Friday, July 25, 2008

Fight Club, Pt. 2



Fight Club
--one more time--don't want to go on about this film forever.

Another point raised in the film initially suggests that there is a high level of violence in men. However, I think this is a bit misleading and simplistic if one takes a closer look at the film.

1. The initial scenes of violence were set either in bars or in the parking lots of bars. I suspect alcohol played a significant role here.

2. Later scenes were set in the guise of sporting events with cheering audiences. The violence now becomes an integral part of a competitive event. Our society places high value on competitiveness in its members--especially males in the past, but this is now becoming important for females also.

3. The last part of the film was set in an entirely different milieu from either of the first or the second parts. This is now organized violence in which groups of men went out in combat with society. Just hurting others wasn't the point--this was a direct attack on society. Physical pain now has disappeared. In fact, their attacks were designed to minimize the chance of others being injured or killed. I can't help but think of an earlier film--Network--in which the newscaster had everybody go to the window, open it, and shout out--"I'm mad and I'm not going to take it any longer", or words to that effect. In the third part of this film, they also are mad and they are doing something about it.

This part also reminded me, in part, of a film I had seen last week--Full Metal Jacket--which was initially set in a Marine boot camp. The basic training scenes in both films were very similar--the recruits were subjected to physical and mental abuse--all for the purpose of breaking down their self-regard and their feelings of self-worth, and replacing it with an attachment to the group and its ideals, as defined by the leaders.

But what was also brought out in the film, in a brief but significant episode, was the difficulty in simply going out and starting a fight. Cheryl, in one of her comments to Pt. 1, has pointed out how difficult it seemed for the members of the club to simply go out and start a fight with a stranger.

Another point that may be relevant here is that military basic training spends considerable time getting the recruits to the point where they will kill someone, even in wartime. There's considerable propaganda about the evil nature of the enemy and the use of pejorative terms--gook, slant eyes, rag heads, etc.--which dehumanize the enemy. Military organizations still consider "fraternizing with the enemy" a crime. This again suggests that high levels of violence are not normal among most males.

There seems to be a contradiction here. One possible resolution is that many men have high levels of violence while others have considerably lower levels. Since it was so difficult for the club members to find strangers at random who will fight with them, one suspects that the club members were a minority here and that most men do not have a high level of or tolerance for violence, unless there are other factors involved which increase the possibility of violence. The three points I mentioned above could be those factors which increase the likelihood of violent behavior-- (1) alcohol; (2) a highly competitive event in which violence is not only socially acceptable but encouraged; and (3) an organized group which has been trained to engage in acts of violence.

I suspect there may be other explanations.

Whatever else Fight Club might be, it is one film that brings up a number of intriguing issues.


  1. I think it would've been easier to start a fight in the movie if they'd have gone to a different part of the city. It seemed like they pretty much were dealing with mostly the middle class.

  2. Cheryl,

    That could be very likely. Might those who tend to be non-violent most of the time attempt to avoid violence-prone people? That might suggest that a large urban area could have high violence areas and low violence areas.

    What do you think?

  3. When discussing this with my husband, he said they could've easily found strangers to fight with if they looked in the right places. Think of places you wouldn't want to walk through alone at night. I bet you'd find violent guys there.

  4. Cheryl,

    No argument there. That's the point I was trying to make when I mentioned high violence areas in my previous comment. The most obvious place would be a bar. In Tucson, there are several bars that have a reputation for violence. Those not looking for a fight generally avoid those places.

    I mentioned a country-and-western dance hall near where I live that featured Friday and Saturday night parking lot fights (informal and unscheduled). I went once and never went back--too much tension in the place, or so I felt anyway.

  5. Parking lot fights! What did the winner get?

  6. Cheryl,


    What did the winner get? Audience applause, ego enhancement, support for his feelings of self-identity, bragging rights, maybe a few free drinks, approval from some of the ladies who were present, and a topic of conversation that will last until the next fight.

  7. Deliz,

    Glad you found this commentary useful.