Fight Club - The SSL Review

Charlie's youngest brother was hanging out with us this weekend, and as we were looking for movies to watch, we realized that he had never seen Fight Club. Being that he was 9 when it came out in 1999, it's not surprising, but we thought we should remedy it. Charlie and I were 19 when Fight Club came out, and it was, well, it was a formative movie for both of us. It is solidly in both of our top 5, although possibly in different places. I realized, though, after seeing it this time, that I needed to write an SSL Review, and that it would certainly not put Fight Club into the "progressive" category when it comes to depictions of female sexual response. I'll get to the SSL criticism later, but for now, I'm just going to talk about the movie for a sec.

After I saw it the first time, it made me feel all excited inside (and not just because of Brad Pitt's rock hard body all over the screen - which to be fair was super hot). It was a movie that really showed me the potential of the movie medium, and watching it again (I've seen it more than a couple times, but I haven't seen it in probably at least 5 years), it brought back all those feelings. This movie is rich and full - the editing, the design, the story telling style - the special effects are detailed and motivated and still hold up 12 years later...and the sound, come on, the sound.

It's a movie that really uses all its resources, as a movie, to immerse the viewer. A lot of people think that books are always better than the movie, but I think that's usually because the movie is trying to engage the viewer like a book, when it should be engaging us like a movie. That's what this movie did, and it really opened my eyes to that idea...and by the way, this movie is better than the book. But, it has it's flaws too (which also - by the way - are worse in the book). The most prominent to me is something I didn't actually notice when I first saw this movie at 19. Let me just say it this way. A story that carves out intricate, dynamic, layered male characters and interesting worlds in which those male characters can act, yet either fails to do the same for the existing female characters or fails to recognize that female characters could be engaged in the worlds that have been created - well a movie like that is not as rich or as innovative as it could be, and let me tell ya - there are a lot of these stories out there.

Also on a similar note, I just want to mention something, because it is so clearly a result of a male lazily writing a female. Marla - the only big female role in the movie is weird and surface interesting, but sadly has no dynamism in this script and ends up just being a classic 1-dimensional girlfriend character but with a darker exterior. Anyway, she walks up to the main character and tells him she's wearing a bridesmaid dress she got from a thrift store. She says something to the effect that "someone loved this dress intensely for 1 day." First off, it's common knowledge that women generally don't like bridesmaid dresses. And secondly, even if someone likes their bridesmaid dress, I feel pretty confident in saying that no woman in the history of weddings has ever loved her bridesmaid dress intensely - ever. So, I'm not saying a man can't write a woman, because I think it can be done well. What I do want to say though, to my dear Fight Club, is that a man can't write a woman well when he is merely thinking about his version of a female stereotype and writing what he thinks this pretend idea of a woman might say and do. That's all I'm gonna say about that. Otherwise I love the film - except I have to do a little more critiquing, because that's what an SSL Review is all about.

Here's some critical points we can confidently know; specifically points that are important in understanding what this movie insinuates about female sexual response.

1.Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) is fantastic in bed. We know this because Marla says he is, and I see no sign of sarcasm or irony when she says this.

2. Marla and Tyler are doing it a lot; their sexual encounters last a while. One way we know this is because Edward Norton's character (the narrator), finds about 4 tied at the end, used condoms in the toilet one morning after. Granted, this couple could be a safe one that changes condoms often, but I think it's safe to say that by showing a bunch of condoms, the director was showing us that the couple was having a lot more sex in one night than, say, you and your husband would most likely have. The audience also gets a montage of sex sounds coming from upstairs night after night while the narrator does things like works out and tries to ignore it. It's pretty clear that Marla and Tyler are sexin' fools.

3. Marla is hot in the sack. We know this because Tyler says this to the narrator. It's not only that though. This woman is straight up wild as fuck. Tyler, while telling the narrator how hot she is in bed, also says something like "I can't believe the shit that comes out of her mouth." Then the movie cuts to Marla and Tyler flopping back in bed as if they just got done doing it, and she says "I haven't been fucked like that since grade school." So...we're meant to see that Marla, to put it crudely, is kinda fucked up in a sexy, hot, anything goes sort of way. I won't get into the strange (and frankly fucked up), but all too common message this is giving us about what exactly makes a woman sexy in bed. This isn't the blog for that. I just want you to note that this is a woman who is portrayed as interesting, hyper-sexual, and highly alluring in bed.

4. Marla and Tyler have jack-hammer sex. There is a lot of banging going on when Marla and Tyler are having sex. The sound that the narrator hears all the time is the constant squeak and movement of the bed. It's loud, and it's rough, and it even makes the ceiling fall apart. It is a sound that tells us in no uncertain terms that she is getting rammed hard and fast. Also, Marla is giving pretty constant sex vocalization - indicating that if she is not orgasming at that moment, she is at least on her way there.

We also see a flashback of them having sex - which I think is funny because of the truly confused look on his face while he's doing her. This is actually the only time we see a clear picture of any of their sex acts, and sure enough, it's just straight up bangin'. She is laying face up with her head hanging off the bed. He is kneeling between her legs pounding her. Her hands are up around her head and no one is touching anywhere near her clit nor is the position one where her clit would make contact with his body. Yet, of course, she is giving us sex noises like she is coming or about to come.

5. Tyler is cool as hell. First off - he's Brad Pitt. Secondly, he's cut like nobody's business, dresses like a bad ass sexy late 90's hipster (that is when he has his shirt on, which thankfully is not that often), is always drinking beer, and moves like Bruce Lee. Thirdly, he doesn't give a fuck. Ever. He sells rich women's fat back to them in the form of obnoxiously expensive soap; he rages against consumerism, splices frames of porn into family movies, pisses and jerks off into banquet food, blows shit up, threatens people's lives in a bad ass way, and generally takes care of the god damn situation.

Put all this together, and this movie insinuates to its viewers all the same bullshit that is already being insinuated all over the place about female sexual response - the very same bullshit that I'd like to weed out of media representations. The only small difference with this movie is that the characters having the sex are so cool, and thus the crap insinuations I am about to list might make even more of an impression on those in the audience who find Tyler Durden or Marla to be appealing role models.

So here is what this movie insinuates and thus what is probably seeping into the minds of viewers.  *Orgasms come from a good banging (with no thought of clitoral stimulation - which, by the way, is actually where orgasms come from). *Outrageously good sex means outrageously powerful and prolonged banging. *Highly sexual women, the kind men can't resist in bed, like to be pounded furiously, have their brains fucked out, if you will, and have an I'll-do-any-dirty-thing-you-can-come-up-with attitude (while in the middle of sex, Tyler opens the door wearing large rubber gloves. We can't be sure what's happening, but we hear Marla fall of the bed, and we know it's supposed to be kinky). And, of course, *women who are like this, seem to find lots of pleasure (and we assume orgasms) in this kind of sex.  (Marla is the exact same stereotype as Samantha from Sex and the City - albeit a bit darker version). Oh and *men who are super fucking cool are also men that are fantastic in bed. That means they are men who can and do take charge and have sex the way Tyler Durden does. 

Honestly, what this movie insinuates about female sexual response is the rule in movies, books, and TV, not the exception, so I can't really say that it's egregious. It's really just status quo. I will, however, fault the movie makers for not thinking more creatively - for not thinking beyond the stereotypical idea of a hyper sexual woman.

Oh Fight Club, my love, I will never turn my back from you, but I critique because I care. Even you, my sweet, cannot escape the SSL Review. Oh - and I'm sorry I broke the first rule of Fight Club.

You get 2 vulvas out of 5 (I gave you an extra one only because Brad Pit is so smokin')
(!) (!)

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