Home » A Textual Analysis of Personality Disorders as Depicted in the Film Fight Club

A Textual Analysis of Personality Disorders as Depicted in the Film Fight Club

Psychological disorders are widely represented in films, as well as in other media texts such as novels, television shows, etc. One film that portrays more than one example of a psychological disorder is Fight Club, a Twentieth Century Fox movie released with an R rating in 1999. Directed by David Fincher; and produced by Art Linson, Cean Chaffin, and Ross Grayson Bell, the movie mainly introduces Dissociative Identity Disorders (also known as Multiple Personality Disorders), but also hints at insomnia and depression. The movie is adapted from the book Fight Club written by Chuck Palahniuk.

Fox marketed the movie using a “myriad of merchandise, including posters, the soundtrack, and even email addresses (yourname@fightclub. com)” (CNN). The movie’s production budget was set at $63,000,000 with the movie grossing $37,030,102 (Daily Box Office). The characters of the movie refer to themselves as the “middle children of history” with the feelings of having no purpose or place in life. They convey that they have no history-making events or real set goals and/or destiny to look forward to. They were brought up by society to believe that one-day they would be rich, famous and loved just as those depicted on television.

This is symbolic of society during the surrounding time of the movie’s release. It is prevalent in modern society to strive to become someone/something that one sees in the media. The movie is directed towards Generation-X, but the “hope was that the film would demonstrate the themes of the story to a larger audience. It would offer more people the idea that they could create their own lives outside the existing blueprint for happiness offered by society” (Palahniuk). This message was one that demanded that its viewers put all that drives them aside, and rethink what they had been taught from childhood.

After the film’s release, instead of delivering the message that was intended, it was met with criticism and misunderstanding. This was due partly to the fact that it was scheduled for release shortly after the Columbine shootings. The movie became an easy target for those upset by the blatant violence which surrounded the Columbine incident. Although Fight Club is a film full of violence it is in reality one that promotes anti-violence, and points out to the audience the human impulses that cause violent behavior.

Ironically, despite all of the media scrutiny of the movie, in the entirety of Fight Club only one person dies. From the opening credits, which take you through a journey of the construction of the brain, one can see that the movie will take them on a roller coaster ride of confusion. To get a full understanding of the movie you have to watch it more than once because the way that it presents itself is like a mental puzzle for the viewer. The main character remains nameless until near the end, going by simply narrator, according to the ending credits. Edward Norton was perfectly cast in this role.

About halfway through the movie, narrator finds books referring to the anatomy of a man named Jack, at which time he starts referring to himself as Jack in the third person (e. g. ” I am Jacks broken heart”). My intent is to analyze the depiction of psychological disorders portrayed in the movie Fight Club. “People are always asking me if I know Tyler Durden” narrator (Edward Norton) begins the movie with a narration mentioning a theater of mass destruction and some group called project mayhem that has set bombs around the city to detonate and destroy.

Narrator makes a foreshadowing remark stating “I know this because Tyler knows this” which leads the audience to believe that maybe they are connected in a way that we don’t yet understand. Narrator/Jack then leads us into the movie by stating that he realizes all of what is happening has something to do with a girl named Marla Singer. We see Narrator/Jack at a support group for men with testicular cancer; he starts attending support group meetings after seeing his doctor in order to get some medication for his insomnia.

Narrator/Jack then takes us back and explains that he hasn’t slept for six months, and that nothing seems real, everything is far away and a “copy of a copy”. He states that with insomnia you are never really asleep but you are never really awake either. Most adults need roughly eight hours of sleep at night to function properly, although the exact amount of time needed depends on the person, if a person wakes feeling rested then they are probably getting enough sleep (Hamilton). Psychological disorders can lead to insomnia and that seems to be the case in Fight Club (PsychNet-UK).

Going on the advice of his doctor, Narrator/Jack starts frequenting the support groups where he meets Bob, and with Bob learns that he can cry which gives him the emotional release he needs to be able to sleep. Bob could be seen as a father figure whom Narrator/Jack has been lacking since the age of six, who by consoling Narrator/Jack lets him know that it is “ok to cry”. Narrator/Jack becomes addicted to the feeling of freedom that emotional release gives him. He believes that he needs the groups to cry and therefore find his peace of mind.

Marla is introduced as another “faker” touring the groups, causing conflict when Narrator/Jack finds he cannot cry with another “faker” present. He tries to compromise with her and split up the groups, so as to be able to find his freedom and emotional release again. They agree on different nights, and the movie progresses to him sitting on an airplane, where he is starting to have violent thoughts and he begins to daydream hoping for a mid-air collision. We see him wake up with Brad Pitt’s character Tyler Durden sitting next to him going over the exit procedures for the plane.

Tyler gives the impression that he lives life to the fullest, and appears to be the complete opposite of Narrator/Jack. When Narrator/Jack returns home after his business trip, he stands below his condo, which he “loved” and watches as it and all of his beloved material possessions, which made him feel complete burns away. Narrator/Jack thought that he needed all of his expensive material objects to feel complete; because where others obtained these objects for necessity he used them to measure his self-worth. “Sociologists call the process of actively creating meaning in this way the social construction of reality’.

This means that, while reality exists, we must negotiate the meaning of that reality” (Croteau & Hoynes 7). Left with no place to go, Narrator/Jack first calls Marla but quickly changes his mind at the last moment and contacts Tyler instead. They go out and have some drinks after which Tyler tells Jack that he can stay with him. After agreeing to move in together, in return Tyler asks Jack to hit him as hard as he can. Hesitantly, Narrator/Jack agrees and they end up fighting in the parking lot of the bar which gives both of them a bit of release and happiness.

Narrator/Jack’s reaction upon reaching Tyler’s house, lacking normal electricity and looking as though it may collapse at any second, is one of shock and disgust as it is the complete opposite of what he was used to with his clean condo lifestyle. Narrator/Jack and Tyler both find that fighting is a great release and it soon takes the place of the support groups that Narrator/Jack had once been addicted to. As time goes on the fighting continues with others joining Jack and Tyler and they form an informal fight club’ which they hold in the basement of Lou’s Tavern, the bar that they often frequented.

Over time the fight club grows and more and more people join, creating a network across the map. A relationship forms between Marla and Tyler after she calls Narrator/Jack and tells him she has overdosed. While Narrator/Jack views the overdose as a cry for attention, Tyler goes to see her and they end up starting their affair. As the film goes on and fight club grows, Tyler renders homework assignments consisting of destructive acts for the members which eventually becomes known as Project Mayhem, an organization whose purpose centers on vandalism and rebellious actions.

As things start to get out of hand with project mayhem, and Narrator/Jack starts to feel more attracted to Marla, he and Tyler start to have conflict. Suddenly Tyler is nowhere to be found, and upon trying to track down Tyler, Narrator/Jack starts to realize that something is not right when people start to treat him as if he were Tyler. One by one the pieces fall together. The Dissociative Identity Disorder starts to become apparent when Jack calls Marla and she confirms that she and Narrator/Jack, not Tyler, had slept together.

Tyler appears in Narrator/Jack’s room from out of nowhere, and Narrator/Jack confronts his second personality by asking why people think that he is Tyler Durden. Tyler replies with “I think you know” and points out “why would anyone possibly confuse you with me” at which point Narrator/Jack starts remembering everything as it really happened. It was really he (Narrator/Jack) who orchestrated everything. He has a hard time understanding everything that is happening and Tyler sorts it out for him by explaining that: “You were looking for a way to change your life. You could not do this on your own. All the ways you wished you could be… at’s me! I look like you wanna look, I fuck like you wanna fuck, I’m smart, capable and most importantly, I’m free in all the ways that you are not. ” The movie continues with Narrator/Jack waking up the next day and everything hits him; he rushes to try to undo the destruction of the city which he has started as Tyler Durden. When he finds that the police are in on his plan, too, he ends up retreating to the warehouse where the opening scene of the movie left off with Narrator/Jack and Tyler (still portrayed by Pitt) having a conflict of interests in regards to the ensuing destruction as a result of Project Mayhem.

After reasoning with himself, Jack decides that enough is enough and realizes he is in control of his own actions; he kills Tyler by shooting himself in the side of the head. Marla and some of Project Mayhem’s group members show up at the warehouse just in time to watch as the bombs explode and the buildings fall. Though the most obvious problem with Narrator/Jack/Tyler was insomnia, the underlying problem that drove the whole film was Dissociative Identity Disorder (previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder).

Dissociative Identity Disorder is a disorder in which a person has more than one distinct personality within their body (University). “In the true multiple personality, the various personalities are distinct people, with their own names, identities, memories, mannerisms, speaking voices, and even IQ’s. Sometimes the personalities are so separate that they don’t know they inhibit a body with other people’ It is as if the two (and sometimes more) personalities represent different aspects of a single personone the more socially acceptable, nice’ side of the person, the other the darker, or more uninhibited or evil’ side” (Morris 505).

In Fight Club it is apparent that Tyler is Narrator/Jack’s evil/free side that he is unable to express under normal circumstances. “DID is a defense mechanism that protects the child from the physical and emotional pain associated with abuse by separating a part of the child’s mind or consciousness to deal with the trauma of the abuse. Over time and repeated abuse, these separate parts establish identities of their own” (DID Facts).

Narrator/Jack’s relationship with his father was very dysfunctional, which may have caused his Dissociative Identity Disorder, and in turn his insomnia. Narrator/Jack’s Dissociative Identity Disorder becomes apparent at a time in his life in which he is very unhappy and beginning to seek abnormal sources of emotional release. “DID is generally diagnosed in adulthood, triggered by some factor that compels or allows the alters to emerge” (DID Facts). “Although no controlled study has been conducted in the United States, an estimate of the prevalence of DID in the U.

S. population is from 1 in 1,500 to 1 in 5,000, or between 250,000 and 2,500,000 peoplefour times as many women are diagnosed as men” (DID Facts). Multiple Personality Disorders being depicted as one of the key themes of a particular story have been portrayed in the media for many years. “The most prominent early treatment of the disorder in popular fiction is The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ (1886), a story which reveals MPD’s kinship with the shadow archetype.

Other instances of the disorder appear in Psycho’ (1960), when Norman Bates is revealed to be his mother, and Bewitched’ (1945), a film in which a character kills a person while undergoing a personality shift” (Doak). Fight Club makes reference to the movie Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde when Narrator/Jack is trying to apologize to Marla near the end of the movie for the way he has been treating her. Once he has figured out what is going on, Narrator/Jack says to Marla “I know I’ve been acting very, very strange and that it’s been like there are two sides to me” and she replies with “Two sides?

You’re Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Jackass. ” Fight Club is a movie that touches on several psychological disorders, such as insomnia and depression, but none are quite as apparent as Narrator/Jack’s Multiple Personality Disorder (now called Dissociative Identity Disorder). The song “Where’s My Mind” by The Pixies, which plays during the closing scene of the film as the buildings fall at the hands of Project Mayhem, gives one final portrayal of the disorder’s presence and basically sums up the movie.

The main character suffers from excessive dissociation to the point of having more than one identity, a fact that doesn’t become apparent until the end of the movie giving it a surprise ending. Narrator/Jack/Tyler’s different identities seem to start during his touring’ of the support groups, where for each group he has a different name suffering from different ailments/cancers. This continues even after he and Tyler’ began the fight club, where Narrator/Jack says that “you were someone else when you were at Fight Club.

Jack and Tyler, though inhabiting the same body, were as different as night and day. While having completely different views of society, consummerism, and material worth, Tyler states to Narrator/Jack at one point in the movie that “The things that you own end up owning you”. Narrator/Jack, as the movie progresses, starts to slowly adapt to Tyler’s lifestyle, in turn bringing the two identities closer to becoming one in the same due to Narrator/Jack’s yearning for a change from his typically boring and depressing way of life.

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this essay please select a referencing style below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Leave a Comment