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Philosophy drives ‘Fight Club’

The words. The thoughts. The ideas. The philosophy. The rage.

When you listen to Tyler Durden speak in Fight Club, you fall into one of two categories — either you know exactly what he’s saying or you want to hear more.

“Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate, so we can buy s— we don’t need. … The things you own, end up owning you.” It’s the mantra that was conceived by author Chuck Palahniuk who created “two” characters fed up with their mundane life.

But the film is more than an anti-consumerism statement. That’s just the catalyst to letting go of one’s material possessions.

“You’re not your job,” Tyler (Brad Pitt) says. “You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your f—— khakis. You’re the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.”

And with that, the fragile snowflake inside all of us realizes there’s more to life than the new furniture in our apartments. The concept of a fight club as a means to getting back to one’s primal senses is both original and trite.

The philosophy that follows the plot’s inception prevents the film from becoming the latter.

Rather than using an underground boxing club to simply release pent-up rage, the two main characters start their own religion, an isolation from the fake world, and start to become more authentic. They even live like monks — albeit violent and sexual monks.

When Tyler says, “We’re the middle children of history, man,” he’s speaking to the youth generation of today. “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.”

This movie is an inspiration more than anything. But is it designed to inspire anarchy, as the “space monkey-Project Mayhem” third-act suggests? Or, is it an exploration into discovering man’s purpose as a hunter “in a society of shopping”?

When Roger Ebert reviewed Fight Club in 1999, he wrote, “a lot more people will leave this movie and get in fights than will leave it discussing Tyler Durden’s moral philosophy.” The irony is that today, Fight Club is discussed in college philosophy classes.

The notion of “hitting bottom” is present throughout as the driving force of the Narrator’s (Edward Norton’s) evolution in the film. He, like the audience, is inspired by Tyler to stop listening to others to find his happiness on his own.

“How much do you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight? … It’s not until you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything. … Self-improvement is masturbation. Now, self-destruction …”

Eventually, the Narrator lets go and finally achieves “the ability to let that which does not matter truly slide.”

In the end, the narrator is on a path that will benefit him more spiritually and romantically than his existence of consumerism and insomnia. He had to fight the world in order to escape — and ultimatley, find — himself.

Who knows? Perhaps we can learn something about ourselves after watching Fight Club. As Tyler would say, “Let’s evolve, and let the chips fall where they may.”

Contact Will Albritton at

Thursdays this semester, Oracle Entertainment Editor Will Albritton has listed what he considers the best movies of the past decade. This is the last in a 10-part series. Next week’s follow-up column will include films that didn’t make the cut.