I was still in the Air Force when the movie ‘Fight Club’ came out and I received it as soon as it came out on VHS due to my nagging little Columbia House problem. Unlike most of the unwatchable crap I received and was too lazy to return, this one actually got some use. My roommate and I ended up watching it about 6 times in the space of a month. I’m not sure why. Yes, it was a pretty good movie and all, but I’ve never been a multiple viewer kind of gal. At the time I convinced myself it was enjoyable bonding with Travis and turning the whole “I am Jack’s…” theme into our inside joke. “I am Jack’s rage that Travis peed on the seat!” Good times, good times.
I think the real appeal was the draw of a story where two people are actually one. I’ve always loved that kind of thing, or really anything in general where the nature of reality is really put to the test. I think we alll do, and ‘The Matrix’ suddenly made a lot more sense once Lana Wachowski made her existence known to the world. I think she is super awesome by the way and still need to write an adoring post about her. At the time, I found the end of the movie kind of sad. All these great bonding experiences he had were all just in his head and the whole notion of it seemed so desperately lonely.
Though I’m loathe to admit this, at the time I was watching I also liked it for the raw naked violence. There is nothing more visceral than bare-chested men slapping the berjeebers out of each other in a bare knuckle bloody contest. Even Meatloaf with his testicular cancer inspired breasts put on a good show of raw masculine power at its basest level. It was “realistic” and exciting and my heart rate increased pleasurably just seeing the disgusting mess of blood and mangled flesh. Gross, right?
A few weeks ago I decided to pull out ‘Fight Club’ and give it another view through changed eyes. Wow, what a completely different viewing experience! I found the violence repulsive and found it detracted from what still held up as a clever story. I found myself really sympathizing with Marla, the woman involved with Mr Multiple Personality. This was interesting because initially I hated the character and found her presence nothing more than a plot vehicle to clue in the audience to the big twist. Now I saw her as a wounded soul using all the strength she had to wall off her inner fragility and loneliness against a world that increasingly made less sense. I think the story told from her point of view would be very compelling, but is still discernible by filling in the pieces.
I viewed the big twist very differently as well. What I found sad at earlier views, that two people were really just manifestations of one, I now saw as an enlightening struggle with self. It was very identifiable and no longer about the elimination of what was arguably the better part of a person. Instead, it was a full recognizance of the disparate parts of an individual, and what they were willing to do about it to live as they found right. Ed Norton firing a gun through his mouth to make himself “whole” was more gruesome then I cared for, but spoke to his conviction.
I don’t, by the way, see myself as such to be honest. I don’t feel it was a battle between ‘Michael’ and ‘Michelle’ with Michelle walking away the clear victor. I’ve always been one person, simply expressing myself differently until I could come to terms with what was most comfortable. In other words, no part of me was killed off; I just became more me.
My final thought was on the author – Chuck Palahniuk – and his works. He is a very male author without question, but goes places that seem familiar. Not only with ‘Fight Club’ but ‘Invisible Monsters’ as well. In ‘Invisible Monsters’, one of the principal characters is a mostly passable fully transitioned woman. As it turns out, she is revealed as a homeless gay boy talked into full transition by a group of drag performers who were apparently successful enough to finance everything. Not something I cared for at all, and reeks of the old forced feminization fetish that frankly offends me a bit. I’m just not that jazzed by the idea that my life is so humiliating as to inspire paraphilia driven wish thinking. Ugh. I’d wonder about Mr. Palahniuk, but um no, the boys can keep him.