It’s almost cliche to say David Fincher’s greatest mistake in his adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club was making Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) “too likable.” Seriously, google critiques of the movie and see how many times you come across that idea. But even if Fincher’s intention was to make people feel bad for white men who feel isolated and ostracized, he didn’t.
Instead, Fight Club is an accurate depiction of rage, violence and a special brand of toxic masculinity that had already crept its way into the psyche of American men.
In the 21 years since its release, Fight Club has become somewhat of a meme online. It’s permanently linked to film bros and run-of-the-mill misogynists who view Marla Springer (Helena Bonham Carter) as the villain of the movie and Durden as an anti-hero.
The film’s real genius, though, is it’s up to the viewer to dismantle these toxic and cultish ideas put forth. You can blame The Narrator (Edward Norton) for preferring to hang out in a basement and punching strangers in the face over his real life. That is, however, a lot harder to do when you’re watching the movie from the perspective of a cult victim, even if it all was in his head.
I’m the same age as Fight Club now, and I’m living among a generation full of men who would have succumbed to Durden. The Narrator is a much more successful version of modern men who have been relegated to an admittedly unfair existence but also refuse to factor their own actions into their misfortunes.
A certain class of these American men have retreated to a nearly online-only existence and, much like the characters in Fight Club, would rather lash out at the world in illogical anger and violence than address their poor behavior.
For lack of a better word, The Narrator is a proto-incel. He is with a woman who’s not only willing to put up with his absurd behavior, but engages in the same strange habits (how many guys do you know who can’t sleep without crying in public have had a date in the last few months?) But instead of acknowledging his flaws and expressing his feelings for her, he hallucinates Durden, the man he wishes he was, to hook up with her in place of him. Then, he has the audacity to treat Marla Springer as a nuisance.
That’s the plot of Fight Club. Honestly, Durden isn’t even that significant to the movie and not just because he is a hallucination. Marla Springer is the most important character, and if viewers fail to realize that, then they deserve to be made fun of for liking Fight Club so much.
Fincher’s greatest mistake was not making Durden too likable. It was making The Narrator get the girl. In doing that, he’s actually rewarded for his childish behavior and, thus, is admirable to the toxic fanbase.
Viewers can’t be completely blamed for misinterpreting the movie. In all honesty, I caught myself halfway though my first watch admiring Durden, and I wonder if I would have fallen for this cult leader in the real world.
It’s always easier to blame everyone but yourself for your problems; everyone does it from time to time. But next time you watch Fight Club, try looking at it from Springer’s point of view.
Noah Wright is a senior studying strategic communication at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk to Noah? Tweet him @NoahCampaign.