Placing ‘Fight Club’ In The Modern Context | Chuck Palahniuk’s Prophecy of a Decaying World

Placing ‘Fight Club’ In The Modern Context | Chuck Palahniuk’s Prophecy of a Decaying World

What is there left to say about Fight Club? After countless reviews, video commentaries, interviews, and visual-textual analysis, everything that can be said about Chuck Palahniuk’s seminal work has seemingly already been discussed.

However, like any truly significant piece of artwork its messages change with each reading and viewing. As we evolve both individually and culturally, so too has this work adapted and its philosophy become imbued with new and arguably more significant meaning.

We have entered an age of surveillance, consumerism, neuroticism, and domesticity, in which ‘stuff’ has increasingly become our new religion. While the pews were the first to empty, secular spaces would shortly follow. Today, the high-street has become a wasteland, the village hall is in decay, and our neighbours are hidden out of sight.

Palahniuk’s commentary on a society fearful of physicality, pain, and suffering, has become even more pertinent as time has progressed. People are scared… Afraid of the words they read, afraid of the phrases they speak, and now even the air they breathe.

You are not special. You’re not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else. We’re all part of the same compost heap. We’re all singing, all dancing crap of the world.

Tyler Durden

We have become creatures of habit enclosed in a duvet of familiarity… Time is slipping by, but nothing is really happening. We have occupied ourselves with the radio, television, social media, pornography, Amazon Wishlist’s, and the continuous drone of Spotify playlists.

While the Narrator became ‘a slave to the IKEA nesting instinct’, we have succumbed to more sinister influences than Swedish forms of feng shui. Political bodies and corporate interests have expertly maneuvered to mine our data, remove our privacy, and limit our freedom of speech; populous’ have become a series of battery cells… Once consumers of commerce, they are now hubs of information waiting patiently to be sucked dry.  

You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis.

Tyler Durden

We are witnessing the death of individualism; boiled down to nothing but a sludge of data-points that are to be collected and passed around like a joint on a Sunday afternoon. No longer will you simply be defined by what you buy or do, but the viability to which this can be manipulated for social control or profitable gain.

Tyler Durden’s exclamation that, ‘the things you used to own, now they own you’, couldn’t have been a more prophetic statement. For objects have not only come to define our individuality but are the last vestiges of expressing it. Are you even a person if you don’t own a mobile phone? Who are you? What’s your bio? I can’t read it… So, do you even exist?  The consumer has now become the consumed. We are the product. Our lives have become an endless cycle of shitting out information and gorging on the wasted remnants of others.

The Space Monkeys of Project Mayhem have manifested themselves as the brainless thugs of social movements, the unceasing hoard of sheep funnelled through generalised philosophies and parasitic tendencies. However, they are not led by a singular figure – Tyler Durden – but an assortment of lobby groups, paramilitary organisations, banking institutions, politicians, journalists, and tech-corps. It is not ‘in Tyler we trust’, but our own delusions.

Individual identity has been fragmented to such a degree that personalities resemble the intricacies of a DMV form. We have become a set of boxes to be ticked – One-Zero-One-Zero – a binary system in which you are never complete. The redundancy of the Narrator’s life has become our own, we are trapped in the belly of this machine and there is no Fight Club to go too for respite.

May I never be complete. May I never be content. May I never be perfect.

The Narrator

We’re no longer the ‘middle children’ of history, but the firstborn. For we cannot see our future – there is no model for us to base our behaviours or provide us with any sense of direction. The dream that ‘one day we’d all be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars,’ has long since died and been replaced with a hope that we will have the chance to pump gas and wait tables… to simply have a job. However, what remains is that we are ‘very, very pissed off’.

We have no Great war, no Great depression, our great war is a spiritual war, our great depression is our lives.

Tyler Durden

Our parents have left us pampered and docile; we’ve all been told that we will make it, that we are special… That we are unique. Contained in a fantasy that comforts our egos, we have wielded the tools of our own narcissism to build the psychological barriers necessary to continue our existence. But the walls are crumbling… We sense our own failures, the failures of society, and the incoming nuclear warhead that is our own mortality.

*I Am Jack’s Inflamed Sense of Rejection*

The pandemic has left us on the outside looking in. We have been rejected from jobs and internships, we have been denied our ability to communicate, to make relationships, to attend university, enter a clothing store, or fornicate. We are slowly losing hope of returning to a ‘normal’ life, but what is ‘normal’ now anyway? We have crept towards an existence which is based on being reliant on anyone but ourselves; our lack of discipline has been our downfall, in which we have allowed the advantageous to take advantage.

Palahniuk’s conception of a ‘great reset’ built on anarchist principles to ‘build back better’, is indeed occurring, however, it is not being devised by a group of testosterone-fuelled white-collar workers, but an oligarchy of world-leaders bent on devising a society that will work better to benefit their interests. Instead of witnessing rebels without a cause, we have begun to experience what happens when conformists have an agenda.

Fight Club
Illustration by Andrea Miranda

Our patience is spreading thin. We have become a form of bureaucratic paste to be pushed out of a circular tube; unceasing and endless. The dystopian fantasy, which many had dreamed would come to pass is taking place… One step at a time.      

Like Tyler, I see ‘the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential and I see squandering.’ Contained in our houses, our rooms, our beds, and chairs, we have slowly yet surely reduced ourselves to sacks of jellified banality.

Our phone calls and tweets have become a doldrum of regurgitated information, news headlines, and discussions on our latest excursion to Sainsburys. How can conversations occur when there is nothing to converse about?

We are all attempting to self-improve through the creation of art, the written word, new hobbies, exercise, and diets. But can we really better ourselves when there is little to no risk involved in these processes? Propped up by four walls and a set of self-indulgent comforts, how long will we be able to create anything that speaks any form of truth?

“Self-improvement is masturbation. Now self-destruction is the answer.”

Tyler Durden

However, there is hope. While we have been hearded like cattle, the domesticated animal still holds the potential for moments of the untamed. When all the conditions are met a stampede can occur at any time and in his idleness the farmer will be unprepared for this occasion.

People have been penned up for too long; dulled by domesticity they seek to take back control of their lives. We all have our own Tyler Durden living within us… A sophisticated Id that is waiting to be called upon. The question remains however, will we use it?

Maybe we’ve just all met at a very strange time in our lives but I can’t help but think that things are going to get a whole lot stranger…

About The Author

Gregory Segal

While humanity has has continuously ventured into the unknown, today we are on the precipice of a new uncertainty. With covid, political unrest, and economic decline we feel that another sinister turn is just round the corner. Although discussion, art, and storytelling won't necesserily create any solutions for this in the short-term it might provide a conduit for productive thought, or at the very least might take our minds off our current reality.

1 Comment

  1. Ricardo

    I am reading this while eating from a tupperware at my 12 hrs.-a-day job. I absolutely share thinking on your lines. I could only add to them (concerning Western-self named ‘industrialized’ countries) is people in general has assumed all that as something natural or good for themselves, and saddest is that probably this is because of our egoism and self comfort. So 1st responsability is ours, not of some kind of external being controlling us. Saddest and worst is we are not thinking about and seems we will not doit due to that mentioned egoism + self convenience priority ehich could explain all the rest


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