photo & text by nacrowe
for all the earned notoriety of its infamous film adaptation, CHUCK PALAHNIUK's novel FIGHT CLUB (WW NORTON, 1996) compellingly deconstructs MASCULINITY in a pre-internet consumer culture society. its an interesting thing that this narrative (and this author) gets a bad rap for glamorizing bro culture, because in my mind this novel and of all its savage pugilism (and the MASOCHISM that follows suit) is a primal scream against the confines of masculinity that is defined by how much money you can produce and how much bullshit you can consume. underground boxing and secret societies (and DOMESTIC TERRORISM) are almost team building exercises in this novel for a masculine identity devoid of an essence separate from commerce.
given the rise of the national TRUMP cult and the craven behavior of REPUBLICAN leaders beholden to a fiendishly loyal MAGA crowd, who themselves are, by and large, uneducated white men effectively rendered impotent in today's economy, the echoes of the themes presented in this book arguably more salient now then they ever were before.
so fighting in this novel is not really about fighting. my understanding is that it is paradoxically about connection. it is about establishing a sense of agency, control over your surroundings. even the physical damage taken in these brawls is a choice, an outcome decided by the individual alone. not a corporation or manipulative marketing or even an editorial board. fighting in this sense is used as a means of establishing one's INTRINSIC VALUE in a consumer culture that dismisses such. IMMANUEL KANT introduced the world to the idea of the CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE, in which leaders have a moral obligation to recognize the INTRINSIC VALUE of their subjects and not treat them as a means to an end. obviously the plot of this book (which i wont recount as it is common knowledge at this point given the film) is a NIHILISTIC fantasy about a reaction to the our new corporate overlords in a pre-internet world.
its interesting to think how 1) close our current world is to that presented here and 2) how further along we are in terms of the current SURVEILLANCE CAPITALIST state that has enabled our ability to be individually manipulated at scale beyond what PALAHNIUK could have imagined back during the 1990s.
MASCULINITY here is badly, damaged and rendered impotent. it makes sense that MASOCHISM and SELF-DESTRUCTION serve as a pathetic response that ironically asserts the agency of the individual. nothing bro about that.