”What happens in Fight Club stays in Fight Club” is, of course, the most famous line from David Fincher‘s classic film from 20 years ago. It always seemed to me that the entire set up for the movie, based on the 1996 novel of tantalizing male identity politics and therapy-culture by Chuck Palahniuk, is that it’s an allegory for a clandestine queer sex club. Button-down businessmen rapping in code on a door, just for the opportunity to unwind, knock back a few, and roll around with other sweaty, nearly-naked men. That’s basically what happens in the film; the men in Fight Club ostensibly need the outlet for the animal aggression civilized society has insisted they tame, which is sort of the same thing as their repressed sexual desire for other men.
The narrator (Edward Norton) is obsessed with Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) and is so fervently aching for him that even the most rabid Fincher fanboys have had to puzzle about this while scratching their Tyler-ish goatees. The narrator struggles with what it means to be a man: He is annoyed by Marla (Helena Bonham Carter — beloved by queens and queers) until Tyler becomes entranced by her, like a closet case convincing himself he’s straight. The most human connection he has is to the sensitive Bob (Meat Loaf), whose sobbing embraces enable him to sleep peacefully. The twist ending reveals he was wrestling with himself all along, but did he want to be the man inside, or did he just want him inside?
20th Century Fox studio executives did not like the film and restructured Fincher’s marketing campaign to try to reduce anticipated losses. Fight Club received polarized reviews, becoming one of the most controversial and talked-about films of the year. Critics praised the acting, directing, and themes, but debated the violence and moral ambiguity. It was a box-office dud, making back about half of its original budget. The film found success with its DVD release, which established Fight Club as a top cult film.
Fight Club is likely the origin of the insult “snowflake”. In the film, Pitt says:
You are not special. You’re not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else. We’re all part of the same compost heap. We’re all singing, all dancing crap of the world.
This line is lifted directly from Palahniuk’s novel.
Tid-bit: At the beginning of the film, after the usual FBI warning is shown, there is a special Tyler Durden version of the warning that reads as follows: