Throughout the world, there are ancient paintings and carvings in caves depicting men and how they used tools to defend themselves from, and even attack, creatures. It goes without saying that these men were rather good at using violence, and violence was needed to survive.
Today, men find many different ways to prove their masculinity; violence is one of the most basic ways men achieve this. In Michael Kimmel’s Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men, he states masculinity is a performance guys put on for other guys. In David Fincher’s Fight Club violence is used as an important emotional appeal to connect to its predominantly male audience, but the two main characters, Tyler and Jack, also exercise violence as a means to perform and express their masculinity on each other. Violence is exhibited throughout the movie as a bonding ritual between the members of fight club, as a means to destroy consumerism. The main characters of Fight Club are similar to the men Michael Kimmel is describing in that both parties are in a “between stage,” discovering who they are and what their meaning in society is. I believe that Jack embodies cultural homogenization, the culture of protection and liminal space better than Tyler.
Jack, the protagonist of the movie, embodies cultural homogenization more than Tyler. Micahael Kimmel defines cultural homogenization by suggesting it is “a flattening of cultures” (Kimmel 26). What Kimmel means by this is that there is no regional flare; outside of guyland, guys do not have any alternative masculinity to perform. Ultimately, their masculinity becomes tied in with consumerism. This example is evident in Jack’s lifestyle: “If I saw something clever like a coffee table in the shape of a ying-yang. I had to have it” (Fight Club 1999).
Jack is not happy living this lifestyle and is aware of his unhappiness and, to compensate, he projects an alter ego: Tyler Durden. Tyler is the manifestation of Jack’s hate for society and consumerism. After a few scenes of fighting between the two of them, which is merely viewed as them bonding. Jack is so sucked up by consumerism that he literally creates a separate identity completely different from his own to combat it. Therefore, Jack performs cultural homogenization better than Jack.
Tyler does not perform cultural homogenization as well as Jack. In J. Michael Clark’s article, “Faludi, Fight Club, and Phallic Masculinity: Exploring the Emasculating Economics of Patriarchy,” he furthers the scope of cultural homogenization and masculinity by saying, “Consumer culture has emasculated men, pushing them into ornamental and passive roles traditionally associated with the feminine sphere” (Clark 66). In the film Tyler is very adamant about his position on consumerism: he is completely against it. Tyler makes it his duty to become Jack’s mentor and show him the ways around consumerism.
For example, Tyler convinces Jack to get rid of all of his possessions, convinces Jack to move in with him in an abandoned house, and finally, convinces Jack that when the people you care for die, i. e. Bob the former bodybuilder, that it’s ok as long as it’s in the name of fighting consumerism. Bob Paulson, the former bodybuilder who was diagnosed with testicular cancer, seems to play a simple yet very important role in the movie. Jack says, “Bob was a champion bodybuilder. You know that chest expansion program you see on TV? That was his idea” (Fight Club 1999).
In conclusion, Jack performs the culture of protection better than Tyler. Kimmel discusses the culture of protection and says it is when a community protects guys who perpetrate violence because they look familiar. He suggests: “To be sure, the administrators are often hamstrung between complicitious silencer and indigent bribery from the alumni from whom the administrators depend. But perhaps they also believe in the hazing and the binging and the rest of it. They may even identify with these guys” (Kimmel 119).
This is significant to Fight Club because the guys in the club not only “identify with these guys,” but they also are these guys. For instance, Tyler does whatever and says, “I relate to the whatever” (Fight Club 1999). Moreover, Jack performs the culture of protection more than Tyler because he embodies anarchy and wants to create a culture of anarchy. I define anarchy as the dismantling of government and capitalism. Westerfelhaus discusses why Jack wants to remove capitalism by saying, “capitalism is bad for masculinity” (Westerfelhaus 52).
This is important because Jack protects the guys from government authority as he fights the capitalist patriarchy. As Westerfelhaus was able to observe in his analysis of the many themes in the movie, Fight Club “is structured around a heteronormative ritual that reaffirms heterosexuality at the expense of homosexuality. That such a seemingly irreverent film upholds rather than challenges the heterosexual status quo is evidence that a religiously based negative view of queer sexuality continues to exercise a powerful influence” (Westerfelhaus&Brookey;, 306). Overall, this is all embodied in the differences between Tyler and Jack.
Westerfelhaus. At the Unlikely Confluence of Conservative Religion and Popular Culture: Fight Club as Heteronormative Ritual. 2004. Clark, Michael.
Faludi, Fight Club, and Phallic Masculinity: Exploring the Emasculating Economics of Patriarchy. 2002Fight Club. Dir. David Fincher.
Perf. Brad Pitt and Edward Norton. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 1999. DVD.
Kimmel, Michael. Guyland. NY; HarperCollins Publishers, 2008.