Fight Club: Relevance 20 Years Later

By Jeffrey Ellison Posted 4/1/2020 in ENTERTAINMENT

The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club.

Edward Norton in Fight Club

Let’s jump right in here and start breaking some rules. That is what Fight Club was all about, right? Maybe and maybe not. Chuck Palahniuk’s novel had a following before the film was even released, but the 1999 film moved right into the classic movie category, where it’s stayed till this day. Classic or not, the question is relevance today. Is either the book or the movie relevant today? Well, let’s slide down that path a like penguin on ice and take a look at Fight Club 20 years later.

fight club quote

Before we can start our analysis, let’s take a step back and review the plot. The narrator (Edward Norton) has lost his place in the world. He was a cog in a machine and spun like a good cog, but his spokes were clearly wearing down or just plain broken. If the machine was working, it wasn’t because of him. He was taken in the grip of insomnia as the film states, “When you have insomnia, you are never really asleep, and you are never really awake.” That statement almost defines the film, which maintains a dream-like quality from beginning to end. In this dream-like state, the narrator begins to distance himself from societal norms. He searches for validation though the fraudulent use of a multitude of cancer and victim support groups, only to find he’s not the only fraud in the room. Marla, perfectly played by Helena Bonham Carter, appears to be his female flipside, a fellow fraudster. The support groups are all he has and Marla’s going to ruin it, but things change when he meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt).  

fight club

The film takes a sharp turn into the abandonment of all things material. “Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.” The narrator demands release from the rat race. He moves in with Durden and finds freedom in squalor. The pair form an underground boxing club with other like-minded emasculated and alienated men. However, this club quickly takes on a more sinister purpose, and the narrator takes us through its development from underground fight club to Project Mayhem, a terrorist organization whose sole purpose is to eradicate the meaningless vacuum of modernity.

The big twist of course is…Hold on… Can we have a spoiler 20 years after a film is released? Well, if this is your introduction to Fight Club, stop reading now. Wait a second. If you haven’t seen Fight Club, why are you even reading this? Ok, so if the film is still relevant, you’ll watch it? Fair enough. In that case, those that haven’t seen the film, jump down to the next section. What the hell is wrong with you people anyway. Where was I? The big reveal. Right, so of course the narrator has been splitting from reality the whole film. He’s been fighting with himself, and to stop Tyler Durden, he’s got to kill him.


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Despite the current 79% Rotten Tomato score, Fight Club was a box office flop. Director David Fincher had already made a name for himself with his previous films and, even without the star power of the evolved actors, there was a high likelihood for success even if unknowns had been cast. At the time of Fight Club’s release, Fincher was riding high after the success of Seven staring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman. Fincher’s distinct stylized visuals and storytelling choices earned the director a loyal fan following. Fincher’s films include Gone Girl, Zodiac, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Social Network, and Panic Room. He’s received multiple Academy Award nominations and won several Golden Globe Awards. Fight Club’s gross revenue has topped 100 million and continues to grow.

david fincher

Relevance 20 Years Later?

So, this was our original quandary. Is Brad Pitt asking Edward Norton to hit him as hard as he can still relevant today? While asking, “who am I?”, Fight Club succeeded in asking, “who are we.” The film was ahead of its time in addressing the place and displacement of men in modern society. In a “me too” world grasping for gender equality and embracing gender fluidity, the film is shockingly relevant today. The abandonment of societal norms in search of the self is reflected in the modern generation of millennials. The narrator soberly portrays all that is lacking in modern-life, and the film is never able to profess solutions to any of these problems.

Yes, here we have a 20-year-old film that’s a mirror refection of today. Many of the film’s questions are even more applicable now than they were at the point of release, and it serves as a 120-minute mouthpiece for the frustrated and unsatisfied. Fight Club continues to warrant repeated viewing and the observer quickly becomes the participant when they realize every re-watch creates more questions than it grants answers. Whether first-time viewing or tenth-time viewing, there is no doubt Fight Club is not only relevant, but has become more relevant with age.

Viewed as simple entertainment or social commentary, Fight Club still packs a punch.