Fight Club and Marxist Media theory Objective • Understand how to analyse Fight Club from a Marxist media perspective Marxism 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’ anything. 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 himself. Hegemony in Fight Club • Hegemony = unnatural dominance of one social class over another, made to seem natural and normal by (implied) consent • '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 hegemony 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 Club?