the most recent assignment for my gender/movies class was an odd one. the professor gave us a choice of movies: fight club, the outsiders, american history x, or taxi driver. he also gave us an article about gender violence prevention, and asked us to apply that article to the movies, using five key themes from the article to re-write (in narrative format) five scenes from the movie and remove the violence, then analyze how those re-writes would affect the movie’s outcome. i chose fight club.
it was one of the weirdest things i’ve ever written. how do you take the violence out of fight club? i mean, it’s kind of a fun concept, because the movie is entirely pointless without violence. the problem i had was in taking it seriously. the article we read was about some serious solutions to a very serious problem, but the only way that i could feasibly re-write the scenes sans-violence was in a ridiculous, mocking sort of way. i don’t know if that was what he expected from the assignment or not; it certainly seems useless, if not counterproductive, to me. but i couldn’t see an alternative. maybe i could have picked one scene and really gone into it, given a lot of thought to the dialogue and the characters motivations, and actually done a decent job. but the way the assignment was structured made that nearly impossible. here are a few highlights from my paper:
Brief summary of original scene:
Tyler licks his lips and kisses the narrator’s hand, then pours lye on it and gives him a chemical burn.
Tyler licked his lips and kissed the back of my hand, but I could see it wasn’t an affectionate move. He had a bottle of lye in his right hand, and his left hand’s grip was keeping me in place.
“Our fathers were our models for God,” he said. “We are God’s unwanted children.”
“Stop!” I yelled, writhing under his grip. “We both had fathers who abandoned us when we needed them. They never provided us with the education we needed to be fully-functioning, compassionate people. But before he left, my dad tried to tell me that violence was not the answer. Did your dad ever tell you anything like that?”
Tyler paused, with the bottle of lye hovering over my hand. “He might have said something like that.”
“We should talk about this. Rather than hurting each other, rather than you giving me a chemical burn, we should talk about the way that our fathers behaviors made us who we are today, and see if we can possibly come to an understanding that would be much less harmful to both of us.”
He put down the lye. “Okay, buddy. Let’s have a chit-chat.”
Brief summary of original scene:
Tyler and the narrator just left the bar for the first time, and Tyler is trying to initiate their first fight.
Tyler looked me straight in the eye. “I want you to hit me as hard as you can.”
“What are you talking about? Why do you want me to hit you?” I was confused.
“How much can you really know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight? Hit me,” he persisted.
“I’m not going to hit you. There are other ways to get to know oneself. My high school basketball coach taught me that violence doesn’t solve anything. If you’re feeling like you don’t know yourself, that’s an issue that probably needs to be addressed, and I think you should see a therapist instead of trying to get into a fight with me.”
“You’re right; I don’t know what I was thinking. I’m sorry I asked you to hit me. Do you have a number for someone I could see about this identity problem of mine?”
“Umm, try the yellow pages,” I suggested.
How this re-write would affect the course of the movie:
This turn of events would completely invalidate the premise of the movie before it had begun in earnest. Without fighting, the movie Fight Club is an absurdist comedy with dialogue that I could only imagine to be completely peculiar and inane, as I have demonstrated.
what silliness. it was great to watch fight club again, though. i’m sure i realized the first time that there’s a lot of fabulous figurative language going on in the dialogue, but i don’t think i fully wrapped my mind around the richness of all the metaphors and similes that flow so naturally out of the narrator’s mouth every two seconds throughout the entire movie. that’s another thing that bothered me about doing these ludicrous re-writes. i felt like i was debasing the spirit of the characters, putting such idiotic dialogue in their mouths.