
posted by o2b at 2:54 PM on November 18, 2004

Sorry, the protagonist's name isn't Tyler Durden. If it was, this sequence would make no sense

I don't get it; that sequence is the place where we learn the the protagonist is Tyler, and that he suffers from some form of multiple personality disorder. The rest of the plot doesn't make sense otherwise- why Marla behaves as she does to "Jack", why all of the Fight Clubbers call "Jack" "sir", why "Jack" blows his own brains out, etc.

But don't take my word for it:

As the narrator endeavors to stop Tyler and his followers, he comes to realize that he is Tyler. Tyler is not a separate person, but a separate personality; he is born from the narrator's unconscious want to be with Marla despite his conscious hatred for her, which was the final straw in causing his mind to snap from the stress of his life. The story climaxes in a conflict between the "real" narrator, trying to regain control of his own mind and prevent a disaster that Tyler has set into motion, and the calculating Tyler, who always seems to be one step ahead.

As for Palahniuk's use of the Surprise Twist as a plot device, he uses in Fight Club as described above. Warning - Plot Spoilers Lie Beyond -

In Choke, the S.T. is that the psychiatrist character is really a mental patient, not a doctor. In Lullabye the ST is that the Grimoire has been under thier noses the whole time - it's Helen's day-planner. In Diary the ST is manifold: Misty's attempts to escape the island and stop the fire cause the fire; the book Mistys mother-in-law is reading all the time is actually a diary of the woman's life, written in advance by a previous incarnation; Misty's husband was gay and the man helping her unravel the mystery is his old lover.
posted by eustacescrubb at 4:10 PM on November 18, 2004

I don't think it's being argued that the protagonist isn't Tyler Durden, but rather that the protagonist is also (and originally) somebody else, who isn't named. We can safely assume that when he goes to the office, people don't call him Tyler; if they did, he wouldn't be surprised about the whole thing. Tyler is the name of his other self (make some batman analogy here if you want) i.e the identity he has begun to take on, but it is a safe bet that 'Tyler' isn't on his birth certificate.

Reading Chuck, it's true that he is a pretty major fan of the surprise ending... but the thing to remember is that the man is not really a literary author; he makes some interesting points and he's said some wonderful things, but a great deal of his books are pretty pulpish. (Lullabye... and I didn't manage to make it through Diary, I'm embarrassed to admit.)

On a personal note, I also really really hate how he likes to throw in little disturbing non sequiturs, although sure that's more of a personal thing. I'm thinking specifically of the lobster in Survivor (which I really enjoyed, for the record) and the lapel pin in Diary, which I think he even warns you about ahead of time, but which was still more or less the point where I put that one down.
posted by cmyr at 5:53 PM on November 18, 2004

Calvin and Hobbes and Fight Club play on some of the same archetypal ideas; pointing it out is really not clever (and neither is Fight Club itself).
posted by bingo at 6:07 PM on November 18, 2004

A great deal of clever things are based on archetypal ideas. And without being a fanboy, I think FC was clever... and even more than that, Calvin and Hobbes was wonderfully clever.

Maybe I just like saying clever.

clever clever
clever clever
clever clever

posted by cmyr at 7:16 PM on November 18, 2004

eustacescrubb: your original implication was that we never learn "Jack's" real name because his name is Tyler Durden. It is not. If Tyler Durden survived the story, I might agree with you, but "Jack" remains at the end.

I mis-understood your statement on the surprise twist -- I thought you meant he consistently used that specific surprise twist over and over.
posted by o2b at 8:25 PM on November 18, 2004

ob2 and cymr:

You're both assuming that Tyler isn't the original name of the character, shared by both of his personalities. Based on the fact that Tyler had plane tickets (and presumably, an ID) in his name, and the fact that the policemen who tried to cut off his balls knew who he was even though he'd never met them and was in a different town (suggesting they knew who he was because of his police record), it has always made more sense to me that Tyler Durden is the character's legal name. Alternative explantions involve bringing in theories about fake IDs and the like, which exist outside the scope of the book, but then, I suppose once you're doing evangelical deconstructionism, anything's game.
posted by eustacescrubb at 3:01 AM on November 19, 2004

I'm not assuming his name isn't Tyler, I'm deducing it -- If Tyler Durden is the "real" persona's name, why is he shocked to hear Marla call him Tyler? Not even "Tyler Durden," just "Tyler." That's the moment that the story becomes clear to both Jack and the viewers, and it hinges on the fack that Jack's name isn't Tyler.

The cops knew him as Tyler not because he has a record, but because he has met them as Tyler (while Tyler was setting up Project Mayhem), but never as "Jack". There's no reason to assume Tyler has a record -- if you're going to assume that, then it's also fair to assume that Jack's alter ego has documentation.

If you're assuming that Jack goes through life not realizing his name is Tyler Durden, I'd argue that we've been shown nothing that could lead us to believe that Jack isn't lucid when he isn't sleeping (or lying there trying to sleep). Jack does a lot of traveling on his own, and would have to ignore the name Tyler Durden on plane tickets, credit cards, hotel bills and his own ID cards.
posted by o2b at 6:04 AM on November 19, 2004

Great. Thanks. I loved Calvin & Hobbes. I hated Fight Club. Now I can't separate the two in my head. Great. That's just great. Thanks for nuthin'.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:10 AM on November 19, 2004

Yeah, I couldn't really get through this - he went on for far too long trying to make a case for how the fact that tyler and hobbes are both imaginary means they're practically analogous. That in itself is pretty weak. The "eight rules" illustration was cute but otherwise I couldn't be bothered to finish the piece. And I love both subjects...

Great piece! It seems like a dire warning against the process of "un-imagining" happening in growing older, or even worse happening in our culture generally

childhood imaginary friends are not forced out of our minds or repressed by society or something. Kids just stop talking to them once they have siblings or a community of real friends, or once their own consciousnesses are mature enough to recognize that the two voices in their head are both their own (ie, that they are reflectively conscious). A lot, even most, only or oldest children have imaginary friends for a while, but they tend to fade out on their own.
posted by mdn at 7:30 AM on November 19, 2004

« Older HELLO N00BS   |   because next to maps, we love rules Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments