The issue at the heart of the David Fincher film, Fight Club, is not that of man’s rebellion against a society of “men raised by women”. This is a film that outwardly exhibits itself as promoting the resurrection of the ‘ultra-male’, surreptitiously holding women accountable for the decay of manhood. However, the underlying truth of the film is not of resisting the force of destruction that is ‘woman’, or of resisting the corruption of manhood at her hand, but of penetrating the apathy needed to survive in an environment ruled by commercial desire, not need. In reality, Fight Club is a careful examination, through parody, of what it means to be a man; carefully examining the role of women in a society busy rushing towards sexual homogeneity. Proponents of lesbian feminist theory, and feminist theorists such as Hélène Cixous and Julia Kristeva, would dismiss Fight Club as mere validation of their conceptualized male, of the “phallocrat”, for its sympathetic portrayal of the whining, emasculated modern-male, and his ‘oppression’ at the hands of a society that values submission over independence (Kristeva 476).
At the beginning of Fight Club, Jack, the protagonist, is a disaffected corporate peon, another “slave to the IKEA nesting instinct”. His apartment reflects his personality, but not in the way he thinks—what his addiction to “clever furniture” does, is reveal the commercially dependent worker-bee for what he is. The film has caricatured modernity, mocking our dependence upon comforts and extravagance, while suggesting that—with the crack at maternity (“nesting instinct”)—masculinity has departed. Jack represents the decay of conceptualized masculinity; his society needs his intellect, not his back. Jack finds himself drawn to support groups where he might revel in the misery of others, uncovering his growing infatuation with pain (in effect, a new addiction). These support groups (notably, the testicular cancer survivors’ group, “Remaining Men Together”) give Jack the emotional stimulation he so desperately craves. It is the enveloping comfort of cathartic release that is his salve; but, like all addictions, tolerance sets in, and the fix must be elevated. Henry A. Giroux, in his essay “Private Satisfactions and Public Disorders: Fight Club, Patriarchy, and the Politics of Masculine Violence”, maintains the argument that Hollywood films, being in a position of public pedagogy, exhibit a great deal of influence and must be regarded carefully; he criticizes the film, saying Fight Club:
…offers up particular notions of agency in which white working class and middle class men are allowed to see themselves as oppressed and lacking because their masculinity has been compromised by and subordinated to those social and economic spheres and needs that constitute the realm of the feminine.
Giroux sees the film “satirizing and condemning the ‘weepy’ process of femininization” that therapy groups offer as compensation for wounds it inflicted upon...