Why Brad Pitt Makes a Great Tyler Durden
posted by Slam Adams!
Spoilers for both the film and the book of Fight Club. If you have not experienced either of them, DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER.
In 1999, director David Fincher and screenwriter Jim Uhls brought novelist Chuck Palahniuk’s novel, Fight Club, to the big screen. They cast Brad Pitt as the very memorable Tyler Durden, a decision that was originally met with scorn.
Fight Club revolves around a nameless office drone that has only ever been referred to as The Narrator, played by Edward Norton in the movie. He is a recall specialist for a car manufacturer. He travels a lot and usually suffers from jet lag and insomnia. He spends a lot of his money on products he tries to substitute for his lack of a real identity. This all comes crashing down when he meets Tyler Durden on a plane. Tyler Durden hates status symbols. He lives in a dilapidated old house. He has worked a lot of services jobs which he used to mess with the upper classmen he serves. Now, he steals fat from liposuction clinics to make into soap and sell back to the housewives who had it sucked out in the first place. Tyler hates the modern man. They are weak shells of their former selves more worried about metrosexuality and consumerism than they are about being free.
Together, he and The Narrator start Fight Club, a club where a number of men come together to just beat the bejesus out of each other. Tyler sees it as a way to throw away our insecurities and social constraints and to be utterly and truly free. It seems to work as the club attracts more and more people. As Fight Club grows, Tyler becomes a more charismatic leader pushing his manifesto. Fight Club evolves into Project: Mayhem. They train like a militia and participate in terrorist attacks on consumerism. Tyler wishes to rip apart society so that everyone can be as free as the men in Fight Club.
Part of Tyler’s manifesto is as follows:
Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. 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, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s 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.
Here’s where it gets weird. Brad Pitt IS a movie god. He has 4 Academy Award nominations. He has been in over 50 films. No one ever ignores him when they are ranking celebrities in terms of media influence or physical attraction. I think he might have been the reason they invented the phrase “all the women want him; all the men want to be him”. Obviously, that’s an exaggeration, but you get the point. Brad Pitt is absolutely a movie god. It seems like casting him as Tyler Durden might undermine the very philosophy of Fight Club, and that is why it was met with so much confusion.
In reality, casting Brad Pitt is kind of a genius move. The big twist ending of Fight Club is that Tyler Durden doesn’t actually exist. He is an invisible friend of The Narrator. The Narrator imagined Tyler doing all the things that The Narrator was actually doing. Following? Well, The Narrator is obviously suffering from self-loathing. He tries to make the best of his situation, put on a happy face and go through the motions of living, but it is his depression over his faults where his problems begin. These feelings are made worse by his insomnia and jet lag, so instead of sleeping, The Narrator would black out and make soap. That is, the soap Tyler made. When his self-hatred gets so powerful, he creates an embodiment of it in the form of Tyler Durden. Durden is good looking. He had a punk/glam rock fashion sense that he pulls off confidently. He always knows the right thing to say. He is better with women than the narrator. And better with people in general. At one point, The Narrator points to a bus advertisement for underwear with a hairless thin but chiseled model posing and asks, “Is that what a man looks like?” The answer is supposed to be no, but that is exactly what Tyler Durden looks like. Tyler Durden is the man that the Narrator wants to be. As Tyler says, “All the ways you wish you could be, that’s me. I look like you want to look, I fuck like you want to fuck, I am smart, capable, and most importantly, I am free in all the ways that you are not.” Because as much as The Narrator hates consumerism and society’s view of men, he is not immune to them. If Tyler Durden represents the perfect man that The Narrator can look to, he is created from a mix of free-spirited madness and socially influences ideal, which is why super-anarchist, Tyler Durden, looks just like Brad Pitt.