To criticize a film for having a shallow or confused message is understandable. The problem with this criticism is that, in the case of "Fight Club", the movie's message is not confused. It knows exactly what it's saying; but many people don't.
Not only do some people jump to the conclusion that "Fight Club" is condoning violent or sociopathic behavior, but they think it's condoning fascism and terrorism, when it's actually outright mocking it. It's showing the juvenile pointlessness of it. Not only do some people miss that it's satirizing the teenage-rebellion mentality, but they assume it's pandering to it.
"Fight Club" is the story of two people representing two extremes: the Narrator, a white-collar worker who's become a slave to consumerism and the social construct around him, and the other is Tyler Durden, a violent nihilist with no regard for society or others, who feels the human race has been emasculated by materialism and advertising. Essentially, these two are exact opposites. But as the two of them become friends, they start an underground boxing club for the catharsis of people who feel just as trapped and emotionally apathetic as they do. Ultimately, Tyler takes this entire concept and evolves it into "Project Mayhem", a group devoted to vandalism and general mischief, but from there, it actively grows into a terrorist organization.
The thing that SHOULD be the giveaway that it's not promoting this behavior is through the DEATH of an innocent man as the result of these actions, and the fact that we see the misguided members of Project Mayhem lose their personal identities to a dangerous cult mentality.
I said it once and I'll say it again: Project Mayhem and their violent beliefs are not being condoned. And yet, to give you an idea of just how much the themes in "Fight Club" are taken out of context, there was a real-life incident with a kid in Manhattan who, influenced by the movie, attempted to blow up a Starbucks, as the Space Monkeys are seen doing in this movie. Of course, despite how obvious it was that this behavior was being mocked in the movie (and, once again, how they show an innocent man get killed as a result), authorities proceeded to scapegoat this movie, as if it was the fault of the film itself that someone foolishly misinterpreted the message and attempted an act of terrorism.
The film blatantly portrays Tyler Durden as a fascist and a terrorist, and yet, people actually think it's promoting him, simply because it doesn't outright tell you what to think. "Fight Club" is attacked by everyone from politically correct New-Agers and prudish moralists with mantras of "ZOMG THIS MOVEEZ VIOLINZ FOR THE STOOPID TEENAEGERS LOLZ!11" (and of course, shouted down by so-called cinephiles for being unconventional in nature, and for being a Hollywood film). I recommend actually thinking this film over instead of going by knee-jerk reaction. If the things that happen in this movie disturb you (especially the ending), then good. They SHOULD disturb you.
In short: "Fight Club" is condoning Tyler Durden's actions and beliefs as much as "Schindler's List" is condoning the Holocaust.
Of course, that's my take on how the message is misconstrued, so what else does "Fight Club" have to offer?
Well, as you'd expect from Fincher, it's a remarkable-looking movie, and the actors make the absolute best of it. It's consistently funny, full of unforgettable characters and dialogue, and most of all, it captures the world and feel of Generation X quite unlike any movie I've ever seen. But therein lies something fascinating: it's the absolute film for its time and place, yet it doesn't feel dated at all. The reason, I theorize, is because it does such an outstanding job of making you a part of the time in which it's set, and giving us something timeless to think about.
So what, in my opinion, is the true message of "Fight Club"?
"Fight Club" is--and this is important--NOT telling you what to think. It's simply asking you to reflect, question things. Question society, question the false prophets. Keep the balance between these two extremes (Narrator and Tyler)by being an individual.
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