Scott Sommers’ Taiwan Blog

What I Think about the Movie ‘Fight Club’

Before any more moron literature types leave comments here, have a look at my other related posts.

What I Think about Chuck Palanhuik

What I Think about the Book ‘Fight Club’

What I Think about the Story of ‘Fight Club’

I also highly recommend this piece from the film review blog Bright Lights.

If you read my blog regularly, you’ll know Kerim Friedman who produces the blogs Keywords and Savage Minds. Kerim’s wife Shashwati also has her own blogs, which for the most part addresses issues related to film. You can find her blogs and information about her work in film here and here. Shaswati, Kerim, and I often talk about films and recommend ones that we should and shouldn’t watch. The film Fight Club seems to come up a lot.

Fight Club is a 1999 Hollywood movie staring Brad Pitt and Edward Albert Norton that describes the exploits of a group of men who find meaning through participation in an underground fighting club. As the club grows, it becomes the backbone of a revolution of ordinary guys against the established order. In fact, I have seen Fight Club. I saw it when it first came out. At the time, I though it was very hard to follow and I couldn’t quite understand the point. I just watched it again and to be honest, parts of it were interesting. I especially liked the beginning and the almost poetic way in which our protagonist sees his empty life. Some of it was quite beautiful. It was almost worth watching until…well… until they started fighting.

Shahwati asked me about the movie because I actually belong to a real life fight club. Or to be more accurate, a group of loosely affiliated men who fight as part of their recreation. We live in Taiwan, so we don’t get to do a lot of punching. We do a lot of what you’d call wresting, but most of us have fought cage matches and we want to fight more of them. I played a lot of contact sports before this. I played rugby union as a kid, playing again from 1990 until a few years ago. And you know, in all the years I have been involved in combat sports and the years before that in which I played rugby union, no one ever talked about Fight Club. This is not quite true. One of the members of my BJJ club in Taipei (that’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) once mentioned he had seen the film and that there was some aspect to it he thought was interesting; something about walking down the street and sizing up strangers for a fight. But that’s it. That’s the end. No one watches Fight Club. No one talks about it. No one even seems to know the movie exists, although I know they do.

This is not to say that real life fighters don’t watch films. They love watching them. These guys get together and watch Bruce Lee movies all the time. They quote Bruce Lee on their websites. They use his Chinese name () as their Chinese signature and there was even a brief period where everyone was talking about the recent hit The 300. They just don’t watch Fight Club.

And why would they? It’s a stupid movie. It’s got nothing to do with the things that guys who fight in their spare time fight about. It’s not about people who want to fight. Guys who want to fight for fun really are the way you think they are. They may be nice, Christian folk, but they’re nuts. Have a listen to this interview UFC champion BJ Penn following his victory over Jens Pulver – who is a born-again Christian.

All those people who would do steroids and then complain about people cheating in the ring to win a fight with them – come on. Anybody who does steroids to smash my face in personally, while I’m playing by the rules, I got a serious problem with that. Grow some balls and fight BJ Penn without steroids. That’d be cool…when I go into the Octagon, I’m ready to die… I’m ready to die, and you come in and you kill me somehow and you cheated, I mean where’s the honor? Where’s the whole thing?

BJ is speaking about UFC lightweight champion Sean Sherk who tested positive for anabolic steroids. You don’t need to be shocked by these words. I’ve heard the same things from Penn’s personal friend Enson Inoue,

There is no better way to die, than to die in the midst of a battle, fighting to the very end……like a man.

whose gym in Tokyo uses Japanese military slogans (大和魂) as its motto. Or from Ken Shamrock, once called the most dangerous man in the world.

I will get my respect or I will die

In fact, this neo-Bushido talk is the norm for full-contact fighters. For more psycho quotes from MMA fighters, see this link. And if you want, compare them with some memorable quotes from the movie Fight Club.

In a sense, the realism of the fights in the movie and the people involved in them shouldn’t be an issue. The fights themselves are just a metaphor for rebellion. But this hasn’t stopped the critics. Take a look at Rotten Tomatoes if you don’t believe me. In a ridiculous masturbatory fantasy from, Tom Block tells us that, “While watching the men knock each other’s teeth out in Fight Club, some women may find themselves eying their lovers and wondering, “Is some part of guys really like that?” Mr. Block goes on to clarify the world of Fight Club. “It’s only fair to point out that Fight Club is about womenless men”, he confides in us. And he is right. Fight Club is a make believe world where men are men and women are just on the sidelines. It’s sort of a Rambo and Bruce Willis-type-thing, but it’s not Clint Eastwood and the anger of a Dirty Harry changing the world. Instead it’s your anger turned into rage against the machine. It’s the pornotopia of kicks and punches. It’s prison without the sodomy.

But when all is said and done, Fight Club is one of those ads in the back of a comic book selling the human growth hormone (HGH) my brother-in-law claims he bought, used, and grew 3 centimeters. But he didn’t. HGH has serious side effects on grown people that are very quickly noticeable. And so does getting in fights. You get hurt; you get really messed up. There is no part of the man next to you that’s like that, if only because he’s afraid of getting hurt too much. There may be in his fantasy, but there’s a reason why he stayed where he was born and things in his life continue to run pretty much the way they did yesterday.

But the twisted thing about the movie is that in the end, it wasn’t an underground club of White men and their buddies banding together in a desperate struggle for humanity that truly shocked our world. It wasn’t a White man angry at the meaninglessness of his job and his life who really had the dream of making tomorrow radically different from today. Instead it was a bunch of religious nuts holed up in some cave in Afghanistan. It wasn’t a claims adjuster frustrated at airline meals and silly conversation who had the balls to finally say, “Hay, the way you’ve been living your life is wrong, and I’m going to do something about it.” It was Osama bin Laden and the crew that George Bush Jr. calls terrorists who really made your tomorrow different from today.

People for whom violence is no fantasy have always known this. Fighting doesn’t set you free. It hurts. The fighting in Fight Club isn’t about fighting. It’s about stupid White guys who are too chicken to live the life they really want. It’s a movie that makes being a stupid White guy seem heroic instead of just the boring thing that it really is. Fight Club goes beyond boring into a whole new dimension of stupid. And that’s where I want to leave it.

I didn’t like Fight Club, not the first time I watched it and not the second time, either. I don’t recommend that anyone watch it.


21 Responses

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  1. e7th04sh said, on December 17, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    hey, i liked it the first time, but the second time when you normally watch the film to get more than from the first one, i realize it’s crap

    It’s filled with pretensious pseudo-cool scenes, mixed with “ooooh so gross” stuff like the scene with charred car or man-fat-soap. It’s simply a movie aimed at young males who feel there is some void in their lives. So in the movie, instead of just living normal life, they made a fight club. In real life instead of living their lives, they just watch some stupid film.

    Also once you know the plot and watch the movie expecting more intellectual stuff, you realize it’s a fake. Most scenes are copypasta of better older movies. Like, the scene with asian shopkeeper – it disgustingly resembles a quite cool scene from Pulp Fiction (where Jules kills Brett).

    But hey, there are normal white guy who don’t think the meaning of life is to risk your teeth knocked out, or roll big gold globes into cafeteria! 🙂

  2. Anonymous said, on December 31, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    I can’t begin to explain how misguided you are. You have completely missed the entire message of the movie. It is not a ‘fighting’ movie solely, and it is not meant to encourage fighting or represent ‘real’ fighting, in the real world. It is a film, it is not 100% accurate or representative of real life, and if you have the mindset of ‘this is a fighting movie, a bloke movie’, or any other shallow view, you will certainly be sorely disappointed (as you seem to be).

    It exists as more of a reflection of society today – our preoccupation with materialistic goods, with celebrities who have done nothing to deserve our attention or respect, and the fact that we follow society’s whims and do the same thing everyday, go to work, sleep, go to work again. And for what purpose? The movie challenges all these things but in a way that isn’t in your face and blatant. You need to think about the movie, dwell on it, and perhaps take away something from the viewing, a philosophy or way of looking at life that you didn’t have before.

    But in the end, one of the sad things is that most of the people who watch the movie (including me, despite my best efforts to the contrary) are the very ‘society’ it questions. Those who watch the movie, discard it as not being an accurate or realistic depiction of ‘fight clubs’, and go back to their jobs with not a thought as to why. That, I think, is what I find so compelling about the film – that it presents you with these views and ways of looking at the world, and then the viewers turn around and ignore it, returning to their everyday life.

    You need to look at this movie as more of an essay on life and society and its values in this current age. When looked at as simply another ‘movie’, or only about ‘fighting’, much can be overlooked. I urge you to watch it again, with an open mind; consider what it is saying and look within yourself to see whether you fall into the demographic it is talking about.

    But then, it may be said; aren’t we all a part of society? Don’t we all follow its rules and regulations, even as we seek to go against it? The answers may seem clear, but are open to question. Not every person on earth is. But most of the people who will end up watching the film are, those who work jobs and have not a clue why they do so. To earn money? Support a family? The reasons differ. The truth is, we do not need these luxuries and rituals that we have so easily become accustomed to in this digital age.

    This movie isn’t a manual on how to live our lives. Rather, it raises questions about how we live and demands answers.

    And the sad thing is, most of what it brings up about society is absolutely right.

  3. Danyo said, on January 23, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    Seems the author of this article can’t take any opposition 😉 … not much use for writing a blog then is there, I mean, unless you expect everyone to agree with you 100% of the time.

    I agree with Anonymous. The film had barely any fighting because it wasn’t really about the fighting. It was more about how average people are fitted into these boring, repetitive lives by society, and how it can drive one insane.

    The whole point of everything said in the film (that you may find tryhard-philosophical) is because the main character is insane. He’s out of his mind, he makes things up that seem appealing to him and that he thinks are “deep” or rebellious; not many people are that hateful towards consumerism, it’s just a portrayal of how messed up one can get mentally, to the point where avoiding and going against the norms of society becomes dangerous. It’s a psychological film, not an action film.

    He thinks he’s hardcore for fighting, you think he’s not. So what? If that’s all the main character knows, then of course he’s going to think he’s awesome. Going underground and beating the hell out of other dudes is still bloody and messed up, even if it’s not professional UFC.

    There’s obviously more to it than that, but you can read the post by Anonymous again and perhaps consider something he’s said instead of brushing him off as a “moron”, and discuss it like an intellegent individual.

    I don’t get this part about not recommending the film to anyone… I think that’s fairly close-minded. If I’ve read correctly, then by your logic kids should never watch Humphrey Bear because it doesn’t accurately portray the life of a massive, brown bear.
    We might as well go and tell all the kids we recommend them not to watch Transformers because all the scientists in Japan for Mitsubishi and Honda may be offended by how robots are portrayed. Don’t get me wrong, I think the new Transformers films suck, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to go all egotistical on anyone who does like the films.

    Also, I’ve got a mate who does Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai, and another friend who practises with him outside of his club, and they both love the film Fight Club, so grouping together all fighters as haters of Fight Club is entirely innaccurate. They like it because it’s about breaking boundaries and the like, and a mental struggle that people can relate to. Not every film has to be flippin’ Dragon Ball Z with people fighting to save the earth by doing crazy superhero Kung-Fu Ninja stuff, or the most ridiculous series of happenings in the world. It’s a likeable film not because it’s “Oh, so outstanding”, but rather because it’s relatable in a way that it’s made up of things that people would generally think of in their quiet time to themselves, and not speak up about. It’s not aiming to be spectacular, in fact it’s pretty straight-forward.

    If you don’t like people disagreeing with you, just disable comments. That, or you could discuss…?

    It’s not for me; once I’ve posted this comment I’m gone: Sorry, but not gonna bother to hang around to read a testostorone-powered backlash that would just give you satisfaction in thinking you’ve owned me.
    It’s just tiring to see that people who can write opinionative articles – especially about something as minor as film – get high and mighty over different opinions.

  4. Ted Calvin said, on April 4, 2010 at 8:39 am

    I liked it. Not so sure it was actually about fighting. They put a lot of effort into setting the stage, in the first hour, which I liked. The whole concept of not being able to sleep, and needing something to shock Norton’s senses back into a non depressed or non anxiety state was interesting to me. The method of going to basically AA meetings by many different names, to snap his affliction, allmost seems plausible. Anyone that’s been to any of thease types of theropies would attestt to the feelings of tranquility when others with similar afflictions bare their souls to a group. The material wealth of the character actually played a small role and seemed insignificate to his well being or the movie. His affiction to me seemed based in his mudain repetative non loving interaction with the world. Which focused my attention on his emotional well being.
    I agree I found it unfourtinate they protrayed the later half of the movie in the manner they did. I would agree the movie was hard to watch after it took on a semi terroist religious tone. Speaking for myself I’d say the first half of the movie when it focused on the emotional it really had something going for it. How I’d have finished the script I’m not sure. To sum, fight club was a portraile of a white male in search of love of which no material wealth or anormal behaviour could aleave. A total detackment from reality threw abnormal behaviours as someone looking for relief using hard drugs, or casual sex. Pits role I’m saying was a summary of this behaviour. After emerging from the theater would I change my personality and run out and join a fight club highly doubtful. However perhaps the next time I interview an employee I miight show some compassion and say relax were all in the same boat.
    I’d recomend this movie to anyone, simply for the fact that perhaps it could sutually open a persons mind to the concept that we as people in a society are totally detached and loveless. However I do have to agree their are many other message movies out there that have done a better job of trying to change people.

  5. Anonymous said, on June 5, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    I would like to fight you. I didn’t read your whole post but relized quite quickly your a soft punk over there wrestling with the chinee.

  6. Scott Sommers said, on June 5, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    At least I can spell.

    • Anonymous said, on September 14, 2010 at 10:34 am

      At the time, I though it was very hard to follow and I couldn’t quite understand the point.

      You may be able to spell, but need to learn to do more than just spell check.

  7. Steve lee said, on August 18, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    Hey that movie gives us humans a point. Us humans are realy savage animals, no matter how u disquise it. We kill, we hurt. That’s who we are animals that fight.

  8. Steveomatic said, on October 29, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    I can see why some people don’t like the movie “fightclub”. They didn’t get the movie and that’s cool. But the movie fightclub is not about fighting at all. It is about a persons place in a starched bleached politically correct consumer driven superficial world.

    Ofmcourse, the movie is dated now at aleast in a sense. “Our generation has had no Great Depression, no Great War. Our war is spiritual. Our depression is our lives.”

    Well, now we have both and at least some people now know what is important.

  9. myegy ماى ايجى said, on May 4, 2011 at 5:57 am

    movie was hard to watch after it took on a semi terroist religious tone. Speaking for myself I’d say the first half of the movie when it focused on the emotional it really had something going for it. How I’d have finished the script I’m not sure. To sum, fight club was a portraile of a white male in search of love of which no material wealth or anormal behaviour could aleave.

  10. Anonymous said, on September 2, 2011 at 4:08 am

    in nutshell, fight club is an awesome movie. It leaves us a very good message that we(humans) are not the special ones(although we say, we are rational animals). one day we are also gonna die and decay as other animals

    • Anonymous said, on April 28, 2016 at 2:05 am

      It doesn’t say that idiot

  11. Tone said, on March 12, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    Hi! My name is Tone, and I am a filmstudent at University of Southampton. I am currently writing my dissertation on ‘Fight Club’ and I was wondering if I could get permission to use your blog as part of my research? I am having a closer look at the reception of the film. Your name will not be used at all in the dissertation, I will be referring to my subjects by using character A,B,C etc. Your blog will be useful for me in analyzing the reception of the film, and I would really appreciate it.

    Kind Regards,

  12. Bo Hopkins said, on December 16, 2013 at 1:38 am

    Its not an ethnocentric message. There are people of color involved in the fights. Its not about white men. Its about the modern ” civilized” man. The anti- Christ messages and de humanizing tone of the movie make it spiritual poison. This movie is garbage and it is dangerous. unfortunately it’s very well done and it’s interesting to watch and Satan is very good at making things enjoyable

  13. MegaSolipsist said, on September 10, 2014 at 8:04 am

    Any time I mention that I think Fight Club is a load of pretentious bollocks everyone jumps up and says “Oh, you just didn’t understand the message”.
    It’s a bunch of people who think that society expects them to conform and because they aren’t happy they think they don’t fit in with society and by doing things generally frowned upon they are fighting against the system and rising up above the other poor sheep of humanity.

  14. geranium ray said, on September 16, 2014 at 5:34 am

    this is the worst opinion i’ve ever read in my lifetime. the fighting in fight club is completely a latent topic and is such a marginal point of the movie, secondary to the larger themes and complexity of norton’s character.

    that’s fact. but the movie essentially deals with isolation, rejection, and belonging before it cares about fighting.

    norton’s isolation is heightened because of his insomnia and emotional distance from his age group only feeds his desire to be anonymous and “swept clean”

    the fighting becomes the dissociation in which norton starts to indulge. this is not a fighting movie.

    why you’re so hostile in your reaction to this movie, however, is very personal

  15. pink soap said, on March 7, 2015 at 12:13 pm


  16. Jerker (Energetic and Productive) said, on August 19, 2015 at 9:11 pm

    Old post, but I feel like joining in anyway – recently revisited this one.

    “It’s about stupid White guys who are too chicken to live the life they really want.”

    Yes, that is one of the main points of the movie. To illustrate how a lot of people live a boring, hopeless life aiming for some kind of perfection that they never will reach.

    “It’s a movie that makes being a stupid White guy seem heroic instead of just the boring thing that it really is.”

    No, it clearly critizises the common way of living, questioning it – maybe aiming for perfection isn’t the answer, maybe taking a step back and aiming for minimalizm in your life and trying new things will make you happier.

    To make a great story, there is also elements added of fighting and a schizophrenic main character, which you can take with a grain of salt – it’s a Hollywood moovie after all.

  17. Cait Potter said, on September 27, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    When I first watched the movie, shown to me by my partner at the time it made me really uncomfortable but I didn’t know why. Of course I needed to get to the root of that so I read the book a couple of times, watched the movie, read reviews. A lot of women collectively agree that the movie makes them uncomfortable, probably because it is misogynistic. Your post is bit confusing but I agree with you.

  18. Anonymous said, on October 27, 2015 at 2:55 am

    Thank you man.. Fight club is overrated

    • Anonymous said, on July 16, 2016 at 11:19 pm

      Lousy film. Only a douche nozzle would think fightclub was important or meaningful. This movie insults my intelligence. In point, fightclub is for dummies.

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