Chris DeLine

Cedar Rapids, IA

“Fights Will Go On As Long As They Have To”

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What was saved as a draft several Sundays ago is posted today… “I’m finding myself writing a story that already exists.” Isn’t that a bitch, looking back on that note one day after writing it and realizing just how true it might be? I’m closing in on the finish of Dorian Lynskey’s The Ministry of Truth and am coming to grips with how much my ideas for stories have in common with George Orwell’s 1984, despite having never read the novel, myself. Something tells me I need to read that and We before I’ll have an understanding of what it is I’m actually trying to write. Or if it actually needs to be written.

Yesterday as a measure of healthy coping I went to McKay’s and walked out of there with a stack of books, adding to the shelf that already exists of materials I have yet to read. Atheism, nutrition and the economy are some of the subject matter focused on there. In trying to focus in on what my “theme”, or themes, for the year should be (“moving forward,” “health,” and “reading” is what I came up with) I felt a desire to push myself into getting a roster of materials from which I can draw upon.

I’m about half way through Less, and spent some time edging my way closer through Dave Hill’s book, and want to just keep going. Collecting ideas. Letting my imagination rumble its way through me. That’s what this entry is for: To unload and start letting the words flow. But also to reflect, stay current, and document. There’s some value there, I think… I hope.

This week I watched Three Colors: White, Three Colors: Red, Inherent Vice, Being There, Old Joy, Destroyer, Orange County, Victoria, A Ghost Story, Bad Taste, and Beyond the Black Rainbow. Of the films, A Ghost Story might be the one I enjoyed the most, despite remembering not having turned it on before because of how sad Kate had said it was. It is sad, but also interesting and in line with a lot of slow films that I like. Orange County is now leaving my collection, being added to the pile of DVDs that I’ll sell later this year. I don’t think there’s a film here that I’m dying to see again. What’s interesting is that I’m buying these books to essentially see if I can take away from them what I thought I could take away from DVDs and Blu-rays the past year and a half. Previously I’ve owned 1984, but I didn’t read it. Previously I had a copy of Fight Club, the novel, as well, which went unread. It’s a process, right? About two weeks ago I began writing some thoughts on Fight Club, having watched the film again, but I just ran out of steam and let it be (I forgot I had started writing it, until now, to be honest). I don’t think I care to revisit the article, or even finish it. But I do want to save it. There’s something worthwhile in the title I was going to use, which I’d pulled from the rules of fight club. Fights will only go on as long as they have to is something to aspire toward. I hope to only fight myself, my resistance, my stubbornness, my ideas, my hangups, myself, for as long as I have to before I can move on and move forward. Here’s to moving forward.

As recent as three years ago I owned a copy of Fight Club, the novel. I read it some years earlier, but I purchased it again for a reason I can’t quite place. Perhaps to find new insight or new value in it, or to make new meaning from something old. The same holds true for the film, I guess. Plus it was only three or four bucks, brand new. Frugality is in my veins.

I last viewed Fight Club a little over a year ago, jotting the following notes down with it: “Snuck in to the theater to see Fight Club when I was still underage and excused myself half-way through to go have a seizure in the bathroom. No idea if that’s what really happened (I did black out for a few moments), but that’s what I’ve been telling myself happened for the last twenty years or so. Also: Still a good movie.” It’s a disposable memory, but one that I carry with me. It’s special to me. I remember seeing a childhood friend a couple years later by the movie theater where the “seizure” took place, and he didn’t motion as if he even remembered me. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent at his house. He and I were alone, playing basketball, when he lost a tooth, catching it on the net, as we had lowered the hoop to play around with slam dunking the ball. His yell was incredible, “Aww, fuck.” We played on the same hockey team for two seasons. His mom told my mom that he was scared of going into junior high without me, prior to my family leaving the neighborhood. And he barely seemed to remember me. Or at least that was the put on. Rule number one: “You do not talk about fight club.”

There are some vaguely Buddhist threads that run throughout the novel/film’s story, including such anti-capitalist classics as “The things you own end up owning you.” Another memorable line from Tyler Durden goes, “Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War is a spiritual war, our Great Depression is our lives. 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.”

Stepping back a little, there is a strong undercurrent of victimhood to the plot. Victims of ourselves, of our society, of the carelessness of our previous generations: We are but sheep, herding ourselves to our own demise. A couple weeks back I saw a friend post a photo on Facebook, featuring her and her husband standing proudly with pitch black shirts featuring white lettering which read “Unafraid.” Or, I think that’s what it said, I just went back to double check and the photo is nowhere to be found. Either way, I messaged her asking what that meant, and she said it had something to do with her baptism. Like, she’s unafraid to tell the world she’s Christian. Like, she’s unafraid to tell her Protestant friends, living in a particularly Protestant part of a particularly Protestant nation that she’s unafraid to be Protestant. Back to Fight Club… Certain associations people have made with the film, and how people have piggybacked on its perceived meaning, have fueled the backlash it’s accrued the past two decades. White able-bodied men bitter, angry and in revolt of a society that raised them to believe they could be “rock stars” only to find themselves fully employed worker bees, making livable wages. You’re not the victim here; look at me, I am! I should be able to be angry; my hate is justified! And finally it is me who is unafraid to stand up and pronounce that I, too, belong to this country’s majority. We will not stand by silenced any longer! To which an acceptable response might be: Capitalism is rightly crushing us all, you moron, not just you. I’m reminded of an important quote here: “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”

But, depending on the lens through which you view Fight Club, the film also satirizes masculinity, mocking the narrow, confining definitions of what it means “to be a man.” But it doesn’t read that way, if what you’re looking for is a rallying cry for why men are the victims of the same system that stereotypes gender in the first place. Drawing a connection between the dots of (toxic) masculinity and capitalism, the macho ideals on display are as unattainable as the lifestyle deemed essential by capitalism; neither are essential to living, yet both are sold to us as essential cornerstones for something we need in order to exist. Viewed from another angle, the film easily promotes heterosexuality as something of performance art, or how the closeted rules behind the secretive club of fighting men is somehow code for gay culture, as it stepped out of shadows and into the mainstream. The film is many things to many people. It can be used to defend any number of causes or positions, or it can be used as the target for so much of what is wrong with this world. To me, this time around… having now viewed it no fewer than a dozen times, I’m not sure what it has come to mean to me, personally.

To purchase the novel again was an attempt to prove to myself that I could glean something deeper from the ’90s pop culture artifact that I hadn’t been able to previously understand. To return to the film and write about it, maybe, hopefully was to represent an outward projection of some deeper inner understanding of the film and my place in the story surrounding it that I continue to craft in my head. Now, after looking at what others have concluded about the film, and after thinking about what it’s meant to me for twenty years, it’s interesting to see feel a different understanding of what it might all mean to me at this stage in life. Rule number seven: “Fights will go on as long as they have to.”

Throughout the film, the act of being someone else helps Jack (I don’t believe Edward Norton’s character is actually given a name, but that’ll do) live his life, because the self that he had become—influenced by the world around him—was slowly killing him. However made up the identity might have been that Jack took on, it helped him save himself. Jack had become a product of what other people, and society, had told him he should be, but in creating a new identity in his mind he was able to move forward.

As author Chuck Palahniuk mentioned in the film commentary, we can hide out in our beautifully decorated homes or we can decide how much of the world we want to take responsibility for. That includes the self. Is society out to destroy me, or have I walled myself in to this believe that it is, and it’s not in my personal control to try to find a way forward? How much baggage am I carrying with me that is utterly irrelevant moving forward? I’m certain that I picked the film back up to view it, process it, and write something worthy of validation from others, hoping to find some form of positive feedback, leaving me feeling better about myself in lieu of ever being able to truly appreciate myself in the same way that I’m hoping others might.