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Zygmunt 1 Luke Zygmunt Junior AP English Ms.

Carlson February 3, 2011 Fight Club Title American Novelist, Norman Mailer, once said Masculinity is not something given to [a man], but something [a man gains]. And [men gains] it by winning small battles with honor. Society puts an intense strain on the male psyche in the way that it has unspoken guidelines for the ideal physical and mental state of men. A tough, macho, and physically fit man is what society demands for. Calvin Klein, Abercrombie and Fitch, and Under Armor demand for this stereotypical male physique. How did this idea develop, and how are these expectations supposed to be met by every man? Ever since the male hormone of testosterone has been pumping through his veins, this idea has quickly developed itself. In the legendary city of Sparta in 600 B.C.E. males were trained from birth to be functioning members of an armed camp (who were). As the Spartan male grew, as soldiers, they later took part in warfare; while the self-denial imposed on the youth was designed to toughen bodies and make Spartans indifferent to hardship (Who Were). These men of steel were raised to have a virtually perfect body and fit the criteria of the modern day Calvin Klein model. In a practical, modern-day society, it would be ludicrous to have these expectations of men. Today, society no longer produces picture perfect warriors, but rather businessmen, doctors, lawyers, architects, and accountants. There is no longer a need for a large muscles and athleticism. Intelligence has

Zygmunt 2 become the new standard for men to be successful, and still our society demands the men to be physically fit instead. The ideology of the masculine male has gone up and down throughout the decades. Different forms of media and entertainment from each decade can help to accurately portray societys idea of the masculine man. The depiction of masculinity has held a different face with each decade. Throughout the 70s man changed the classic structure of masculinity by replacing aggression with emotion, intellectualism with irrationality, virility with insecurity, and strength with imperfection (Trottier). Films such as Midnight Cowboy and Goin Down the Road expressed this new wave of the masculine man (Trottier). The 80s carried a different depiction for men. It was an era that came out with guns blazing and muscles bulging. It reestablished its once emasculated man and turned the feminine image around one hundred and eighty degrees. With movies such as Rambo, The Terminator, and Die Hard, the 80s replaced the dialogue filled scripts with short catch phrases, and added in super human males who had the ability to outsmart their enemies and complete superhuman stunts with perfection. It was a time of ultra masculinity with all sense of emotion stripped away (Trottier). The 90s brought influences from both the 70s and 80s. It lost some of its macho man complex from the 80s and regained the idea of the feminized male from the 70s. The feminine man is reflected in all sorts of media from the decade. Boy bands where the newest style of music and entertainment coming into the 90s. This new portrayal of men allowed it to be normal for men to express themselves through song and dance, usually considered feminine. Boy bands expressed themselves with emotional lyrics and sang with higher voices (Patten). The movies of the decade

Zygmunt 3 reflect the same ideas. Instead of Stallone and Schwarzenegger controlling the blockbuster hits, Leonardo DiCaprio and Hugh Grant were the new faces of men in the 90s. Characters like James Bond operated with charm, good looks, and dialogue instead of violence and catch phrases. Fight Club was the movie that challenged the idea of masculinity in the 90s. On the surface it appears to be another film filled with brutal fight sequences and masculine eye candy without much substance, and unfortunately it did not do so well in the box offices or reviews. It is essentially a movie geared for men. If looked at with a different lens, the movie can be seen to actually portray man struggling to gain masculinity, and fully encompass the ideas of the 90s the best. Being that it was filmed in the 90s, the ideology of the era can directly relate to the themes throughout the film. Throughout David Finchers Fight Club, he uses his character Jack, an insomniac, to portray his opinion that men in the 90s have gone through a decline in their masculinity, and have a desire to regain it. In Jacks case, his addiction to consuming IKEA products and tendency to avoid confrontation drives him to create an alter ego that is masculine in every way that he is not. Fincher uses Jacks and his alto egos creation of an underground fight club as a mode to portray the need men of this generation have to regain their masculinity. Director David Fincher uses the setting of testicular support groups and hugging sessions to portray his views on the decline of masculinity. Were still men, (Redd) is the slogan of the testicular cancer group that Jack, the narrator, attends. The name of this support group is Remaining Men Together (Violence). These two things alone scream of the regression of masculinity. As the camera pans around the room it shows the faces of weak, sad, and discouraged middle-aged men. One in particular goes by the name Bob. He used to be a juice pumping wrestler, but once he developed testicular cancer from the steroids, his body produced too much estrogen from the hormone treatment he went through. This made him develop b***h

Zygmunt 4 tits. Not only did his muscles get depleted, but he grew female like breasts in place of them. This direct representation of emasculation is followed by the group hug sessions. Men hug each other and cry. The trends of the 90s make an event like this acceptable. Generation X, the
generation born from Vietnam vets and fathers who walked out on their families, has been raised by women. They experienced mother-son bonding instead and lacked the exposure of a father. In the 90s society accepted this, and had no problem with men with feminine characteristics, but Fincher argues that men in this era had a desire to reclaim the masculinity that men should have.

Along with the testicular support groups, the addiction the main character has to the consumption of IKEA products is used to show Finchers idea of the feminine man. Man is a simple beast, he has very few needs, food, water, and clothing. Women on the other hand, naturally have more hormonal issues, and other bodily functions that man do not share in common with them. No matter how advanced our society gets, these same principles will still apply. In Fight Club, the character Jack is addicted to the consumption of IKEA home furnishing products. He has no real need for them, but mentally, feels empty without them. He is a man, he has very basic needs, but he has lost his masculinity due to his generation. His generation is a group of men raised by women. Jack does not have the other needs that women naturally have; instead, Jack builds an addiction to purchasing things he does not need. At one point jack says, "[he] would flip through catalogues and wonder, What kind of dining set defines [him] as a person? He has no family and no friends; he has no one to support or provide for. He fills this void in his life with IKEA products. At one point in the film, he is depicted as being part of a magazine catalogue with all the furniture and prices displayed, with him in the middle of it. His lack of emotion and monotone voice displays his boring life style and dependance on

Zygmunt 5 those products. He does not have a personality; instead, the furniture is used to describe him (Briggs). This femininity that is portrayed early on is soon countered by Jacks unconscious development of a diametric version of himself; this man is everything the narrator aspires be, masculine, handsome, tough, and intellectual. His alter egos name is Tyler Durden; he is the exact opposite of Jack but without any of the weaknesses. Tyler counters the central beliefs of Jack by saying to him that "[he is] not [his] bank account. [He is] not the clothes [he] wears. [He is] not the contents of [his] wallet. [He is] not [his] bowel cancer. [He is] not [his] grande latte. [He is] not the car [he] drives. [he is] not [his] f***ing khakis. Tyler breaks away from societys need for consumerism. He lives in a rundown dilapidated abandon house further proving his point that he is not held down by the restraints that society has on Americans through its consumerism. Tyler is the man Jack aspires to be. He is more masculine, better looking, and more intellectual. He has knowledge that Jack wishes he had. Tyler makes a living by selling soap rendered from human fat that he steels from liposuction clinics and sells at a high price to high end department stores. Tyler also knows how to make numerous explosives from common household items. The risk involved with making explosives and stealing that Tyler involves himself in, intrigues Jack. Tyler not only represents everything Jack wants to become, but he functions as the man every feminized man wants to be during the 90s. Through fight club, the average man can try and harness this masculinity and essentially end up like Tyler Durden. Jack has not realized that he is Tyler Durden, and therefore has all the masculine traits he desires.

Zygmunt 6 Unfortunately he is caught in an endless chase for something his mind can never grasp, masculinity. With the creation of Tyler Durden comes an increase in masculinity within the American grey-collared male which is displayed through the development of an underground fight club. The former group hug mentality is juxtaposed with the raw and uncensored violenceFight Club is a place where men can experience a true sense of being (Violence). The 90s brought up a breed of men who had nothing to live for. They had no Great War or Great depression to test themselves with (Redd). The typical grey-collared male of this time period was stuck in a nine to five job that did not define who they were, it served as a means of income. They were the servers of the world. With this generation, men who were formally steelworkers are parking cars, waiting tables, and watching security monitors (Redd). They are the service people of the world. They have no control over anyone; they are essentially feminized men. Jack falls into this category as well. Jack had never been in a fight before, therefore, neither had Tyler. One night they both decide to fight each other to experience what it really felt like. They found that receiving physical pain and the adrenaline rush that came with it made them feel alive. When men went to Fight Club they felt alive, this is what sparked its popularity. It allowed two guys to fight and feel the rush of both pain and inflicting pain. The self-inflicted violence that differentiates Fight Club from other old order masculine films such as Rambo or The Terminator can be understood through the lens of the new sado-masochist... it allows the individual to portray himself as victim while also feeling powerful because of his ability to endure pain. Pain, then becomes desirable (Violence). This is a new sense of masculinity found by these men.

Zygmunt 7 Through fight club, the average man can try and harness this masculinity and essentially end up like Tyler Durden, who Fincher argues to be the picture perfect man. At one point Jack is involved in a fight with another man; he gets on top of him and starts relentless pounding his face into the concrete. The director chooses not to look at the scene itself but rather the expressions of all the surrounding faces. A look of shock comes over the crowd as they realize what exactly they have gotten themselves into. Finally when Jack also realizes what he has done, it is too late, the poor mans face was beaten and disfigured. The scene is followed by the a brief explanation of why he did it; Jack says, [he] wanted to destroy something beautiful. This statement captures the irony that is fight club; the men are destroying the very bodies that they must inhabit and cannot escapeThe narrator takes things too far; he breaks the very rules he establishedFight club is spinning out of control (Violence). By Jack being the leader of Fight Club, he is the first to break one of the rules, and fails to say anything about it. Breaking the rules in front of all the members makes him seem like a God-like figure. He can do whatever he wants without consequences. It also makes it seem as if breaking rules is finally okay. In a society of Grey-collared workers who are the service people of the nation, who have no power, breaking the rules sounds appetizing. Fincher completes his progression of the emasculated grey collared male by portraying him with the barbaric roots of manliness which consists of involvement in vandalism and violence to take over the society that caused them to lose their masculinity. Jack (Tyler Durden) starts to hand out weekly homework assignments to the men after each fight club meeting. The assignments consist of starting up a fight with a random person, and losing, or

Zygmunt 8 destruction of private property. Jack (Tyler) calls these events, Project Mayhem. These men are to destroy the very things that have been keeping them down in life. Through these acts of vandalism these men feel like they have regained their masculinity. They also feel a sense of power; they now have control over something that once controlled them. If one man is to go against project mayhem, even if Jack (the leader) opposes it, it is said that his testicles will be cut off. This stands as a direct representation of how these men have a fear of losing their masculinity once again. This new found power gives them a mob mentality, and together there is nothing that that they cannot accomplish, with or without the request of Jack (Tyler). The largest act of destruction that was done, which Jack actually tried to stop, was the explosion of all the credit card companys corporate buildings; the falling buildings signify the failure of the masculine corporate world (Violence). During this scene the narrator realizes that he is actually Tyler. He tries to stop the mayhem by killing Tyler by shooting himself in the face. This effectively works but, more importantly there is no sense that the narrators masculinity can be restored since he had to kill his virile counterpart, Tyler Durden (Violence). In the end it was a fruitless chase for a hopeless dream. Fincher closes his argument with the point that men from the 90s have been feminized too much that their masculinity can no longer be restored. Throughout Fight Club director David Fincher portrays the average working class of the 90s American male to be suffering from a loss of masculinity. This occurred from the way they were raised. They were a generation of men raised by women. The narrator uses his addiction to the consumption of IKEA home furnishings to define himself. He is non-confrontational, unmasculine man trapped in his feminized state of mind. This is what makes the narrator create an alter ego of himself that is better looking more masculine and is not controlled by consumerism.

Zygmunt 9 Fight club is formed by the two of them; it becomes the only place where they can actually feel alive. They can feel like a hero and a victim at the same time. As fight club grows, Jack starts to strip away his feminine tendencies and slowly turns into Tyler. Fight club starts to spiral out of control. Jack ends up creating mindless robots who instead of following the rules of society, they follow his rules. He ends it by shooting Tyler in the head and kills him, but he fails to regain his masculinity. Men of this generation are unfortunately bonded with idea of being trapped. Men cannot reach the state of masculinity they desire because they have not had an example in their life to show them how to be a man. They are like women trying to become men, it will never happen. In the end, this generation of men is extremely unfortunate; they have no escape from their trained emasculated minds.

Zygmunt 10 Works Cited Who Were the Greek Warrior Spartans? Feb. 13, 2011. www.essortment.com http://www.essortment.com/were-greek-warrior-spartans-37364.html