Fight Club isn't a failed social commentary – it means you missed the point (Vignette Seven)

[Steve’s note – this continues the various short vignettes highlighting parts of Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man Here are links to the introduction, could becoming should, religion, rationalization of brutality, threats that aren’t threats, and the sometimes subtle structures of power.]

Fight Club QuotesOn Wikipedia, there’s a summary of the academic discussion of Fight Club, which calls the movie a failed social commentary.

This is because the movie version of Fight Club straddles the societal rat-maze frame, punching it in the gut repeatedly until it pukes. The movie culminates with a plan to take down the credit agencies and the credit rating agencies. And by “take down”, I mean “blow up the buildings and records”. Erase the underpinnings of societal debt and obligation. Set the score as close to zero as possible.

Instead of focusing on escaping the current worldview by any means – and forcing as many people to do so as possible – the critics comment on it in terms of the current dominant structure. The critics complain about how societal dynamics are ignored. They complain that “democratic notions of political reform” are ignored. They see the violence of the fight clubs as glorifying violence for the sake of violence.

Their one-dimensional thinking misses the point. The character Tyler Durden – both antagonist and protagonist in a dialectic that Marcuse would love – is in the process of smashing those same societal dynamics. Their objections are ultimately irrelevant to Tyler because he’s trying [2] to move past them. The fight clubs are not an end; they are a means to breaking from the trap of one-dimensional thinking.

[1] The ending of the book and the movie differ significantly; the book’s ending is in many ways far less radical.
[2] Yes, I’m aware Tyler Durden is a flawed character and has his own issues. And again, I’m aware the book (and the author in his own life) have even more flaws. Work with me here.