The Effects Of Postmodernity On Masculinity

1919 words - 8 pages

Over time, the United States has experienced dramatic social and cultural changes. As the culture of the United States has transformed, so have the members of the American society. Film, as with all other forms of cultural expression, oftentimes reflects and provides commentary on the society in which it is produced. David Fincher’s 1999 film Fight Club examines the effects of postmodernity on masculinity. To examine and explicate these effects, the film presents an unnamed narrator, an everyman, whose alter-ego—in the dissociative sense—is Tyler Durden. Durden represents the narrators—thus every man’s—deep-seated desire to break free from the mind-numbing, emasculating world that is postmodern, post-industrial America.
Throughout time, literature—including films which are culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant—has reflected the cultural psyche of a particular society in the sense that it brings attention to and defines conditions which exist within a particular society. Fight Club is a postmodern drama that examines the impact of a post-industrial society (within this paper, the terms “postmodern” and “post-industrial” are used interchangeably and assume the same meaning) on masculinity within American culture. Postmodernity, according to David Macey’s Dictionary of Critical Theory (307-309), began with the period of accelerated growth that immediately followed World War II, and the era is characterized by increased growth in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Thus, as Macey paraphrases economist Ernest Belgian, “…in the postwar period, market capitalism…[has] been superseded by a third technological revolution that gives rise to an era of…late capitalism;” that is, the technological revolution marks the beginning of post-industrial America (308). Macey states that “The importance of manual and physical labour declines as continuous flows of production and computerized control come to dominate industry…” (308). In essence, postmodernity is the period of time during which there is a decline in industrialism and a rise in technology. That is to say that, logically, as a result of the decline in industrialism, individuals are forced into post-industrial professions which, as Fight Club argues, have the tendency to emasculate men. Lynn Ta states that during this period of technological advance, there is an “excessive push for profits and excessive consumerism,” and with that, there is a “…damaging [effect] on…American masculinity” (265).
Prior to and during the period of industrialization, men in the United States were laborers who produced goods, either on the homestead or in a factory. Men took part in the production process and were able to see the fruits of their labor, the goods which they produced and labored for. As a result of the decline in manual and physical labor associated with the technological revolution, men were removed from the production process and became, as Ta argues,...

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