Fight Club – How (Not) To Become A Space Monkey

Fight Club – How (Not) To Become A Space Monkey


This video is brought to you by MUBI,
an online cinema streaming handpicked exceptional films from around the globe.
Get one month free at MUBI.com/likestoriesofold
Like a monkey, ready to be shot into space.
Space monkey!
There’s something painfully ironic about
Tyler Durden’s followers in the film Fight Club.
Here we have a whole group of men who are
drawn towards an individual for his self-actualization
and independency of thought,
only to become blind followers.
A group of men who want to break free,
who want to become their own man,
and end up becoming space monkeys.
What is this strange and contradictory phenomenon
of men seeking enlightenment,
and ending up ignorant?
Of men proclaiming they want freedom, only to accept imprisonment through mindless obedience?
Who, in short, become the very opposite of
the ideal they were striving for?
I don’t know. I don’t understand.
Why does a weaker person need to latch on
to a strong person?
What is that?
In The Denial of Death, Ernest Becker pondered
the same question.
He observed the folly of men who, throughout
history, gave their loyalty to other men,
and who, after snapping out of the spell
and reflecting on it,
would wonder how they believed so blindly
and obeyed so willingly.
How can a mature man be so fascinated, and why?
He observed that the most reasonable explanation
is that leaders tend to seem larger than life,
they project a powerfulness that others are
drawn to.
And because men both worship and fear power,
they give their loyalty to those who dispense it.
He’s a great man.
Do you know about Tyler Durden?
But this explanation, Becker continues, only
touches the surface.
Men don’t become slaves out of mere calculating
self-interest; the slavishness is in the soul.
He argues that the fascination with a leader
is found in the eyes of the beholder.
Therefore what needs to be explained is not
so much the traits of the leader,
but more so the experience of the follower.
The question then posed by Becker is that
if all people are more or less alike,
why do we burn with such all-consuming passions
for some of them?
No Wait. Back up.
Let me start earlier.
Before we get into the reasons men become
infatuated with characters like Tyler Durden,
we must first address their deeper desires
and motivations,
which, according to Becker, are the same for everyone when broken down to their most fundamental level.
In his main thesis, he argues that the real
dilemma of man’s existence
is that he is a mortal animal who is conscious
of his own mortality.
And, like any other animal facing annihilation,
he desperately seeks to escape it.
It’s not so much the death of our physical being that we fear, but rather the death of our symbolic self;
of the unique identity we crafted for ourselves.
That is the real tragedy;
to spend years coming into our own,
developing talents, suffering hardships, becoming mature, seasoned;
Finally a unique creature in nature, standing with some dignity and nobility
and transcending the human condition;
and then he is good only for dying.
I had it all.
I had a stereo that was very decent, a wardrobe
that was getting very respectable.
I was close to being complete.
Hence, the fundamental problem of man:
he wants to overcome death,
and because he cannot do so literally,
he does so symbolically.
And this is how I met Tyler Durden.
The fascination with Tyler Durden can be explained
by what psychoanalyst Fritz Redl calls
the infectiousness of the unconflicted person.
Tyler, you are by far the most interesting
single-serving friend I’ve ever met.
He seduces us because he does not have the
same conflicts that we have.
He is confident where we feel ashamed,
he is free where we feel trapped,
and most importantly; he breaks the ice,
he does what no one else dared to do.
I want you to hit me as hard as you can.
By performing this initiatory act, the unconflicted person opens a space in which he,
as Freud once observed, allows others to express their
forbidden impulses and secret wishes.
It was on the tip of everyone’s tongue,
Tyler and I just gave it a name.
Gentlemen, welcome to Fight Club.
With this central person to latch on to and
form a group around;
The members do not feel that they are alone
with their own smallness and helplessness,
as they have the powers of the hero-leader
with whom they are identified.
We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars.
But we won’t.
And we’re slowly learning that fact.
And we’re very, very pissed off.
Tyler’s Fight Club is particularly enticing
because it acknowledges men’s existential dilemma,
and turns this fundamental source
of misery into a pathway towards salvation.
First you have to know, not fear, know, that someday you’re gonna die.
We just had a near-life experience.
Because of this rejection of the very notion
of self-identity,
we gradually see Tyler’s followers transform into the aforementioned space monkeys.
You are not special.
Tyler built himself an army.
To what purpose?
In Tyler we trusted.
And subsequently, we see these former somebodies
blindly following Tyler’s orders into increasingly
severe acts of violence and terrorism.
But, as Becker argues, there something deeper
going on here.
It is not just that “father permits it”
or “orders it.”
It is more: the magical heroic transformation
of the world and of oneself.
It explains why men are so willing to submit
themselves,
so capable of doing what any rational mind
would condemn.
Heroic transformation doesn’t just provide
a philosophy or a justification for action,
it provides a story;
We’re the middle children of history, man. Our Great War’s a spiritual war, our Great Depression is our lives.
A story that gives the world a fundamental purpose;
Fight Club became the reason to cut your hair
short or trim your fingernails.
A story that gives meaning to death.
In death, a member of project mayhem has a
name, his name is Robert Paulsen.
Without even judging the acts of violence
and the specifics of Tyler’s ideology,
we see the inherent danger of this kind of transformation
that inevitably simplifies a complex world into one of insiders and outsiders,
of worthy heroes and punishable villains,
of imagined destinies and unquestioned entitlement.
A transference of one’s helplessness, guilt and conflicts into a narrow construction of meaning and identity.
All facilitated by the central leader who
absolves his followers from any personal responsibility,
but in exchange absorbs their personal freedom,
and individuality.
Psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion extended this line
of thought by explaining how the leader too
loses his individuality just as much as his
followers, and that he is just as unfree precisely
because he has to qualify for leadership by
acting in accordance to the group’s assumptions
and expectations, which of course can escalate
beyond what the leader intended.
You said if anyone ever interferes with Project Mayhem, even you, we got to get his balls.
As to our unnamed narrator, there is a sense
of irony in watching his desperate attempts
to escape the clutches of Fight Club,
both as a follower and as its leader,
and in the realization that he is basically back
where he began;
trying to free himself from a set of principles that once promised him a symbolic victory over death,
but now seem empty and destructive.
I think this is about where we came in.
It also shows that while Fight Club portrays
an extreme version of how men can fetishize leaders
and turn into by-products of an ideology,
it is something we have all done to greater or lesser extent, and are probably still doing right now.
It even occurs with fictional characters,
just look at how many men were completely enamored with Tyler Durden’s philosophy
despite knowing he ends up being the main antagonist in the story.
This however, might be the film’s fault as Fight Club is rather notorious for its conflicting messages
and for having text that says one thing,
while the subtext says something else.
Take for example how they mock the
poster of a male model;
Is that what a man looks like?
Which is followed by the iconic shot of Tyler
arising into the frame
to become the workout goal for pretty much every guy who joined a gym after the film’s release.
Of course, being inspired by other men isn’t
necessarily harmful,
but it does point to some deeper issues.
We’re a generation of men raised by women
Today, it seems like it’s particularly young men who yearn for male role models;
for leaders who offer safe havens where their troubles don’t seem so troubling anymore,
and where they can finally feel like they belong.
It’s essentially a search for father-figures,
not just in the paternal sense,
but also as sources for purpose and meaning.
Our fathers were our models for God.
If our fathers bailed, what does that tell
you about God?
But these stand-in models never seem to last,
they never truly fill the void that lingers underneath.
And this is because leaders offer stories,
and stories demand illusions.
And sooner or later, illusions fall apart.
Besides, stories can be easily corrupted by
men who, intentionally or unintentionally,
act out of their own self-interest.
To quote an extended passage of Becker’s
the Denial of Death;
When we are young we are often puzzled by
the fact that each person we admire
seems to have a different version of
what life ought to be,
what a good man is, how to live, and so on.
If we are especially sensitive it seems more
than puzzling, it is disheartening.
What most people usually do is to follow one
person’s ideas and then another’s
depending on who looms largest on
one’s horizon at the time.
The one with the deepest voice, the strongest
appearance, the most authority and success,
is usually the one who gets
our momentary allegiance;
and we try to pattern our ideals after him.
But as life goes on we get a perspective on this
and all these different versions of truth
become a little pathetic.
Each person thinks that he has the formula
for triumphing over life’s limitations
and knows with authority what it means
to be a man,
and he usually tries to win a following
for his particular patent.
Today we know that people try so hard to win
converts for their point of view
because it is more than merely an outlook on life:
it is an immortality formula.
It’s important to be aware of these dynamics
in order to better judge whose ideas we follow,
who we give our allegiance to, and whether
or not they really aim to empower others;
We give each other strength.
Or merely serve to empower themselves.
Therefore, if you find yourself being fascinated
with one man’s worldview or ideology,
really ask yourself;
what is seen as truth?
What is seen as lie?
What is deemed heroic?
What is deemed villainous?
Who needs to be saved?
And who needs to suffer?
Who do I have to be?
And who do I really want to be?
The point is not so much to weigh one man’s
ideas against another’s,
but rather to make you think about the underlying principles that draw you towards these would-be leaders
in the first place.
Because what is perhaps the main lesson here,
is that the world is always bigger than what any one man has to say about it.
And so what truly matters is to always reflect,
to stay critical, to safeguard your freedom,
your moral compass, and your individuality,
for no one man is great enough for you to become
his space monkey.
Trust me.
Everything’s gonna be fine.
You met me at a very strange time in my life.
What is probably the best way to avoid being
enticed by the promises of charismatic hero leaders,
is to expand your personal worldview,
to seek out diverse voices and different perspectives.
For a platform that actively operates according
to these principles,
I highly recommend you to check out MUBI.
MUBI is an online cinema streaming a handpicked
selection of films from around the globe.
Every day, they present a new film.
Whether it’s a timeless classic, a thought-provoking
documentary, or an acclaimed masterpiece,
there is always a carefully curated selection
of 30 films to dive into.
It’s a simple, but highly effective way
to start exploring the riches of cinema,
and I’m happy to share this with you by offering
30 days for free.
So head on over to MUBI.com/likestoriesofold
to begin your extended free trial today.

74 thoughts on “Fight Club – How (Not) To Become A Space Monkey”

  1. Fight Club turned 20 this year! When did you first see it? What were your thoughts about it? Let me know below! 🙂

  2. Really interesting applying this to Jordan Petersen, who promises true freedom through structure and discipline, in a world he claims is being destroyed by the chaotic lies of "political correctness." I've seen members of my own family completely surrender their own identity to the sureness, confidence, and measured steadiness of JP… despite the fact that he is little more than the socio-political version of Deepak Chopra as he is needlessly wordy (to hide his logical fallacies) and laughably self-contradictory. They are fooled by the fine clothes, calm demeanor, and "anti-PC" attitude.

  3. Individuals twigs are easily broken, a bundle of sticks is able to stay strong under pressure. That’s what they seek in Tyler, they seek a mannerbund of like minded individuals where they can find cohesive belonging, and not looking for “individualistic enlightenment” and becoming their “own men,” but instead finding freedom through discipline and acceptance among the tribe…and tribe with a small t here, not a univeralistic or humanistic based phrasing, but instead as others have accused the film, in a fascistic fashion. Individualism is deracinating, it is alienating, it is isolating, and it is purposeless. Being drawn to a figure, or a cause, or a movement, or a …. purpose; is not illogical, it’s not a pathology; it is human nature expressing itself by not wanting to be alone, and wanting something that transcends in whatever way.

  4. Interesting you keep using psychoanalysis, and examples pertaining to it in regards to the “us versus them” dichotomy…which psychoanalysis was itself guilty of. It was literally us versus them and hero worship with Freud as the central figure. Any transgression against the movement was met with expulsion and the individual treated as an unperson by the members of the group, who were forbade from interaction with the transgressor.

    Eugen Bleuler left the psychoanalytic movement in 1911, and said to Freud: “this ‘who is not for us is against us,’ this ‘all or nothing,’ is necessary for religious communities and useful for political parties. I can therefore understand the principle as such, but for science I consider it harmful.”

    Interesting that Marx and Freud and these figures were treated amongst their followers in the same way Durden is treated; yet it lacks the self awareness to realize it is critiquing the exact action it is partaking in.

  5. If you remember, even if the mantra was "one does not ask questions about project mayhem"
    It is abundantly obvious in the group of space monkeys that drop Marla with Tyler at the end along with the beer to celebrate the event, in the security guard assuring him: "the building has been evacuated, everything has been taken care of… sir" or group of cops willing to castrate their leader and never doubting that he is doing it to prove his dedication to the plan and the idea that they all believe and have pledge allegiance in, no him, but the idea
    It is only the other side ( the original character from where Tyler came that is blind to the objective and therefore fighting him and them
    Remember at the end they where unhesitantly willing to fight him and even castrate him to avoid him interfering with the plan

  6. Fight club wasn't well received back then because, in spite of being a satire, it touched relevant and painful themes of society and masculinity… Just like Joker now!!! Thanx, great as usual….

  7. I first watched it in 1999, but only worked out the meaning of it in 2012. This essay of mine on the meaning of Fight Club was published a few weeks ago on The Fincher Analyst. I am pretty sure (1) that you have never heard this perspective before; and (2) that it is the most compelling, evidence-based, perspective you will have heard before. Feel free to mock me mercilessly if you disagree ;)https://thefincheranalyst.com/articles/lgats-and-fight-club-dissecting-a-delusion/

  8. What a great video, I always wondered about the modern phenomenon of the internet celebrity following in spite of their shallowness, Jordon Peterson, Ben Shapiro……etc

  9. It´s somewhat ironic how you quote Ernest Becker, who obviously had Freud as a "father-figure". It´s actually the other way around, it´s harmful for men to not have some kind of ideal. That is what might lead to nihilism. When people don´t find a good role-model, that´s when they submit to leaders such as Hitler, Mussolini etc. Btw, you should do a video on Rust Cohle, the character of True Detective Season 1.

  10. I read Beckers 3 books while in the army The end of meaning- denial of death- escape from evil- in 1/5 mm letters, night and day this connects very well. yet i have come to understand that god-less man is the strongest in the absurd existence of a unnecessarily nihilistic view of life. No man is you say is good enough to follow, i get that, i really do., but men follow men since the beginning of time… its a conundrum really those who really embody the masculine virtues attract men as comrades and females alike, we are after all tribal, social, and yet the circle of individuation without the role models cannot be fulfilled for men, we are after all ignoring the elephant in the room – the ineffable – its the mark of all philosophers to venture outside of that which they cannot express to validate the whole existence through logic and consistency. Be silent and know that you are it. we are simply entertaining ourselves pretending not to know it, forgetfulness is the blissful oblivion. If you have ever experienced psychedelics in the right set and setting there are really no questions.

  11. While I thoroughly enjoy this channel it has also become easier over time to understand it’s perspective around life. Similar to the reference of Jordan Peterson in this video, a lot of youtube creators including this channel are also framing and building their own following with their crafted world views. World views presented by self-selecting stories, literature, and persons that build on it. Presenting it with a voice of wisdom over an emotional soundtrack to most effectively captivate an audience. While this media similar to Hollywood movies can captivate audiences, it is and will always remain a self-centered and unquestionable way of presenting a world view. Humans look at the world through patterns. Patterns which we often find depending on our own unaware and fabricated world views. The only way to break free of these self-created patterns is to create new ways in which to engage with stories with others. There are numerous topics in this video and others that should be questioned. One of them is the idea of men blindly following leaders. This blind following does not necessarily need to be a person but could take many shapes and forms. Youtube channels like this one and others have the same properties to create a similar following. This channel tackles deep issues that we face today and delivers a quite coherent world view once you piece them together. Something which will always be a result of a single or a small group of persons unconscious and unquestioned work from outside. Delivered with a faceless and soothing voice with music that seems to be delivered by an enlightened being. Having said that, I do enjoy this channel and I continuously come back to listen. However, I do question many of its presented ideas and world views. I believe that the idea of being a critical thinker does not come from thinking in solitude but by continuously being a seeker of it. Something which requires you to mostly search for ideas that you disagree with and to stop the spell, the comfort, the high you receive by listening to ideas that resonate to your already fabricated world view. A spell that is especially hard to break in this day and age as ideas are presented with an orchestra of emotions, similar to that of a professional ad campaign.

  12. And here I thought my lack of need/want to connect to or follow others was a liability. Charismatic individuals have never inspired my blind loyalty. I guess its a strength, after all.

  13. why are we not good enough …
    ……………. daddy-stockholm will trip you and the tell you to get up.
    rape and death is not enlightenment but control and loyalty.

    FakeiSreal & Love is not pretending.

  14. I think im going to start a fight club with my friends. Just to legit beat the sht out of each other as an initiation to manhood. These initiations no longer exist (maybe frats – but they are nowhere near as intense as they ought to be). Our frat has a lawyer, so I would make the participants sign a contract in case someone breaks his jaw or something they can't press charges on anyone. Am I right or missing something? If you know how I could go about setting this up in a way that isn't illegal let me know. I am thinking that if they sign some waiver and they there is no profit (i.e no betting for example) then it should be fine. But I am certain that I am missing something.

  15. wouldn't it be awesome if all those people who disliked the video just explained why they disliked ,, that would be awesome to know their opinions too

  16. Thank you, your insight helped me see from a different perspective to help answer some important life questions I've been wrestling with. Really, from the bottom of my heart, thank you!

  17. "Yeah, I was just clinging to authorities, and that's what constitutes my misery! No longer will I obey!"
    Thank you for another idea for escaping the fear or death. But maybe the boys do need a father in order to become a man?

  18. this is the movie that gave Pitt what he needed…a chance to show the masculinity he encopass and that the industry is afraid to show, and men all over the world responded to it…the birth of MGTOW

  19. Not everyone can become a leader ,not every man can become an alpha ,most are born to remain followers -of the corporate or some cult ,and that's the reality

  20. I dont think that the movie has such overthinking and shit, i think that is more style over substance, just a very cool movie

  21. the only true freedom is in being infinite
    watch sadhguru if you wanna be free
    he's prolly the legit person on today's Internet who is truely self realized and self actualized

  22. I have a brother which I lost to the philosophy of fight club ……. and he is now paying the price for it. I don't know if he will ever recover from it.

    I'm so thankfull that I found a spiritual father that seems to be the opposite of that. He is making me into my own spiritual father.

  23. Something about the way you talk reminded me of the kinds of phrases used in the time travel book in Donnie Darko ("the unconflcted" etc. sounded a lot like "the manipulated dea" to me for some reason).
    I would love a video on this film btw! 😉

  24. Watching this video made me realize I kinda view the philosophy and stoicism portrayed in Gladiator growing up, the same way people may have viewed Tyler Durden and Fight Club.

  25. Everything and anything in this movie is in a particular way because that was the probably one of the best ways to put it, for the audience to take it in.
    Self Actualization and spiritually, when Tyler Durdenised becomes cool and aesthetic when it gets the face, attitude, Outlook and charisma of Tyler through Bradd Pitt.
    the following scenes
    •The "our real war is the spiritual war" speech
    •The car accident scene
    •The "let the chips fall where they may" scene
    •The iconic scene where Brad Pitt's rises and his chiseled body is glorifying-ly portrayed and every other scene

    Would definitely not create the same impact if the cinematic aesthetics of the scenes or the film, namely Tyler's aura, charisma, outlook and attitude were changed even slightly or if it was any different.

  26. I have been following your videos since your essay about Kingdom of Heaven and Kant's Moral Philosophy and absolutely loved the way you analyze and produce these videos but, I think this is the only movie you get it wrong or at least you are missing the essence of the movie and the story. I think the story is not just about any rebellion against authority or "kill the credit card debts and we will be free", I believe it is about the revolution of men, not people just simple hunter-gatherer men, a backlash of an idea of the masculinity in a feminine society. If you watch some scenes like the one in the bathroom and Narrator is talking about getting married or simply everything about Project Mayhem is to eliminating the modern jobs, houses, furnitures, arts to be free again like in the ancient times such as finding an empty space to live like the house in the Paper Street without any luxury or anything, etc.
    And so many things I can say but it has already become too long for a comment.
    Love your work, keep it going.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,