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Fight Club and Queer Theory

Fight Club and Queer Theory

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Fight Club and Queer Theory

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  1. Fight Club and Queer Theory Objective – Understand how to interpret Fight Club as a ‘Queer’ film

  2. What is Queer Theory? • ‘Queer’ Theory is the academic term for any analysis of texts / films which uncovers a homosexual or lesbian interpretation of that text / film. • It challenges the position that ‘heterosexual’ is the only ‘normal’ sexuality • Queer = positioned away from the norm • It’s a school of criticism that grew partly out of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the 1960s

  3. Why was it illegal to be gay? • Biblical justification (Leviticus) • Under UK Law (and we weren’t the only country to have laws like this) it was illegal to be homosexual, until the Buggery law was repealed in 1967. (Until 1861, sodomy was a capital offence.) • Prior to this, if you were caught engaging in ‘sodomy’, you could be thrown in prison, or even chemically castrated. This happened to mathematician Alan Turing, father of the modern computer, in 1952. He later committed suicide. • Homosexuality was seen as ‘deviant behaviour’

  4. Despite this... • Plenty of people in Britain were actually gay. In fact, many personalities of stage and screen were homosexual and forced to hide it because of fear of prosecution • There was a vibrant homosexual culture in Britain in the 1960s and the legal reform making it ‘ok’ to be openly gay led to many people coming out after the law was passed

  5. Nowadays, we think nothing of it Carry On actor Kenneth Williams and pianist Liberace – both revealed to be gay after their deaths in the 80s Openly gay celebrities like Stephen Fry, the late Stephen Gately, Rupert Everett, Louie Spence and Elton John are loved by millions

  6. Queer Theory and Fight Club • We will analyse Fight Club from a Queer perspective • Much of this is obvious once you see it, but it is still challenging (especially when you consider the appeal of some of the stars of the film) • Basically – Fight Club is about the narrator exploring his sexuality

  7. Tyler Durden • Tyler is a manifestation of the narrator’s sexual desires • He’s a fantasy friend – cool, sexy, charismatic • Intimacy shared with the narrator (they live together / bathe together / fight together) is physical bordering on marital • Fighting is a replacement for sex

  8. Why create Tyler? • Tyler is everything the narrator would be • He’s an ideal to live up to • Creating a fantasy male friend like Tyler perhaps indicates repressed sexual attraction towards men • Fight Club is a ‘safe’ way to engage in pseudo-sexual contact (without actually having sex) • The narrator is possibly afraid of ‘coming out’

  9. What’s wrong with coming out? • Consumerist society sells through sex • Images of heterosexuality are projected through the media • To be gay is to stand out and not follow what the media state; it’s literally ‘deviation’ • Society expects men to be macho, fit, violent, treating women (Marla) like sex objects (think about how loud their sex is)

  10. Where does Marla fit into this? • The narrator is disgusted by her • “I’m wondering if another woman’s what we need.” • If she is a figment of his imagination, like Tyler, then to have the two of them having sex is like a betrayal, and the narrator (who has naturally been submissive all his life) creates a fantasy where even his hallucinations reject him, further confirming his anxiety over his repressed sexual desire

  11. Operation Mayhem • Is therefore a rebellion against an intolerant society • However, in realising that Tyler is not real, the narrator comes to terms with his repressed sexual desires and arguably chooses ‘normality’ (because he has been forced, by society, to conform)

  12. What about the ending? • At the end, the narrator kills Tyler Durden (his desire for men) and the last shot of the film is him holding hands with Marla (his desire for women) • Yet... The last shot is an intercut shot of a penis – is this really over and done with?

  13. Penises are everywhere in Fight Club! • Where? • What about things that are done with penises? • What could this tell us, analysing it from a Queer perspective?

  14. Misogyny is not Homosexuality • But... • There is a sense that the narrator abhorring women stems from him feeling uncomfortable with them sexually • Marla is a predatory woman; she speaks her mind and isn’t conventional; in many ways she is more like a man