The meaning behind Fight Club

It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything. – Tyler Durden 

David Fincher’s 1999 adaptation of Fight Club is one of my favourite films, not just for its fantastic story and great acting, but for its philosophical depth and meaning. The ideas presented within Fight Club evoke a clear influence from existential and nihilistic philosophy from the likes of Sartre, Nietzsche, and Camus. What makes Fight Club a deeply philosophical film is how it deals with the concept of meaninglessness and shows the profound effect it has within modern day society. Within Fight Club there is a clear emphasis on the importance of responsibility and affirming one’s own life. Fight Club is not a film about fighting, but rather a story dedicated to showing the problems of modern day consumerist culture, greed, and the meaning within suffering. 

You created me. I didn’t create some loser alter-ego to make myself feel better. Take some responsibility! – Tyler Durden

Within Sartre’s essay Existentialism is a Humanism he writes that ‘it is in this world that man decides what he is and what others are’. Similarly, Tyler Durden also takes on this belief that we control our own fate and decide who we are. There is a great overwhelming sense of the need for responsibility in order to grow. So much so, that Fight Club is seeming to become more and more relevant as time passes. Society has become a melting pot of mindless consumerism, or in Tyler Durden’s words: 

Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our great war is a spiritual war… Our great depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won’t. We’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.

Fight Club is ultimately a message against consumerism, against authority, it is a film that attempts to evoke freedom through showing the lack of it, by showing us a reflection of ourselves and our world in order to emphasise change. As such, Fight Club, metaphorically, is a mirrored reflection of many of us. There is a great emphasis on self-development through suffering elicited through violence. Fight Club shows us physically what we must do mentally, that through real-life suffering we must change and grow. Take the chemical burn scene, Tyler says ‘without pain, without sacrifice we would have nothing’ whilst watching the narrator struggle in agony. Nevertheless, the main point of this scene is for the narrator to simply confront his pain, to take responsibility for his current situation and move forward. There are many philosophical messages within this film and take what you want from it, but as a film that deals with existentialism, nihilism, and simply what it is to be human, this must be an essential watch for all.

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