Popular Culture (2) : Identity and Capitalism Fight Club– Political Action or Schizophrenia?
Outline • Identity, Popular Culture and Capitalism • examples from our class so far • three kinds of culture jamming • Fight Club: • Starting Questions • the protagonist Jack & his Discontent • Support Groups • Tyler and Fight Club • Jack vs. Tyler 1. Marla 2. The development of Fight Club • The Ending
Popular Culture • Mass Culture (promoted by Media) • People Culture, the culture of everyday life. People’s ways of life. • Two Views: 1). Postmodernity overall commodification, from which contemporary arts do not keep a critical distance. Consumers are ‘massified.’ Schizophrenia (split personality, separation of form from content, signifier from the signified. 2). People’s ways to “make do” with what they have (through bricolageappropriation, poaching, adaptation, manipulatation, trickery and guerilla attacks).
1. After the Great Divide • Examples from the texts we have read/watched? Ararat: • 1) interconnected fields: Anil’s publication of a biography (realistic) used and dramatized by a historical film; • 2) the mother’s sewing & photograph painting
Slaughterhouse-V: Commercial and Media culture • “Pee-to-weet”– a matter of everyday life, although it’s not of human beings. • BP – a business man runs stores and join the Lion’s Club. • Other Examples: • 1) Valley of Doll: drug, film industry, ups and downs plot • 2) commodification of war victims (cripples) • 3) The Three Musketeers
Media Culture: the Medium is the Matter • Fiction is Reality, Reality Fiction. In one text or in society, there are different roles. • e.g. a novel as a funhouse—maker, lovers. • e.g. the film industry: players (executives) and their power struggle; writers and women gazed at. • e.g. artist: Criticized for writing reality into fiction Harry can survive only in his art world. "Hat Act“–desperate attempts to please the audience • Forrest Gump: • We get to know the Vietnam war through television; • The 60’s counter culture simplified, while the people faddism mocked. • Producing fantasies -- "The Babysitter"
Culture Jam is . . . • Reality hacking, breathing so that you don’t get suffocated, responding to mass media in a subversive way, tactical intervention, a semiological warfare, reconfiguring the logo, academy hacking, making a mockery of consensus reality. • Premises: no free speech; no way to respond, while our mind is “branded” or occupied by those ads.
Style: minimalist, Target: Billboard, Transit ads, Street furniture Purpose: changing the viewers’s consciousness in a simple way. Not damaging the ads. 1. Billboard Liberation Front
2. Carly Stasko, Media Tigress • Target: ads everywhere • Method: with collages with stickers on the ads • Purpose: open our mind, making a little space for responding to the ads
“Small” and/or Subtle Protests • Shopping is good, enjoy debt, fill your inner emptiness with stuff!
Two Types of Controversies • Defacing public property? • On an opposite end to the media makers? “We all love media.”
Church of Stop Shopping • Target: Disney as a sweat shop • Method: theatrical activism (a fake priest); shock people into an awareness with a few minutes’ theatrical acts, or suspension of their common sense.
Controversies • Mixing two dearly loved symbols: that of Mickey and cross • Christ is a Jewish comedian // Mickey, a seizer
Starting Questions • Why is the protagonist (called Jack, Cornelius, etc.) nameless and in a nameless city? What kind of person is he? And what are his problems? • How does he meet Marla Singer and Tyler Durden? Do they help solve his problems? • How does the group Fight Club satisfy him? And when it develops into Project Mayhem? • What do you think about the ending?
Jack as a Middle-Class White-Collar Worker • A vehicle recall assessor; his job is to apply formula in calculating damages. • Commodified: In 15-floor condo with an empty fridge and a lot of IKEA furniture (With the IKEA nesting instinct) • Disconnected and Lonely: • Suffers from insomnia; • A Traveler– chap 8 (What’s your name? You wake up at . . . ) “If you wake up at a different time, in a different place, do you wake up as a different person?” • Travel single-serving foods and single-serving friends • Imagine accidents (chap 9) “the illusion of safety”
Jack about the World • International Capitalism: • The world will be ruled and named by the grand enterprises. • Conformity and Simulation of “Personal Styles”: • Everything is a copy of a copy of a copy; • Used to read pornography; now it’s the Horchow catalogue. • fragmentation of the bodies. • (at Tyler’s place) “I’m Jack’s colon; I’m Jill’s nipple”
Jack in the Support Groups • Purpose: Freedom and Release—Actually an escape • Get listened to when you’re really dying. • Lost in oblivion, dark and deep. • Found freedom. (Cave penguin or Marla) • Not really connected with the groups: fake his illness to Bob; cannot face Cloe. Marla Singer; a tourist; her lie reflects his lie. he cannot sleep again.
The 2nd Release: Tyler Durden • Chap 11: Movie projector insert porn clips; • Waitor put semen and urine in foods (Terrorist in food industry • His place – the opposite to Jack’s condo. (chap 14) • Against consumerism and corporate industry. • Fist-fighting to vent one’s anger and build strength.
Consumerism: What’s Wrong?(chap 11) Unequal relations among people; Mind control We get owned by the things we use.
(chap 11) • Jack: . . . “I was close to being complete.” • Tyler Durden: Do you know what a duvet is? • Jack: A comforter. • Tyler: It’s a blanket. Just a blanket. Why do guys like you and I know what a duvet is? Is it essential to our survival in the hunter-gatherer sense? No. What are we, then? • Jack: I dunno. Consumers? • Tyler: Right. We’re consumers. We are by-products of a lifestyle obsession. Murder, crime, poverty. These things don’t concern me. What concern me are celebrity magazines, television with 500 channels, some guy’s name on my underwear. Rogaine. Viagra. Olestra. • Jack: Martha Stewart. (Owner of Living magazine) • Tyler: Fuck Martha Stewart. She’s polishing the brass on the Titanic. It’s all going down, Man. So fuck off with your sofa units and Strinne green stripe patterns. I say never be complete. I say stop being perfect. I say let’s evolve. Let the chips fall where they may. • The thing you own end up owning you.
Fight Club: Why? • Masculine, exhilarating, pressure-releasing (an alternative to the support group). • Does not need TV, • Everything in his life get its volume turned down. • Chap 15: It was in everyone’s face, Tyler and I just made it visible; it was on the tip of everyone’s tongue, and Tyler and I just gave it a name. • Self-Strengthening (‘carved out of wood’) • Separate at first from daily life traces of bruises and blood shown in their lives.
Objects of Fighting • Authorities: father, boss • Tough guys: Hemingway, • Gentle men: Lincoln, Gandhi, • Stay away from women: “We are a generation of men raised by women.” • Get battered by the authorities first: e.g. Tyler and the landlord, Jack and his boss
Tyler vs. Jack (1): Marla • Tyler starts to close his door. • Jack feels his house invaded by Martha. • Jealous, Jack overhears the noises “the other two” make in their sexual intercourse (instead of going to a room where he will not hear it); • Tyler asked J to not talk about him or fight club to Marla; • A six-year-old passing messages between parents. • Upon Marla’s departure, they go further into their ‘male’ pursuit.
Tyler—Jack’s masculine pursuit • Making soap selling the rich women their fat back to them. • Taking burns on the hand—accept pain and death; (close to hitting the bottom) • Fight club theory: • “Our great war is a spiritual war, our depression is our lives.” Angry for being fooled by TV commercials. “We've all been raised by television to believe that one day we'll all be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars -- but we won't. And we're learning slowly that fact. And we're very, very pissed off." ” • “You are not your job; you’re not the content of your wallet.” • To the police investigator: “The people you’re after are the people you depend on. We clean clothes, haul your trash, we connect your calls, … watch for your security, etc.)
Fight Club as an Organization • Boxing with a consensual partner start a fight with a total stranger; chap 21-22 • Random acts of violence (smashing cars, sabotage business messages • “Human sacrifice” threatens a convenience store owner to go back to school. • Setting Rules and preaching lessons • Organized crimes:Project Mayhem (blowing up stores “controlled demolition”) • Applicants: young and fat guys included • Building an army • --Bob’s dead body –body or “evidence” to be “gotten ride of” “His name is Robert Poulsen … His name is Robert Poulsen”
Tyler vs. Jack • Conflicts start with Project Mayhem • The suicidal car ride –near-life experience “ground-zero” experience at the beginning • Hitting bottom isn't a weekend retreat! It's not a seminar! You have to forget everything you know, everything you think you know -- about life, about friendship, about you and me. • Chap 28 – Tyler gone, and Jack awoke: “In the world I see -- you are stalkingelk through the damp canyon forests around the ruins of Rockefeller Center. You will wear leather clothes that will last you the rest of your life. You will climb the wrist-thick kudzu vines that wrap the Sears Tower. You will see tiny figures pounding corn and laying strips of venison(鹿肉 ) on the empty car pool lane of the ruins of a superhighway.”
Tyler = Jack • “I’m all alone. Tyler dumped me. My father dumped me. I’m Jack’s broken heart.” • Go after Tyler: • 1) language of dream: “Am I asleep? Have I slept? Is Tyler in my dream, or am I in his?” • 2) in a state of perpetual déjà vu. • 3)chap 31: language of flight—return the seat back to its upright position; just lose cabin air pressure
Tyler = Jack • Clues of Tyler’s being Jack’s alter ego: • After the first night, Jack does not admit he does it and Marla is angry; • Tyler and Marla do not appear in the same place with Jack. • Chap 24 (1:25): the discussion on the weak latched on to the strong (Tyler in the basement).
Tyler = Jack • Confrontation chap 31 • Tyler Durden: All the things you wish you could be, that's me. I look like you wanna look, I fuck like you'd like to fuck. I am smart capable and most importantly, I am free, in all the ways that you're not.
Tyler vs. Jack (2) • Trying to stop the crimes and stop Marla from being killed • The pervasiveness of Project Mayhem. (police stations, bars and restaurants) • The film’s beginning and ending – repetitive with a change • What do you think about the ending?
Political Action turned Schizophrenia • Sense of déjà vu he is split in his self, never fully in one place, always having a sense of repetition. • He faces the consequences of his split personalities and kills the “Tyler” part of his self. • Ambiguous ending: buildlings burned down like firecrackers; two uni-sex youngsters.
Self-reflexive elements • Self-reflexive elements -- Shaking of the Screen—reminding us that it’s an illusion?
Self-reflexive elements • Self-reflexive elements –skin-deep psyche?