Fight Club and Marxist theory - A-Level Film Studies at Shire Oak

Fight Club and Marxist Media
• Understand how to analyse Fight Club from a
Marxist media perspective
At the heart of Marxism, there is a
dialectic – a binary opposition – a
linked pair of ideas.
On the one hand, you have
capitalism, the ideology wherein
gaining capital – or wealth – is the
basis for society. This leads to
society being hierarchical. On the
other you have communism, where
the common good, and equality, are
the basis of society. This leads to
society being homogeneous –
similar at all levels.
Marxism says: SMASH THE SYSTEM!
Key ideas of Marxism
1. Individuals have sold their capacity to make other people
money – generating capital or wealth - by working in a job.
This is an unfair relationship as their employers make more
money from it than they do.
2. The people in power seek to maintain this relationship
because it means they have a way of controlling everyone
(they can always refuse to pay you).
3. If only we woke up and realised this was the case, and
changed things in our favour, the world would be a better
place entirely.
Marxist media theory says that we cannot trust the media,
because they are run by the people in power, and therefore
maintain the status quo, rather than being agents for change.
Marxism and the Media
The Media are agents of capitalism.
They present a popular viewpoint
and ignore unpopular ideas.
Films / TV programmes are
repetitive to give the public what
they want – soothing them, and
keeping them in fear (news?) –
while telling them to buy things.
They amplify society’s ideals, and
reflect what the world is like. In this
sense they cannot ever ‘change’
It is up to the individual to reject
the media and seek out his/her
own opinion.
Therefore the major tenet is...
• To create, we have to destroy (you can’t
criticise anything unless you first adopt the
arguments of the thing you want to criticise)
Fight Club is the gun to the head of
consumerist America. The pistol's cocked.
Say what you will about the explicit nature
of the fight scenes, or director Fincher's
tendency to trip up his storytelling with his
fixation on stylism -- he wants us to stop
reading the J. Crew catalogue, turn off
"Must See TV," and ask what the hell our
lives really mean.
- Robert Zimmer
How can we view Fight Club from a
Marxist perspective?
• Tyler Durden = revolutionary
• If this is a Marxist document, why are there
rules of Fight Club? Why is Fight Club, itself an
agent of Marxist change, seeking to assert its
own dominance and hierarchical structure?
• How far should we take the film seriously as a
manifesto for political change?
Fight Club and Marxism
The narrator is a card-carrying member of
capitalist society, until he rejects the
aspirational ideals of his way of life and
chooses their binary opposite.
Before, his home was a perfect replica of a
catalogue. After, he squatted in a derelict
house in a run-down area of town.
Before, he cared about his appearance and
wore designer clothes; he fitted in. After, he
took care to disfigure himself; he stood out.
Before, he was a nameless individual. After,
he had invented multiple personalities for
Hegemony in Fight Club
• Hegemony = unnatural dominance of one social class over
another, made to seem natural and normal by (implied)
• 'Consent must be constantly won and rewon, for people's
material social experience constantly reminds them of the
disadvantages of subordination and thus poses a threat to
the dominant class... Hegemony... posits a constant
contradiction between ideology and the social experience
of the subordinate that makes this interface [the media]
into an inevitable site of ideological struggle’ (Fiske, 1992)
• Therefore, Fight Club makes this contradiction explicit, and
is therefore itself an agent of the struggle against
An apparent contradiction
• OK, so this is a film (a media product) which
seeks to change the system by showing us
how it’s supposed to be.
• It’s financed by big business (Fox) so...
• It uses big business (multinational film/cinema
corporations) to explore the very ideas that
seek to destroy big business.
• WHY?
How can we apply Marxism to Fight

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