Can I Still Be A Feminist and Like Fight Club?

My sentiments exactly, Molly. Credit: Chris Large/FX

My sentiments exactly, Molly. Credit: Chris Large/FX

This is a serious question I have been asking myself for a while now. Of course, I am a feminist and I do like Fight Club, so there’s an easy answer to the question. But have I been so brainwashed by the male gaze that I can’t see fiction through the critical lens it deserves? I was watching season 1 of Fargo on a trans-Atlantic flight a couple weeks ago, and I found myself thoroughly entertained. I also found myself feeling guilty for enjoying something so male, white, and heteronormative.[1] (Allison Tolman is great, but she doesn’t make up for it.)

Obviously this is the standard for fiction in all its forms, and anything else is given a special interest label—“chick” and “urban” among my favorites—and made into a “genre” (and thus deemed inferior). Such books are pushed into the corners of stores and such movies are advertised on Lifetime, BET and Logo, so hetero white men don’t have to know they exist.

Diversity in film recently has been addressed by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. There are a lot of reasons why diversity is important, but one of them is simply that having more variety makes for better quality of art overall. I don’t know about you, but I feel like I see the same movies and TV shows and books over and over again. I understand that for publishers and studios trying to fatten their pockets, doing something new is risky, but I’m bored with remakes and reboots and retellings.

Mostly.

My problem is that occasionally something will come along that I really like even if it’s reminiscent of the same old thing.

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Antiheroes, Self-Destruction, and the Ugly

There’s this point in Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk where the narrator beats the shit out of “Angel Face” and as an explanation for his act of near annihilation says, “I wanted to destroy something beautiful I’d never have.”

The full quote is this:

“What Tyler says about the crap and the slaves of history, that’s how I felt. I wanted to destroy something beautiful I’d never have. Burn the Amazon rain forests. Pump chlorofluorocarbons straight up to gobble the ozone. Open the dump valves on supertankers and uncap offshore oil wells. I wanted to kill all the fish I couldn’t afford to eat, and smother the French beaches I’d never see. I wanted the whole world to hit bottom. Pounding that kid, I really wanted to put a bullet between the eyes of every endangered panda that wouldn’t screw to save its species and every whale or dolphin that gave up and ran itself aground.”

I’ve had a nose ring for more than 12 years.

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Self-Improvement is Masturbation

This is one of my favorite quotes from Palahniuk, because he’s right isn’t he?  We’re all just playing with ourselves.

On a cop show I saw once, there was a detective who was in a therapy session having the following conversation:

Detective: “There is a school of thought that says self-awareness leads to transformation.  I don’t believe that.”

Therapist: “So where does self-awareness lead?”

Detective: “To self-justification.”

This seems right to me.  People don’t really change.  I don’t know a lot about childhood development, but at some point, maybe around puberty,[1] we just become who we are going to be.  I was negative, skittish, introspective and liked to push the limits of authority when I was on the brink of adulthood.  And what do you know?  Nothing changes.  Though it is becoming more difficult for me to get along in the world as an adult.

I think maybe I’ve always been somewhat self-aware, maybe hyper-aware is more like it.  But this does not mean I have enough self-knowledge to not try to justify some of the choices I make or to not make excuses for myself.  I’m not even remotely close to having self-knowledge.  I like to think that we all have some idea of who we want to be, but it’s a lot easier to make excuses than to actually try to change.

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