The simplest and most innocuous of thoughts can sometimes lead you down incredibly weird and convoluted paths. This happened to me yesterday morning as I stood in the shower at my parents’ place, recovering after Saturday night’s Halloween party; it started with me chewing on the inside of my cheek and ended with me wondering about the nature of irony.
I know – weird, right?
So I was standing there, the hot water beating down on me while I blearily scrubbed at my hair, when I accidentally bit my cheek. I grumbled and spat out some soapy water and then, out of nowhere, thought about the scene at the end of Fight Club that involved a revolver stuck in someone’s mouth (I won’t mention who for the handful of people who might not have ever seen the movie or read the novel). If you’ve seen it, you know exactly what scene I’m referring to, as comes right at the climax of the film.
This led me to think about the wild popularity of the film and how it had grown in the years since its original opening weekend just over 13 years ago. It might have been a flop in the theaters, barely breaking even, but it found a devoted following on DVD and has spawned an incredibly robust interest in the philosophies espoused therein, and led to Chuck Palahniuk’s success as an author. The concepts of anti-materialism and iconoclasm have come to the forefront as a part of modern popular culture in a major way, thanks to the film and novel’s success.
The irony here is of course that many of these anarchic, anti-corporate virtues that are driven home so clearly by Fight Club is that it’s become such a phenomenon that a whole sales and marketing culture has grown up around it. Films are, after all, made to not just entertain viewers and elicit emotional and philosophical responses, but also to turn a profit; revenue is generated for the studio that produced the film (and anyone lucky enough to be entitled to residuals) every time a copy of the DVD is sold or it airs on television. Likewise does Palahniuk get a tidy royalty check every quarter from his publisher for all the copies of Fight Club and any of his other novels that sell during that time (as an aside, pick up Lullaby by him – it’s just as good if not better, and the story is a great choice for the Halloween season).
I don’t begrudge Palahniuk or anyone else involved in the publication of the novel or production of the film in making a living off it. Hell, every aspiring author dreams of making enough money from one of their novels or short story collections that they can quit their day job and basically get paid fabulous sums of cash for making shit up – I know I do, and anyone who says that “no, I do it just for art’s sake and don’t care if I never make a dime” is either 1) gainfully employed already, 2) a trust fund baby, or 3) a total fucking liar. Still, does no one else see the irony at a story that’s about rejecting corporate attempts at focus-grouping and marketing your identity as a human being becoming so popular that there’s Facebook ads for Fight Club-branded merchandise?
This is the kind of shit I think about in the shower, apparently