Since its release in 1999, “Fight Club” has become a cultural touchstone for a subset of the human population referred to as the manosphere — men who are known as “incels” and are typically steeped in misogyny and Neo-Nazi beliefs. If anyone is surprised by that, it’s the movie’s director David Fincher.
Addressing the extremist audience that has embraced a film he himself hasn’t seen in two decades, Fincher told The Guardian, “We didn’t make it for them, but people will see what they’re going to see in a Norman Rockwell painting, or [Picasso’s] Guernica.”
“I’m not responsible for how people interpret things. Language evolves. Symbols evolve,” Fincher added. Still, he understands that the movie is “one of many touchstones in their lexicography.”
This echoes comments from the author of the “Fight Club” book. In 2018, Chuck Palahniuk told the same outlet that it’s “fascinating that the group that can’t get laid” is so drawn to the material and that “it shows how few options men have in terms of metaphors.”
For Palahniuk, the story isn’t gendered at all. “It was more about the terror that you were going to live or die without understanding anything important about yourself,” he added.
Palahniuk himself has become something of a beacon for the alt-right, and his own commentary and interviews have made it difficult to discern his political leanings. In 2017 he claimed to have coined the political term “snowflake” to describe someone who typically falls along liberal political lines.
The author told the Evening Standard that he doesn’t completely agree with the way the word is used now, but he understands why. He said, “There is a kind of new Victorianism. Every generation gets offended by different things, but my friends who teach in high school tell me that their students are very easily offended.”
When it was released over 20 years ago, “Fight Club” was celebrated as smart commentary on the hypermasculine box so many men find themselves trapped inside of. Empire described the film as a “horror movie” about “the crisis of middle-class masculinity in a world torn between oppressive conformity and a libido-like anarchic underbelly that is at once dangerous, alluring and life-changing.”
Over the years, the narrative around the movie and book changed. Led primarily by groups on Reddit, such as the quarantined community r/TheRedPill, and the now-defunct website Return of Kings, men around the world rallied around the the film.
Of this, Fincher says it’s “impossible” to him that some “people don’t understand that Tyler Durden is a negative influence.” He added, “People who can’t understand that, I don’t know how to respond and I don’t know how to help them.”
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