This interesting article from Huffington Post suggests that the movie Fight Club was “prescient” by showing just how cynical our society has become. It’s great to see this movie (one of my favorites of all time) to receive credit for capturing the spirit of [X].
And watching Fight Club, ten years later, with all that we have available to us, it seems even more prescient. For better and often for worse, we’ve become even more disconnected from ourselves. And even more narcissistic. People text, they twitter, they communicate online instead of talk on the phone or in person.
Fight Club is one of my favorite movies of all time and I think many Gen X’ers (males especially) feel the same way. It captures both the survivalism and nihilism that were the bread and butter of those times. One particularly strong theme is how the young men in the movie are so emasculated that the only way they can feel alive is to beat each other senseless.
The author of the book that the movie was based upon, Chuck Palanhiuk, is the proto-typical Gen X’er himself (he is a Portland native). Check out his wikipedia entry.
He worked as a tech writer (for an old-guard technology company in Portland) for many years, and I think many of the scenes in Fight Club are drawn from that experience. He is a pretty twisted guy, and he definitely goes for shock value. Note this part of the Wikipedia entry:
While on his 2003 tour to promote his novel Diary, Palahniuk read to his audiences a short story titled “Guts”, a tale of accidents involving masturbation, which appears in his book Haunted. It was reported that to that point, 40 people had fainted while listening to the readings. Playboy magazine would later publish the story in their March 2004 issue; Palahniuk offered to let them publish another story along with it, but the publishers found the second work too disturbing. On his tour to promote Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories in the summer of 2004, he read the story to audiences again, bringing the total number of fainters up to 53, and later up to 60, while on tour to promote the softcover edition of Diary. In the fall of that year, he began promoting “Haunted”, and continued to read “Guts”. At his October 4, 2004 reading in Boulder, Colorado, Palahniuk noted that, after that day, his number of fainters was up to 68. The last fainting occurred on May 28, 2007, in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, where 5 people fainted, one of which occurred when a man was trying to leave the auditorium, which resulted in him falling and hitting his head on the door. Palahniuk is apparently not bothered by these incidents, which have not stopped fans from reading “Guts” or his other works. Audio recordings of his readings of the story have since circulated on the Internet. In the afterword of the latest edition of “Haunted”, Palahniuk reports that “Guts” is now responsible for 73 faintings.
David Fincer did an amazing job directing the adaptation of Fight Club. If you read the book you would swear there is no way they could make a movie out of it. But I wonder if Fincer can capture the Millennial (born 1982-2004) theme with The Social Network. The author of this article seems to think that the Millennials are the ones living out the Fight Club nihilism, when it is in fact the X’ers heading into middle age.
7 thoughts on “Generation X: Fight Club Revisited”
Best book ever. And yes a great movie too.
great movie, "The Middle Children of History" speech seems like it could be a GenX manifesto.
I haven't read the book yet but the movie Fight Club is and will remain one of my favorites for time eternal, amen. No doubt because I am male and a GenXer.
Despite the code that mandates that one not talk about Fight Club, I'm going to do it anyway. Everybody else did/does so….
While I agree that Fight Club captures some sense of the GenXer (definitely not for Millennials) ethos, especially for males, I'm not so sure that I can agree that it is entirely cynical and nihilistic. It would certainly seem so on the surface, i.e. in a literal sense, but one could also argue that it represents one man's struggle to break free from the yolks of a mundane and materialistic life/world. Is his response extreme? Yes. But sometimes extreme is what is called for.
Such an idea is also present in and early Fincher film, Se7en, verbalized by John Doe when he says, "You can't just tap people on the shoulder anymore. You have to hit them with a sledgehammer." That would certainly seem necessary today, in a society that seems so numb at times. And yet it would seem to me that society can be incredible raw at the same time.
Sometimes one has to fight brutally, even against one's self, in order to live a more authentic existence. Sometimes a little creative destruction is not only a good thing, it is necessary. How many of us wouldn't like to "blow up" CitiBank or some other lending institution that bilked taxpayer money and at the same time has decided to arbitrarily hike up APRs.
I submit that Fight Club is not only NOT cynical and nihilistic it is transformative. Besides, as the Ed Norton characters explains to Marla, it was a weird time in his life, and who of us hasn't experienced that?
Palahniuk is one of my favorite writers and Fight Club one of my favorite movies. Gen X anarchists -Tyler Durden or otherwise- I salute you!
“The author of this article seems to think that the Millennials are the
ones living out the Fight Club nihilism, when it is in fact the X’ers
heading into middle age.”
I know this is old, but I feel its significant to point of the lost messages to the Millenials.
Generation X, I am towards the tale end almost between but definitely side more with X than Y, we went through moments in two consecutive decades 80s and 90s of superficial materialism, its what led to Fight Club, and the messages of that movie, that wonderful tale have been lost on Millennials. Its you lot who are the most materialistic group in the history of mankind more than the Romans Chinese and Renaissance put together. How can we move forwards as a society when you lot, the generation were trusting to lead us into the abyss cant even put down your devices for one bloody second? You dont know WHAT REAL LIFE IS because you’ve never experienced it. EVERYTHING is some form of superficial on demand internet perversion that masks the obvious truth: Most millenials are addicts whos online habits echo the same behaviors as that of the worst substance abusers.
heading into middle age as you put it is no guarantee of becoming old, I like getting older you feel more enlightened, and free.
We need a sequel to Fight Club more than any other film
” How can we move forwards as a society when you lot, the generation were trusting to lead us into the abyss cant even put down your devices for one bloody second? You dont know WHAT REAL LIFE IS because you’ve never experienced it.”
and its just going to get worse and worse.
Fucking laughing at you idiot youngers– some later Mills and def. Zennial/Zooomers….
Just because you could not figure anything out for yourselves because every moment of your upbringing was helicoptered and managed and fucking awarded by Mom and Dad– XGen owes you nothing.
We are a middle generation that was abandoned and despised because we didn’t value what the monolithic Boomer generations settled for. We could not be as revolutionary nor as materially successful for the so called standards of that horde/hoard.
Hallo, we are not the ones that fucking elevated the fucking Kardashians. Who the hell cares about a bunch of rich talentless B-list morons on a TV? I also don’t give a fuck about your pronouns. Stop wining. Obviously this is not a Millennial or Zgen story because you cannot fight with a smartphone in one hand..