Men in Modern Society: A short essay on Fight Club

this was written for my English 102 class...

In days of old, men were hunters, warriors, protectors, and kings. They had goals even when they were peasants unable to move up in the world. They farmed their food, worked hard, and had goals that were achievable. This gave them a sense of worth and purpose. In modern society, most jobs are office jobs or factory jobs that offer little in the ways of promotions, achievement, and personal satisfaction.The media portrays men as something real men can never measure up to—perfect. In today’s society, men feel that they’ve lost all of their power and purpose and will go to extremes to regain their humanity and masculinity. This theme is presented in the movie Fight Club by means of character, lighting, and symbolism.

“Jack,” the unnamed narrator of the film, who is referred to as such in the script, works for a major car company where his job is to decided whether it’s worth the money for the company to recall cars. Jack lives in an upscale apartment and buys things from the Ikea catalog in an attempt to fill some void in his life. Jack becomes an insomniac and in order to sleep goes to support group meetings. The meetings are for various illnesses, like testicular cancer and blood parasites, where the other people who attend them are dying or at the very least, suffering. They allow him to stare in the face of reality and to cry, which allows him to sleep (or so he thinks). Because Jack’s world is so empty, he relies on the meetings to keep him human.While Jack believes he’s sleeping, he develops another personality—Tyler Durden. Tyler is the opposite of Jack. He won’t sit behind a desk and be bossed around. He works night jobs and plans the rebellion of the middle classes. Tyler blows up Jack’s apartment to “free” him from modern society. They start a Fight Club, where men can fight each other and bring out some of their lost masculinity. Tyler plans to blow up major credit card companies so he can erase the debt record and create chaos. One night he tells Jack his vision of the perfect world and it includes men laying strips of deer hide on abandoned freeways and going back to a simpler time. When Jack realizes that he is Tyler, he tries in vain to stop his plans. Jack destroys Tyler and becomes more like him, willing to rebel against corporate domination. Tyler’s eccentric character represents what men today want to be—good-looking, smart, confident, funny, and not bound by society’s rules. Jack is, until changed by Tyler, what men are struggling with—an average guy with a menial job, no family, and no friends, who tries to compensate for his lack of purpose by buying things he doesn’t need.

The lighting the film Fight Club is also very symbolic. In the office scenes, where Jack continues to struggle with the dullness in his life, the atmosphere is bright. White lighting creates a “normal” feel, although all the men there are trapped in desks. Inside the Fight Club, it’s dark with hues of green and blue. The support meetings Jack attends are dark, whereas the hotel Jack stays in is light and cheery. The darker colors represent the reality that’s constantly in the shadow of the falseness of life, which is represented by brightness.

Symbolism also supports the idea that men in modern society are struggling to regain their lost masculinity and humanity. One of the things Jack buys from Ikea is a yin-yang coffee table. The yin-yang is a Chinese symbol that represents balance using equal parts of light and dark. When Jack’s apartment blows up, he sees the yin-yang table on the ground, damaged by intact. It represents the balance between Jack’s old, unfulfilled life and his regained sense of self-worth and manliness that he gets with Fight Club. Tyler’s soap also serves as another symbol. When Jack first meets Tyler on the plane, Tyler opens his brief case to reveal dainty, pink soaps delicately packaged and wrapped. The soap represents the femininity that bombards men today. During Jack’s business trips, he gets everything in single servings, from soap, to toothpicks, to shampoo. He even calls the people he meets on the plane “Single-Serving” friends. The idea of single-servings relates to the loneliness in modern society. Everything is small and condensed. The yin-yang table, the dainty soap, and the single-serving items are symbols that show modern man’s struggle with modern-day living.

It may be argued that men have plenty to be happy about and plenty that helps them retain their masculinity. There’s WWF, Playboy, higher wages, and all sorts of things men today take for granted. After all, the media pressures women to be perfect, not men, right? And men don’t have that glass ceiling to fight against. But WWF is fake and so are most of the women in Playboy. More and more men today are developing media-induced disorders, like bulimia and anorexia,. Most men today can’t get up to the top level jobs and stuck in remedial jobs that they hate with little or no hope of promotion, just like Jack. Inside the Fight Club, one of Tyler’s speeches talks about how movies, television, and magazines promise the children of modern society that they will grow up to be rock stars, famous sports heroes, rich and happy people but it isn’t true. Men no longer have the power they once had. Men (or women, for that matter) don’t run the world; it’s run by corporations like Starbucks. While a man may be the President of the United States, that’s only one man. Most men can never hope to achieve more than being promoted out of the mailroom. While men do make more money that in days of old, all this does is allow them to buy more stuff they don’t need which doesn’t give them more power or an improved sense of self-worth. Men in today’s society are not taking an age of luxury for granted. Instead, it swallows them into a void of meaninglessness.

Jack’s creation of Tyler Durden was his escape from the constraints of modern society. Tyler’s dream was to bring humanity back to a simpler time when corporations and media didn’t run the world. In his word, men were still men and people’s lives still felt meaningful.