What's so great about Fight Club

´Fight Club´ as a redemption game for adults








The pitch-black satire "Fight Club" (1999) by director David Fincher has been described by a large number of critics as the most important film of the nineties, the book by Chuck Palahniuk as a "cult book".

In “Fight Club” we get an insight into the dreary life of the nameless narrator, a small office worker whose job it is to find out the cause of accidents in the cars his company produces. Defective car parts are often to blame for the death of car occupants, but a recall is only carried out if the expected legal costs exceed the costs of the recall.

The narrator suffers from the numbness of our performance-oriented society. He begins to sneak into self-help groups for the terminally ill. Here he can live out his feelings and from now on finally enjoy his life again. But that's over when Marla Singer shows up, also a fraud who indulges in suffering tourism. In her presence, reflecting his own lie, the narrator can no longer relax and his suffering begins all over again.

One day he finds his apartment destroyed by an explosion. The sales representative Tyler Durden, who he met on a business trip and enjoys life in a playful way, offers to move in with him. In return, Tyler asks the narrator to hit him - he wants to feel what it is like to fight. The two of them think the feeling is great, fight each other often, and more and more men join and meet in the "Fight Club" in the evening to fight each other there until one of the two fighters says "Stop".

Soon men with puffy eyes or bracing corsets meet everywhere in the city and blink conspiratorially, bruises and wounds are their secret identifying marks. Scattered all over the country, dependencies of the association quickly spring up from the ground. Tyler decides to take things one step further and found Project Chaos, which quickly takes the form of a private army. Under Tyler's leadership, the first attacks against financial institutions and other status symbols of "free enterprise" begin. As if in a trance, the narrator registers what is happening, sometimes takes part passively, then shows himself again in horror. When he realizes the whole dimension of the conspiracy aimed at destroying the achievements of civilization and ushering in a new Stone Age, he tries to stop the project. In parallel to his attempts to contain the terrorist conflagration, however, he has to discover that he is identical to his opponent. Tyler Durden is the narrator's other self, who takes control at night when he thinks he is asleep.

It comes to the final fight of the two, which ends with Tyler Durden's death. However, the narrator was no longer able to prevent Tyler from blowing up all the banks in the city - hand in hand with Marla, he watches the explosions at the end of the film.

The film and the book can be divided quite clearly into two halves - the first deals with the “Fight Club”, the second with the Chaos project. This housework will mainly focus on the first half, on the creation and success story of the “Fight Club”. The aim here is to prove that the fighting leads to an escape from an unbearable reality into the fantasy world of a game. Finally, the Chaos project can be interpreted as an attempt to impose the popular game on civilization as a whole, and so has little to do with the game itself. The Chaos project will only be of interest to us in connection with the “Fight Club” and not as an independent story, as a specific consideration of this second part of the film and the book would go beyond the scope of the housework.

The aim of this paper is to demonstrate that “Fight Club” lets us experience how the dreary life of the main character and, as a result, a large part of young, male society changes radically through the invention of a game and a character, to an attitude which is characterized by more fun and enjoyment than in the time before the experience of the game. The question here is whether and how the beating in ritualized duels can be described as a game, and why such brawls can have a redeeming function.

In order to answer the question in detail, the main character, the inventor of the “Fight Club”, is first characterized in the course of the work, both his self as the nameless narrator and his superego Tyler Durden. The fascination of the “Fight Club” is also explained, as is an answer to the question of whether the idea of ​​creating a state of intoxication by experiencing violence in brutal fistfights can be called a game at all. In this context, the problem of a non-existent unambiguous definition of “game” is also pointed out. The term “game” encompasses an immensely broad field from children's games to games of chance and high-paying professional sports, which cannot be clearly defined. The statements in this paper were made with the help of selected definitions of game research, which assign the vague term “game” as clearly as possible.

Chapter IV, in which Tyler Durden's role as a schizophrenic figure, as the narrator's personal character, is discussed in more detail, actually belongs to the characterization of the main character. However, since it only becomes clear at the end of “Fight Club” that Tyler Durden does not really exist, this chapter has also been moved to the end of the housework in order to avoid the already very complex plot of the film and the book at this point for the reader to complicate further. In the end, the results of the scientific housework are summarized, before the question is answered further whether, according to the “Fight Club”, a game can also represent a permanent release from an almost unbearable reality.



The framework around which the film is built is the expressionless voice of the narrator. Neither in the film nor in the book do we find out his name. The nameless everyone doesn't need that either, because it stands for all of us, for every little employee.

In the sharp wit and the quick commercial clip aesthetic with which “Fight Club” is portrayed, the film is a sarcastic portrait of the “American way of life”. The narrator is a well-paid and well-to-do victim of this outlook on life. The versatile actor Edward Norton is brilliantly able to sweep out the unsteady, the desperate in the psyche of the first-person narrator, effectively underlined by his terrifying pale, emaciated appearance. He has a regular job, lives the dreary everyday life of an office worker, which he comments as follows: "You get the feeling that you are one of these space monkeys. You do the little job that they trained you for."[1] Or, more clearly: "(...) risking a sudden death in offices where every day they felt that their life came to an end every hour."[2]

Ultimately, his job is to prevent expensive recalls for faulty cars, at the expense of the driver's safety: "Even if someone discovers our mistake, we can still compensate a number of grieving families before paying for the cost of retrofitting six thousand five hundred vehicles approaching. "[3] This is clearly a reference to the life situation of Franz Kafka, who was employed by an insurance company and whose job it was to reject legitimate claims. This activity was the basis of many of his works, which not least deal with how powerless the individual is in the face of the insurmountable system.

At the end of every dreary working day at the car manufacturer, nothing awaits the nameless narrator: no wife, no friends, no hobbies. "My home was a condominium on the fifteenth floor of a high-rise, a kind of filing cabinet for widows and young professionals."[4] About the actually very chic apartment we immediately learn: "You couldn't open the windows, which is why, despite maple parquet and dimmer switches, all 150 airtight square meters always smelled like your last meal or your last visit to the bathroom."[5]

Even after work, even in his great apartment, the nameless first-person narrator finds no relaxation. He is a mental wreck that has sacrificed all needs to the indulgent and senseless vegetation as a consumer: "My friends who used to sit in the bathroom with pornography are now sitting in it with their IKEA catalog. We all have the same armchair" Johanneshov "with the green stripe pattern" Stinne ". (...) We have the same paper lamps" Rislampa / Har "made of wire and environmentally friendly bleached paper. (...) Then you are trapped in your pretty nest, and the things that you once did owned, they own you now. "[6] In "Fight Club", the materialistic character of the present is primarily targeted: the Ikea mail order catalog, which the narrator uses to furnish his life, serves as an exaggerated metaphor for a consumption and shopping frenzy mentality that only happens for its own sake. Material possessions dominate the human being, not the human being over luxury goods.

Experience that David Fincher has gained in the modern cinematic forms of video clips (including for Madonna and Michael Jackson) and commercials characterize "Fight Club" - and there is hardly any other film that uses this commercial aesthetic more appropriately, as it addresses in Form a night black satire the influence of the advertising world and the questionable ideals that it conveys. Former copywriter Frédéric Beigbeder, who uses very similar words to Tyler Durden, said in an interview: "Advertising has conquered our dreams. We used to dream of paradise or the afterlife. Today it says:" God is dead Brands have taken their place. We now dream of looking like a Calvin Klein poster, having a big car in the garage and a slim model in bed. Advertising is a lie that can destroy the earth Life now mainly consists of chasing after advertisements, the even faster car, the even bigger house. And when you have it, she has long been promoting an even faster and even bigger one. We run and run like in a hamster wheel. "[7]

It can be assumed that David Fincher, like Beigbeder, has developed a deep aversion to the mechanisms and modes of action of this industry through his years of work as a commercial filmmaker for various consumer goods manufacturers, because the main character thematizes the consumer and throwaway society in amazingly intelligent society analyzes: “The cars are the kind of stoves that kids use as their first car in high school (...) cars that you loved and then thrown away. Animals in the shelter. Bridesmaid dresses in the second-hand shop. "[8] “Everything you can ever do will be thrown away. Anything you're proud of will end up as trash. "[9]

Not even the old popular saying "Nothing is free, only death." Still applies in Fight Club: "It costs at least three hundred dollars to burn a penniless corpse, Tyler tells me, and the price went up. If someone dies on less than that, their body goes to an autopsy class."[10]

The narrator is really not doing well: “I envied people who died of cancer. I hated my life. "[11]

The narrator is not a classic hero. He does comment on the compulsion to consume, but does not rebel against it. And as much as he hates his life, he doesn't think about suicide, but hopes for an accident: "Every time he takes off and every time he lands, if the plane leans too much on one side, I prayed that it would crash."[12] In this society, it's not just him - when Marla learns about the death of cancer patient Chloe, she says: "In any case, that was pretty clever of her."[13]

Everyone lives their life in average, anonymous materialism, but above all in meaninglessness and loneliness. His emotional disturbances drive him into chronic insomnia and thereby almost insane. He suspects a serious neurological or psychological illness. His doctor finds nothing of the kind. When the narrator complains about his suffering, he responds by saying that if he wants to know what suffering means, he should go to the testicular cancer self-help group. The narrator follows the recommendation and can be found in "We're still men!" surrounded by people who are much worse off than him. Even former bodybuilding champ Bob, a former celebrity and idol, has been pounded into weeping misery by this world: "Now I'm all broke, I'm divorced, and my two grown children don't even call back when I see them report. "[14]

In the self-help groups, everyone can for the first time live out the feelings that they and probably everyone else have to resist as victims of an exclusively performance-oriented efficiency society: “If the others believe that you must die, they really listen to you. If it could be the last time they saw you, they really saw you. Everything else, her bank balance, any songs on the radio and her messy hairstyle, flew out the window. "[15] Here he can finally relax and even cry, as apparently all people in this world can only relax and cry in self-help groups, because here it is allowed, here it is even required that people embrace each other, show feelings and cry.

Only now can the narrator sleep properly again, which is why he seeks out even more bizarre groups of doomed people, from blood parasites to leukemia sufferers. He is not a voyeur who feasts on the suffering of the victims, but wants to "let go" and cry together with the unfortunate, to be able to live out his feelings.

The narrator is only able to combat his hopeless desolation with a kind of suffering tourism in a large number of self-help groups. In this environment of near death and hopelessness, happy, liberating music is played in the film, and the happily smiling narrator lets us know: “I found freedom. (...) Even babies don't sleep so well. (...) I celebrated resurrection (...) That was my vacation. "[16]

But the pleasure is over when "this piece of Marla Singer"[17]who otherwise parasitizes herself aimlessly through her life, also lies herself in the self-help groups with the attitude that the coffee is free and the whole thing cheaper than the cinema. In her presence, which reflects his own lie, everyone can no longer let go. The insomnia returns, the nameless first-person narrator has to continue to vegetate in the dreary vacuum of his Ikea nest-building instinct. In other words: He continues to embody the typical emotionally disturbed lemming of the late 20th century.


[1] = Palahniuk: “Fight Club”, p.10

[2] = Palahniuk: “Fight Club”, p.134

[3] = Palahniuk: “Fight Club”, p.160f

[4] = Palahniuk: “Fight Club”, p.43

[5] = Palahniuk: “Fight Club”, p.43f

[6] = Palahniuk: “Fight Club”, p.46f

[7] = Beigbeder: "In the Third World War"

[8] = Palahniuk: “Fight Club”, p.97

[9] = Palahniuk: “Fight Club”, p.226

[10] = Palahniuk: “Fight Club”, p.143

[11] = Palahniuk: “Fight Club”, p.196

[12] = Palahniuk: “Fight Club”, p.24

[13] = “Fight Club”, film minute 81

[14] = “Fight Club”, film minute 8

[15] = Palahniuk: “Fight Club”, p.120

[16] = “Fight Club”, film minute 9

[17] = “Fight Club”, film minute 11

End of the reading sample from 35 pages