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In Richard Slotkin's Regeneration Through Violence he explains how "the myth of regeneration through violence became the structuring metaphor for the American experience" (5). Throughout history "a new captivity, a new hunt, and a new ceremony of exorcism repeat the myth-scenario on a progressively deeper, more internal level" (565). Using Slotkin's thesis as a framework I will focus on the 1999 film Fight Club arguing that the film is a postmodern reinterpretation of the myth of regeneration through violence. In my discussion I will address questions such as:
The Mythology of Violence
In this section, I will discuss how violence is an integral component to the mythology of the American experience. The importance of frontiersman characters like Daniel Boone has helped shape the idea of American resilience and individualism while simultaneously reinforcing the notion of destruction as being necessary for rebirth. With this trope in mind, I argue that the narrator in Fight Club is an anti-hero who must battle with the wilderness of his own mind. Furthermore, since I will be using postmodern theory to analyze the film, this section also illustrates how Fight Club represents the postmodern moment.
The Fracturing of the Self
Here, I will examine another integral part to the myth of the hunter/frontiersman--the role of the "Other," who in most early American myths is typically characterized as the Indian figure. The Indian begins to serve the purpose of the double in the sense that he represents the unbridled and primal emotions of the id, which ultimately must be destroyed. Amidst the ahistorical, decentralized, and consumer-driven postmodern culture, the narrator experiences a split that Frederic Jameson defines as schizophrenia when "the links of the signifying chain snap" which results "in a form of rubble of distinct and unrelated signifiers" (26). While Jameson is referring directly to the postmodern schizoid reality of heterogeneity, the notion of schizophrenia can also be applied to the split that occurs in film's narrator (Edward Norton). This fracturing of identity enables him to create Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), a character who embodies the savage "Indian" passions of the id.
Masculinity and Violence
The construction of masculinity is an aspect vital to Fight Club. This section discusses how masculinity is treated in the film and how the men turn to violence as a means by which to escape the banality of their lives.
The cultural context in which Fight Club was produced is imperative to understanding the way in which violence functions in the postmodern moment. This section examines the contemporary cultural moment surrounding the film's production and the way in which the film was marketed.