Fight Club. Great movie. Awful ending. You didn’t really buy into the Narrator not blowing his own brains out while ridding himself of Tyler, did you? Come now. Get a B&N card and read the damn book for a much more plausible and satisfying conclusion.
But I digress.
One of the great aspects of that movie is its observation of the new American male’s effeminate tendencies to consume. You remember that scene guys; the Narrator is on the toilet in what should be a familiar position: that of a teenaged boy readying himself to masturbate. However, the porno that “we used to read” has been replaced with publications filled with material wants, such as a “clever […] coffee table in the shape of a yin-yang” that he “had to have.” Instead of adjusting the magazine to look at a Playboy centerfold and pleasuring himself to a pair of impeccably airbrushed breasts, he is attempting to fill the void in his life with “stuff.” This is capitalism at its very best and, according to the film, it has emasculated him. He says: “I’d flip through catalogs and wonder ‘What kind of dining set defines me as a person?’” A total chick thing to do and think. With the emergence of waves (literally) of feminism and broken, fatherless homes seemingly becoming the norm, the definition of masculinity for many Americans has been upended (much like John Wayne’s grave, presumably).
Enter: Tyler Durden.
Throughout the film, Tyler exemplifies typical, often overblown, definitions of masculinity. He does what he wants, when he wants to. After meeting the Narrator, Tyler steals a sports car right in the middle of a fucking airport. Later, he bangs the hell out of Marla Singer. He commands the respect of all the men of the fight club, as he becomes their natural leader, despite the fact that he and the Narrator founded it together. Tyler is in control of his life.
So if his goal in the film is to bring to a halt his effeminate and vapid consumerist tendencies, why is the Narrator taking up residence with Brad “The Sexiest Man Alive As Voted By People Magazine” Pitt and his designer fucking shades that he actually wears on an airplane?
I’m no idiot. I know this was Hollywood’s attempt (and an ultimately successful one) at creating mass interest for the film. Anytime a moneymaker like Twentieth Century Fox can grant top billing to the biggest movie star in the nation, no matter what the theme and content of the film may be, they’ll jump at the chance. However, this casting call painfully dilutes the film’s brilliant message, which likely would have worked much better with a lesser-known, but highly respected and skilled actor…like, oh, say…Edward Norton.
By the time Fight Club was released in 1999, Pitt had found significant fame, while starring in many commercially successful movies, such as Interview With the Vampire, Legends of the Fall, and Seven. Those mere three flicks grossed domestically around $261 million combined (IMDB.com). So, David Fincher and company, in hiring Pitt in the lead role, had solidified commercial success for a movie that is, at its core, about the rejection of consumerism, capitalism, and pop culture.
Conversely, Edward Norton, who, ironically, plays the role of the Narrator and who, at first, “buys into” the consumerist life, was only credited with two leading roles before the release of Fight Club: Derek Vinyard in American History X and Holden Spence in Everyone Says I Love You (Yeah, I don’t know it either). Though Norton earned an Oscar nomination for his role in American History X, those two films domestically grossed $16 million combined (IMDB.com).
Movies with counterculture themes and content should be reserved for the indie world. As well-known as Fight Club is and as good as Pitt’s portrayal is, I can’t help but imagine how much better it would have been with an unknown actor anchoring the play and delivering the film’s message. I sometimes wish that Norton had kept on that toned American History X weight, stripped himself of the hardcore Nazi tatts, and took on that role of Tyler. And with a toned down wardrobe budget (Remember that fur coat with the black mesh shirt underneath?), the studio would have much more accurately delivered the film’s true theme.