Plagiarizing is wrong, and you’re dumb for resorting to it

December 7, 2007 - 3:19 am Comments Off on Plagiarizing is wrong, and you’re dumb for resorting to it

Because I’m getting so many hits for people searching for “fight club paper,” I’m going to include the text of my paper in this entry so that Google can index it and suspicious profs can look it up. Suck it, intellectual property thieves.

Dirt, Water, and the Subconscious in Fight Club

Where is my mind?
Way out in the water –
See it swimmin’?
–The Pixies, “Where is My Mind?”

If a myth is a cultural dream, what does that make the myth that reviles its own culture? On its surface, the movie Fight Club is a scathing examination of a materialistic and acquisitive society. There are no easy answers to where the movie stands in terms of its love/hate relationship with its culture. However, on a deeper level, the story leads the viewer through the classic stages of myth, allowing the protagonist to undergo separation, liminality, and reaggregation as he comes to terms with the darkest depths of his subconscious. Through the binary opposites of filth and cleanliness – dirt and soap – Fight Club brings together the profane and the sacred in the narrator’s search for his own identity.

The narrator starts the movie in a state of liminality: neither here nor there, crippled by insomnia. He remarks, “When you have insomnia you’re never really asleep and you’re never really awake.” Tyler Durden, the narrator’s alternate personality, takes advantage of the narrator’s already-dissociated state to separate him from the rest of society and ensconce him in the house on Paper Street. It is not until the very end of the movie, when the narrator kills Tyler by shooting himself in the jaw, that he is reaggregated with society as a whole. These three stages – liminality, separation, and reaggregation – take place in a story that is darkly permeated with both literal and figurative dirt.

Mary Douglas discussed mythological dirt, the unconscious dark stuff that threatens conventions and causes humans to create systems to control and categorize that which is seen as unclean. Fight Club is a perfect example of dirt taking a starring role in a story and turning it into not just a struggle between characters, but a tug of war between sacred and profane. The movie uses grit, bodily fluids, dirt, and water to shine a bright light on the dark recesses of the protagonist’s mind and reveal the unclean, scary stuff inside.

Almost every setting in the movie seems dingy and dirty. The house in which the narrator and Tyler live is a monument to decay: wallpaper peeling, broken appliances, filthy mattresses. The eponymous fight club takes place in a dank bar basement. The narrator’s beloved belongings are blown up, left in a smoking, charred heap at the base of his apartment building. Fight Club itself is filmed in a very gritty, dark style; dark and drab colors are the norm throughout with one exception: Tyler Durden. Durden, the other aspect of the narrator’s personality, wears flashy, bright clothes and has an ebullient personality that provides a striking contrast to the rest of the characters. Since the viewers are seeing the movie’s world through the eyes of the narrator, it appears that dirt has taken over his life, and the only bright spot he can see is the spark of life belonging to Tyler. This situation becomes more severe as the movie progresses. This paper is plagiarized. At the beginning, the narrator is in a clean, orderly, Ikea-furnished condo and wears starched white shirts and ties to work; by the end, he’s in the disgusting abode on Paper Street wearing rumpled, unwashed clothing that he occasionally tries to clean in the sink. This slow progression of dirt proceeds neck and neck with Tyler’s rise to power over the narrator’s consciousness.

Perhaps most telling of the function that dirt plays in the movie is the death of Bob, a hapless follower of Project Mayhem who is shot by the police after being caught during an act of anarchic terrorism. Bob is buried in the garden behind the house on Paper Street. He is literally covered with dirt. The death of Bob is the last straw for the narrator in dealing with Tyler, and it is after this horrible act that the narrator pulls out all the stops to discover who Tyler really is. Interestingly, after the narrator finds that he himself is Tyler, the movie’s references to dirt and decay virtually end. He has identified the cause of the filth and been able to categorize it, thus reducing its power over his subconscious in particular and his life in general.

A liberal use of bodily fluids accompanies dirt as a means of forcing society to face the unknown and terrifying. This is first seen when the narrator attends the Becoming Men Together testicular cancer group therapy session and cries with Bob. After the narrator’s weeping ends, he looks shocked to see tearstains all over Bob’s shirt – and that evening, he is able to sleep for the first time in weeks. The act of sharing fluids serves as a communion between the two men, which makes Bob’s death later in the movie that much more difficult for the narrator to bear.

More than just tears, blood and urine also plays an important role in terms of unwanted filth that challenges conventions. After the fight club begins, the narrator almost constantly has blood somewhere about his person, whether dried on his face and clothing or seeping from fresh wounds gotten at fight club. Although he does make some attempt at first to scrub away the blood stains, as time progresses, cleanliness seems to matter to him less and less. He embraces the chaos that blood represents, and he and Tyler take blood to the next level by using it to scare people. The narrator does so passively – flashing his coworkers a gory grin during a boring movie; or beating himself up in his boss’s office, spattering blood everywhere, in order to gain a severance package that will fund his anarchic activities. Tyler terrifies the owner of the fight club’s bar into allowing activities to continue there, taunting him with cries of, “You don’t know where I’ve been!” while spattering the bar owner with blood. The fact that he is able to gain leverage in this gruesome mockery of communion displays society’s general fear of AIDS and other blood-borne diseases.

Not only that, but Tyler and his minions silently use bodily fluids to adulterate food in fancy restaurants. They use this manner of exposing the upper echelons of society unwittingly to filth as a not-so-silent protest against consumerism. In fact, Project Mayhem takes this protest a step further by encouraging pigeons to defecate on the expensive cars in a dealership parking lot. The symbology here is obvious: “I crap on your fancy automobile.” Not only that, but Tyler literally injects the profane into what might otherwise be considered something innocent and pure: he splices frames from pornographic movies into childrens’ films. The scenes are not enough, he says, for them to know what they are seeing, but enough to disturb them greatly. In this way, Tyler himself is the dirt, spreading himself all over everything he sees, but most especially affecting the narrator’s own mores and thresholds. He challenges the values of the narrator the same way that the profane challenges what is at the heart of culture.

When water appears in a myth, it is said to represent the subconscious. Things that emerge from underwater are revelations that one makes about one’s self. Water plays an important role in “Fight Club,” exhibiting that there are deep and dirty depths of the narrator’s psyche coming to the surface. At first, the narrator dreams of his plane crashing into the water; he is afraid at what is surfacing and wants to hide down in his subconscious. After he moves into the Paper Street house, all the water he encounters is tainted. It flows brown and rusty from the pipes. Yet he embraces it; he uses this gross water to brush his teeth without showing any sort of concern. He uses the dark water to wash out the blood stains in his clothing. He drops a loose tooth down the drain and lets the swirl of mucky water wash it down. This paper is plagiarized. Could this symbolize his willingness to subjugate his power to his subconscious? And significantly, twice his subconscious personality, Tyler Durden, is shown emerging from the water: once when he is in the bath tub conversing with the narrator, and once when he is attempting to remove a fuse in the basement with water up past his knees – a dangerous, almost foolhardy act. However, Tyler seems invincible. Although he is in what appears to be a prime situation to be electrocuted, he causes sparks to fly while half-underwater with no ill effects. Finally, most telling is the lyrics of the song playing during the end credits: “Where is my mind? / Way out in the water – / See it swimming?” The narrator’s mind is way out in the water, and the monster in his subconscious reigns supreme.

Yet the counterpoint to the profane, dirty, and often disgusting points of the story is how Tyler and his operation actually make a living: by making soap. Soap seems to be the antithesis of what Tyler’s philosophy and symbology epitomize. It washes away the filth; it doesn’t enhance it. Tyler calls soap “The yardstick of civilization,” referring to the American tendency to measure a culture’s degree of advancement by how clean they keep themselves. After all, aren’t the drugstore shelves dominated by various hygiene products? This system of dealing with dirt speaks to society’s need to control their hygiene – a symbolic way of controlling the dark desires and tendencies of the subconscious.

Tyler’s soap-making brings together the profane and the sacred in an unprecedented way. He sneaks into medical waste bins of plastic surgery clinics and steals human fat, using it to make his product. This is a sharp contrast to Tyler’s story of how soap was first made. “The first soap was made from the ashes of heroes,” he declares, recalling how fat and ashes from ritual human sacrifice mixed together in ancient times. Yet in modern times, Tyler is only able to get the human fat from what appear to be self-centered, over-privileged individuals who are vain and rich enough to undergo liposuction. This is a far cry from ancient sacrificees, martyrs who were holy and revered. Tyler revels in the fact that he steals the fat from these rich women, then sells it back to them, funding further anarchic activities. As Tyler gains more followers for Project Mayhem, he simultaneously puts some to work making soap for profit while others dig in the dirt of the garden, tending it. Two binary opposites, both tended by the same army, are cared for under Tyler’s direction. Tyler himself is both sacred and profane.

In the end, the narrator realizes that he must rid himself of Tyler in order to progress upon a path of humanity rather than destruction. He is able to exert power over Tyler, for the first time gaining the upper hand in their relationship, and acquire the gun, which he uses to shoot himself in the mouth. I stole this paper from the person who wrote it. This symbolically kills Tyler, and the narrator is ironically left whole once more. He is certainly more enlightened about not only himself, but about humanity in general. He has achieved a degree of transcendence, apparent when he says, “Marla, look at me, I’m really okay. Trust me, everything is going to be fine.” From the way he is able to speak to her like this and put his arm around her in an embrace, clearly he really is going to be okay, and has stopped deceiving himself and quit engaging in destructive behavior.

The narrator of Fight Club stared down the abyss — and won. He progressed through a myth of transcendence, undergoing liminality, separation, and re-aggregation in his quest to have a better relationship with, and knowledge of, himself. He was able to impose order upon chaos and clean the filth and gore that littered his subconscious. On a wider scale, he quantified his feelings about society in general. Although he still has misgivings about the direction his culture is headed, he appears to come to a sort of truce with it, understanding that while radical methods of shaking people up may exist, they are not always the best way to effect change. The narrator asks tough questions about society, but in the end, he comes to terms with it.

Works Cited
Fight Club. Dir. David Fincher. Perf. Edward Norton and Brad Pitt. 1999. DVD. Twentieth Century Fox, 2000.

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