For most of 1999, movie fans salivated over the prospect of David Fincher directing a film version of Chuck Palahniuk’s cult novel Fight Club, with Edward Norton and Brad Pitt starring as two guys who start an anarchistic, underground network where men beat each other to a pulp, then hug it out. But when the thing came out, it tanked. Dark but often laugh-out-loud funny, it featured a finale in which the hero shoots himself in the head, then watches his city collapse around him. What the hell?
That confusion didn’t last long. In reality, there was no first rule of Fight Club, so everyone talked about it, and it was recognized as one of the most iconic movies of the decade. It may, in fact, be the film for which Fincher, Pitt, and Norton will be best remembered. Why does it still feel vital, 15 years after its release? Here are 12 reasons…
Bringing Macho back
After suffering serious defeats in the 1960s and ’70s (hello, James Taylor!), macho made a comeback in the Reagan era but went limp again during the prosperous Clinton years. The Narrator (Norton) exemplifies the sensitive male of the 1990s: an IKEA-shopping, neutered office drone. Tyler Durden (Pitt) is the male id made real, a Paleolithic monster who creates an outlet for the repressed aggression of cubicle workers.
Sure, he’s a psychotic fascist – but, hey, no one’s perfect. Tyler’s antimaterialistic tirades – “The things you own end up owning you” and “Fuck Martha Stewart. Martha’s polishing the brass on the Titanic” – help establish the middle-class angst and frustration that prove to be fertile ground for the growth of the fight club. And Tyler is a bohemian icon: His outfits look like the coolest, grimiest thrift store in the world exploded in his closet. All this makes him an enviable paragon of I-don’t-give-a-damn attitude: “I am free in all the ways that you are not,” he proclaims. Once the Narrator realizes that he is Tyler, Fight Club becomes a reimagining of Dostoyevsky’s The Double, in which a government clerk goes mad and begins to imagine a doppelgänger who is charming and confident – all the things he’s not.
For the full interview grab the February 2015 issue of MAXIM, in stores from January 22 to February 18.
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