Annemarie has a theory that our friend Thomas is a cat. The fact that Annemarie went to college in the early 2000s and has not seen Fight Club leads me to give credence to my (mostly in jest) theory that she is an actual Disney princess. An Enchanted type situation is the only possible reason here, right? FINE, it’s implausible. But so is having made it half-way though 2017 and still not having seen Fight Club. But here we are. We finally watched it, and now we’re going to tell our tale. Annemarie, you know what to do. Kick us off.
AM: Fight Club was one of those movies that I was pretty sure I’d seen parts of. I knew the big reveal, that was for sure. And as it turned out, I had only seen one scene, and I only knew part of the reveal, but we’ll get to that. The scene I’d seen was the one where Brad Pitt and Edward Norton first steal the bags of fat (just typing that makes me kind of gag), and Brooke and I determined that was a scene from a Scene It game of some kind? At any rate, because the content is rather off-putting, I wasn’t inspired to watch the rest of the movie. It’s just one of those that slipped through the cracks, even though I saw the various Fight Club posters throughout college as they were owned by pretty much every dude I knew in the early 2000s.
But now to my impressions of the film itself, now that it’s confirmed that I’ve seen the whole damn thing. It was just as weird as I thought it would be, but I liked it. I’d like to hear Brooke’s film student perspective on the various metaphors at play here, but there’s a lot to unpack here about how we craft our own realities, the dangers of consumerism, etc.
Also, Brad Pitt has never looked better. Too bad he isn’t real!
B: I’m so glad you agree that Mr. Pitt is at the peak of his beauty here. I think I floated that thought as the movie started, so I’m glad to hear you confirm it now. We’re still friends. To be fair, though, I would also have accepted long hair, no beard Brad from Legends of the Fall or miraculously 20-again Brad from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button as contenders. You have seen both of those, yes?
Anyway, I’d like to note that I had a Fight Club poster on my walls in college too. And I may or may not currently possess a canvas print that involves soap. But, I digress. You wanted to talk about metaphor? That’s quite a doozy to start us with. But, as Tyler Durden is basically a metaphor for the silent desperation that eats away at those whose lives have been taken hostage by consumerism, it’s a valid topic.
Still, I think one of my favorite things about this picture, and Chuck Palahniuk, the beautiful, twisted mind who brought us this story, is that he rarely leans on metaphor. So much of the story is out there, boldly, defying us to question it. Take our narrator. He confesses to us his sins at the altar of IKEA and other such icons of commerce almost immediately. He’s literally existing on fancy trinkets and condiments. And it’s killing him. What’s the cure for his insomnia? Losing himself in other people’s catastrophes and grief, because he doesn’t have enough of a life to have those things on his own. Damn, that’s bleak, and we haven’t even gotten to the Fight Club bit, or my very favorite character, Marla Singer.
My thoughts on Marla and the movement we watch unfold are myriad, but first, I want to hear yours AM. Do you buy into what Tyler’s selling? Do you find Marla to be the MVP I consider her? Did you pick up any interesting facts from Mr. Durden?
A: First, the learnings from Tyler Durden / The Person Edward Norton Wishes He Could Be. I want to pull in this quote because this is my favorite moment:
Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.
That, to me, is the crux of what this film’s about. We were sold a promise through advertising and it’s a lie. Now, you and I are both in the marketing/ad biz and so we know this to be true yet not true. You can’t exactly outright lie in an advertisement, that’s illegal. But you can sell a lifestyle and products that make up that lifestyle. Ads are aspirational, but how can you not internalize it and think you need the perfect life sold in magazine full-page glossies? We’re all dead inside but we’ve got nice stuff. Bleak, hopefully not entirely true, but present in the backs of our minds and what drives Ed to have a personality break. I’m assuming what we’re dealing with here is a split personality disorder? Is that what The Beautiful Mind guy had? Inventing people?
You’ll be assured to know that I have seen Legends of the Fall and also Benjamin Button. Fun stories for both! The former I saw on a plane when I was 11 or 12 (one of the first times I ever flew) and was probably the second R-rated movie I saw, after Pretty Woman. The latter I saw pre-release at the Paramount Studios when I lived in L.A. My sister and I barely made it in time because: L.A. traffic.
Onto Marla. I will be honest, I couldn’t quite get a read on her. She wasn’t seemingly aware that her boyfriend actually thought his roommate was her boyfriend, but that’s got to be quite the mindfuck when it became apparent that something was wrong. I do enjoy that she swooped in on Ed’s turf and straight-up refused to leave. What else are you thinking when you call her the film’s MVP?
Ok, weigh in please on my psychological assessment of Mr. Norton, more details on why you love Marla and also, let’s agree never to talk about the violence inflicted on Jared Leto’s face.
B: So, AM, do you think Marla thinks there are two people there? I mean, I thought you knew the reveal here? And you do seem on the level that Tyler is a figment, but now we’re throwing a roommate into Marla’s experience? MY BRAIN. But, that description aside, I think you’re correct in your suspicion that there are multiple personalities at play here, I think the pros these days call it Disassociate Identity Disorder — more on that when we finally watch United States of Tara.
I love the quote you pulled out, it’s iconic, and it kind of burns onto your brain. Though I must admit, I rather expected you to tell me that your primary learning was the fact that “with enough soap, one can blow up just about anything,” or the observation that the oxygen masks on airplanes get you high. But. You’ve inspired me to share some of my own favorite lines:
From the narrator: “On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everything drops to zero.”
Also from the narrator: “Marla… the little scratch on the roof of your mouth that would heal if only you could stop tonguing it, but you can’t.”
And speaking of Marla, here’s one more, before we get into her: “Marla’s philosophy of life is that she might die at any moment. The tragedy, she said, was that she didn’t.”
Now, you and I both know that I adore Helena Bonham Carter, and this picture was probably what launched that affection. I love that Marla, like Tyler, is free in all of the ways our narrator is not. She doesn’t go to the groups as a crutch, she goes there cause it’s cheaper than a movie and the coffee is free. She has the brass to go to a testicular cancer group. That’s a twisted kind of gumption you just don’t get from too many women on the screen. She’s part femme fatale, part enigma and all entertainment value.
She experiences the narrator as “Tyler,” and yet she still sees through every single insecurity he has and calls him on his nonsense. She’s of one mind, but she matches the narrator shift for shift, creating a relationship that even his badass alter ego cannot manipulate. Marla is a wild card. Marla is a chaos factor. Marla says things like: “I haven’t been fucked like that since grade school.” In short, (too late, I know), she’s dynamic.
I’m going to follow that request to never mention that time Jared Leto got pounded until his face looked like so many bits of hamburger meat. But, I am going to insist that you tell me your thoughts on some of the more scattered elements of this narrative. By the time it’s all over, you can almost forget that it started with therapy groups, or that the “I am Jack’s” observations were born of a moldering old educational pamphlet. What’s your favorite curious little building block of this strange world?
A: I actually pinpointed the moment where Marla realized she was dealing with a split personality or that there was something weird going on. So yes, I think she at first thought her new boyfriend was just kind of a weirdo, but there’s absolutely a flash in her eyes when she’s like…’hmmmmm maybe this dude is legit crazy?’ as she’s storming out of the kitchen.
More about Marla. I know you want to talk about her more. I do like that she walks into a testicular cancer support group with no MO and no reason for being there other than the experience. She’s a traveler of unique worlds, and this oddball support group seems to be her way in. When I moved away from home for college I had these moments where I would be the oddball girl out because I was from Colorado and felt like I could say whatever I wanted because no one knew me. That changes the more you spend time with a group of people, but there’s a thrill in that newness, that displacement. And isn’t that why we like our film characters? Because they remind us of moments in our lives that felt irreplaceable and unique?
As far as random moments, I want to talk about Bob’s boobs. I don’t know why that moment sticks with me, but Ed Norton nuzzling into Meat Loaf’s fake chest feels emblematic of this movie. It’s random, it’s comforting and it’s so so weird.
I don’t know if I have any further questions for you, so I’ll ask if you have any additional discussion items? More to talk about on the topic of soap?
B: Oh Bob, I love that moment too. Almost as much as I love him walking down the street with a whole box of donuts just munching away. And the way that he tosses one over his shoulder and licks every one of his fingers before hugging the Narrator. He’s such a bright spot in a picture that’s about as dark as it gets. I think I am fresh out of points of discussion around soap, except to point out that Brad Pitt ranting about soap is one of my favorite cinematic tropes. See also: 12 Monkeys. And so, as we wind down our discussion about Fight Club, I’ll leave you with this final question: If you could fight any historical figure, who would you fight?
A: Ahem. I haven’t seen 12 Monkeys. I don’t know if that surprises you or not.
Good question! You know I’m a pacifist, but there are some unpleasant people that could use a punch to the face. Hitler seems a good choice, so I’ll go with him. How about you? And also, since I mentioned a punch to the face, answer me this: is it (hypothetically) more satisfying to think about punching someone in the face or flicking them in the forehead? And also, why?
B: As ever, we’re in general agreement. I’m not one to spoil for a fight, but as I trust you to destroy Hitler with your AM rage, I shall choose to take on Thomas Edison. You know I have beef with him. And for everyone else, either you know why, or you will come to know why when you Google all of the ways in which he was a garbage human. This isn’t Twitter, but still, don’t @ me.
And in answer to your final question, I shall refuse to follow the path you laid out before me. I say the most satisfying to imagine is the throat punch. The why there is easy. The throat punch is a weapon that must be reserved for people most deserving, so after you bring them to their knees with said throat punch, you can cry “You KNOW why!” and walk away triumphantly.
A: You know, there’s something richly satisfying about a throat punch, but I also want to introduce the “drink to the face” revenge. I dream of a moment where I could throw a dry martini in someone’s face. Someone who deserved it. And of course, they would know why.
We’re going from dark and depressing to nearly forgotten — which is to say Annemarie has unearthed yet another Disney car movie.