screen gems

Note to straight dude ‘Fight Club’ fans: The joke’s on you

Fight Club

Welcome to Screen Gems, our weekend dive into queer and queer-adjacent titles of the past that deserve a watch or a re-watch.

The Tongue (and Bullet) in Cheek: Fight Club

The world lost an incomparable performer with the death of singer/actor Meat Loaf this week. Mr. Loaf’s often grotesque politics aside, the man possessed an incredible gift as a vocalist, and proved himself a compelling character actor too.

He also had no shame about appearing in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. So, props to him there.

For one of Meat Loaf’s best performances, however, we refer you to David Fincher’s 1999 cult satire, Fight Club. By now the broad strokes of the film have become common knowledge in pop culture. A bored and dehumanized office clerk (Edward Norton) attends a series of support groups in hopes of boosting his self-esteem by quietly mocking the pain of others. While on a business trip he meets a flamboyant, cheeky soap salesman named Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt, at his most ripped). The pair become fast friends, and to affirm their masculinity and power, begin beating the living daylights out of one another every night in underground brawls called “Fight Club.” Other men from the support groups, including Bitch-T*ts Bob (Meat Loaf) join as well, gradually regaining their self-esteem through physical brutality. The friendship takes a turn with the arrival of Marla (Helena Bonham Carter), a woman that attracts the affections of both Durden and our Narrator. As tensions mount, Durden also begins to plan a terrorist act carried out by the men of Fight Club as the ultimate act of societal defiance.

Watching Fight Club, we can’t help but think of a line from Alfonso Cuarón’s masterpiece Y Tu Mamá También. In that movie, a woman tells the two male leads “Typical men. Fighting like dogs and marking your territory when all you really want to do is f*ck each other.”

We have to wonder if Cuarón had watched Fight Club prior to his work on that film. Indeed, it seems like the male characters in Fight Club would be a whole lot happier–not to mention healthier–if they could express respect and affection through the magic of gay sex. We also suspect that latent homoeroticism is by design: Chuck Palahniuk, author of the original novel, is a gay man. Director David Fincher, an artist known for subversive films that often deal with sex-as-power also seems too intelligent a man to not be in on the joke.

The hetero cult of Fight Club, which seems to relish the film’s violence-as-masculinity, on the other hand, may not quite get the humor. When considered in a modern context of incels, conspiracy theories, domestic terrorism, Pepe the Frog memes, Men’s Rights and the like, Fight Club takes on a frightening prescience. For these men, masculinity is a fragile, necessary thing. Rather than engaging in sadomasochistic fights, maybe they should just try some old-fashioned gay sex to affirm their manhood.

We have a feeling the world would be a much happier place.

Streams on Amazon, Hulu, YouTube & VUDU.