“Do you know what a duvet is? It's a blanket. Just a blanket. Is this essential to our survival? No. We're consumers. We're by-products of a lifestyle obsession. Murder, crime, poverty...these things don't concern me. What concerns me is celebrity magazines, television with five hundred channels, some guy's name on my underwear”(29 min.) We are a generation comprised of invidious and conspicuous consumers, desperately trying to meet society’s consumerist criteria; seeking the false promise of the American dream. This is the reality presented in Fincher’s Fight Club (1999), one of “the rawest, most hot-blooded, provocatively audacious, dangerous movies to come of out Hollywood” (Morris, 1999). Through the diverging personalities of the films central characters, Fincher provides a satirical analysis and powerful criticism of consumerism, “echoing countless social critics who bemoan the emasculating effects of consumer culture on once self-defined and autonomous individuals” (Robinson, 2011).
The film is focuses primarily on the life of the [unnamed] narrator, “an exhausted and numb narcoleptic/insomniac suffering from the failed promise of self-fulfillment in a brand-name, corporate driven consumer society” (David, 2002, p. 504.). Completely immersed in consumerism the narrator obsesses over IKEA products in the hope of replicating the so-called perfect and extravagant representations of apartments illustrated in IKEA catalogues. He asserts, “Like everyone else, I had become a slave to the IKEA nesting instinct…I would flip through catalogues and wonder ‘what kind of dining set defines me as a person?” (4 min.) The quintessence of a materialist, the narrator is clearly the product of a consumerist society. His identity crisis is the result of his alienation from social interactions and his overall failure in meeting the rapidly evolving demands of consumerism—“[he is] Jack’s inflamed sense of rejection.” Thus, he is unable to define himself as a single person, often using a different alias such as ‘Jack’ and ‘Cornelius’.
In her analysis of Fight Club, Renee Lockwood identifies the defining role that consumerism plays in establishing modern identity asserting that “modern consumers able to choose from a vast range of identities through products and labels” (Lockwood, 2008, p. 329.). Explicit examples of society’s dependency on consumerism is constantly portrayed through makeovers, where an individual gains a plethora of confidence and social acceptance through the modification of their sense of dress. Thus, we live in a world defined almost entirely by what we own hence the propensity for people to change their identity from time to time.
The film does take a rather unexpected turn with the destruction of the narrator’s beloved condo. An explosion destroys everything and his pursuit for the perfect condo is forced to end prematurely. With literally no friends or family the narrator is forced to turn to the intriguing ‘single-serving friend’...