The film “Fight Club” is about a man suffering from mental illness who has developed an alter ego that is desperately trying to break from societies norms by any means possible. In this film the narrator meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) who ends up being a figment of his imagination. The narrator sees Tyler as the person that he wishes he could be, he represents the symbolic model for a man. The use of Gender roles throughout the film shows the characters defiance against the norms for genders in society. As well as gender, the use of violence in the film is important in showing these values of men and women. Also, through the defiance of gender roles and the use of violence a patriarchal society is formed.
For the longest time the “ideal man” has been seen as a tall, strong and dominant person. “Men, on the other hand, are presumed by traditional views of gender roles to be leaders. The traditional view of the masculine gender role, therefore, suggests that men should be the heads of their households by providing financially for the family and making important family decisions.” (Blackstone, Amy, 2003, pg. 337) Over the last 30 years or so this depiction of the ideal man has begun to fade into a whole new meaning.
As feminism has begun to challenge men’s dominance over society, the social role for men has changed. Men used to have a very specific role in society, and that was seen as providing and protecting his family and home. Modern day society and feminism reject these ideals. “We are a generation of men raised by women”, this is a quote from Tyler Durden in the movie fight club. This quote explains the change in gender roles and shows how feminism has reconstructed the social norms for men. This film shows the roles of men and women in a couple of different ways. It shows the social norms for men, or what the “ideal man” is perceived as, “married, white, urban, northern, heterosexual, protestant, father, of college education, fully employed, of good complexion, weight and height, and a decent record in sports.” (Dalton Conley), 2017, pg.291) throughout the film we see how the narrator tries to escape these norms. One scene in the movie we see the narrator’s apartment was blown up, an apartment that was filled with all his valuables and possessions (Ikea Furniture). The narrator seems upset about this at first but later in the film it explains how Tyler Durden was the one who blew it up. As explained before Tyler Durden was only a figment of the narrator’s imagination, so it was actually the narrator that blew up his own apartment. He did this to try to break away from his life and the social norms associated with the apartment. Such as the value people see in material possessions and how they idolize name brands over their own identity. The apartment represents the narrator’s femininity and him blowing it up represents him reconnecting to his masculine side.
The use of violence in the film plays a key role in showing the attempt to break away from norms of society and the new gender role for men. The purpose of the creation of the fight club in the movie was for men to come and express themselves through fighting and violence. Through violence the narrator attempts to break free from society and reestablish the fading masculinity in modern society. The character Bob in the film is a former champion body builder who had his testicles removed due to testicular cancer. He is seen in the movie attending testicular cancer support groups where he seeks comfort for his lost masculinity. He was once strong and independent but know is weak and dependent on others. He joins the fight club in attempt to feel less emasculated and gain some feeling of pride he once felt. The use of fighting and violence helps men to reestablish their masculinity they have lost because of society and everyday life. There is a scene in the movie where the narrator is fighting the character called Angel Face, the narrator takes the fight too far and beats him until he is almost unrecognizable. After this the narrator says, “I felt like destroying something beautiful.” This quote represents the destruction of modern society and what the narrator/ Tyler Durden have planned for the future. The use of violence in the film tells a lot about American manhood. Its shows that to be a “man” one must express himself through violence and dominance over others. Violence and the fight club is the first step to the rebellion against the society raised by women. It so influential and appealing to men that feel disconnected to their masculine side because of society.
There was only one female character throughout the entire film. This is the character Marla, she is portrayed as a masculine and brave female. She shows the same traits that the narrator has developed in his alter ego, Tyler Durden. In the beginning of the film it does not display a patriarchal society, but as the movie went on it began to develop in it one. As the narrator becomes more masculine he becomes more hostile and crueler towards Marla. It shows male dominance in society as well as in individual relationships. There are no females involved in the project mayhem and in Marla and the narrator’s relationship it is very one sided and controlled by the male. Tyler Durden treats her very poorly and kicks her out of the home as soon as he no longer wants her there. “patriarchal institutions and social relations are responsible for the inferior or secondary status of women. Patriarchal society gives absolute priority to men and to some extent limits women’s human rights also. Patriarchy refers to the male domination both in public and private spheres.” (Abeda Sultana, 2012, pg. 1)
Gender roles played a large role in the film fight club. It shows the change in society and the emasculation of the modern-day man. Tyler Durden forms a fight club and develops this plan to reconstruct society into how he feels it should be, he does this by aligning the gender constructs, so men regain their lost masculinity, recreating a patriarchal society and influencing people through violence.
Conley, Dalton. You May Ask Yourself: An Introduction to Thinking Like a Sociologist. Core 3rd ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2013.
Blackstone, Amy. 2003. “”Gender Roles and Society.”” Pp 335-338 in Human Ecology: An Encyclopedia of Children, Families, Communities, and Environments, edited by Julia R. Miller, Richard M. Lerner, and Lawrence B. Schiamberg.
Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. ISBN I-57607-852-3 -Sultana, Abeda. “Patriarchy and Women’s Subordination: A Theoretical Analysis.” Arts Faculty Journal, vol. 4, 2012