Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Fight to the End: What Cool is All About Part 2

In this corner…the Narrator

Going through the mundane, the Narrator is a man with a boring white-collar job, bossy boss, and has insomnia. He pours over home d├ęcor magazines, spending too much money and time on how his apartment defines him. To try to sleep, he goes to self-help groups of the addicted and dying. Surprisingly, this helps him sleep! Letting his emotions go and being included and cared for as if he was dying seems to release him. He gets addicted; he likes being in these exclusive groups.

Compared to Tyler Durden, the Narrator doesn’t seem like a really cool guy. He does what he’s supposed to do in society (work hard and then frivolously spend that hard earned money) and doesn’t seem to have very much inspiration or emotion outside of furniture and self help groups. Even when his precious apartment blows up, he doesn’t get very upset. In fact, he simply tells the audience that these things happen; he calmly calls Tyler, and the two go out for drinks. Whenever Tyler tries to get him to do something, he fights and argues, trying to hold on to the consumer and controlled side of his life.

There is so much more to him that makes him cool, though. His cool isn’t extreme and in your face like Tyler’s, it is quiet, unnoticed, but in the end very complex and powerful. While Tyler is the one who will take the lead, the Narrator is the one who will be in the crowd, backing you up, and keeping tabs on you. Although he seems to not care about anything, he does enjoy the self help groups, and he becomes very attached to Bob, watching out for him. The Narrator likes the bonding and trust that the people in these groups develop; he desires the close friendships. This caring is his strongest weapon of cool. Another cool characteristic of the narrator is his ability to be above Tyler’s influence. All of the other men in the Fight Club are like Tyler’s robot army; they do everything he dreams up with out questions. They can’t do anything without Tyler and have no independence. The Narrator is outside of Tyler’s power. Sure, he gives in most of the time, but he chooses to do so. In the end, when he realizes what Tyler is creating and organizing, the Narrator stands his ground. He is given the choice of either being consumed by Tyler’s character or remaining his own, and he chooses to fight, even if it brings his death.

To sum it all up, this movie portrays so many types of cool. It doesn’t stop there, though. Just as the Narrator discovers what he is made up of, I feel as if we all can discover a cool inside of us, and like the Narrator, we have the choice of what cool and what to do with it. Cool is the freedom to be who you want to be and to accept who you are. That is what I have concluded from this class. There isn’t just one type of cool. Whatever you chose, the only thing that matters is that you are confident and savvy about your decision.

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Fight to the End: What Cool is All About

And so we come to the end of this class of cool. We started in the 1930s with Public Enemy, and now we are ending in 1999 with Fight Club. I think this is a great movie to end on because it depicts so many aspects of cool. We see independence, passion, strength, endurance, brotherhood, intelligence, rebellion, devotion…basically any cool that has been portrayed the movies this semester. It also provides us with a great ultimatum about cool, but before we get there, we must first have one last fight about cool. As we were leaving class, a group of us were discussing the film. There were two ideas being argued, and each side had a plausible argument. What we were discussing doesn’t really matter because the reason for this tale is to illustrate the discussion about what is cool. There will always be sides taken on what is found cool. Go back to the lists we made about what was hip and cool; I’m sure there are some conflicting ideas of what is hip and what is square. Cool can’t be made into a list, and it can’t be defined. Look up cool in the dictionary; will it give you the formula on how to be cool? No. But, as I said, after this last fight, one ultimate characteristic of cool will be discovered, so let’s get started. Shirt, shoes, and jewelry must be removed. There are only two to a fight, and the fight ends when one taps out or blacks out…

In this corner…Tyler Durden

Tyler is a man ready to take on the world, and he is a kaleidoscope of different cools. We first meet Tyler on one of the narrator’s numerous trips for his job. Tyler automatically takes the spot light with his knowledge and wit. You wouldn’t think that a man who makes and sells soup would be that interesting, but he is charismatic, grabbing your attention and making you want to be his best friend. As we get to know Tyler more, we soon find that he doesn’t follow any standards set down by society. When the narrator is trying to subtly hint to Tyler that he needs a place to stay (which is what everyone seems to do when trying to ask others for something), Tyler calls him out, telling him to just ask. Sabotaging what ever he can to shock people, Tyler tries to make people see how tied down and mundane their so-called lives are. His desire to live life and to awaken society along with his intellect really makes him a man people want to be with and be like.

Extreme, that is another side of Tyler that can go too far but really adds to his cool. There is no middle ground with him; you either do it all the way or not at all. He will not compromise, nor will he back down. He will stand his ground, take a beating, and continue on with his plans. He’s not always beaten up, though. Tyler demands respect and your compliance because he is so tough. He can stand on his own. He is independent, competent, free. He is free of society, free of a conscience, free of fear. It is this freedom that fuels his cool and extremeness. However, as this movie shows how Tyler acts with this freedom, total freedom can lead to extreme, harmful actions. In his quest to wake society up, Tyler sets his Fight Club army on very destructive missions. Everything that is or represents the consumerism that is tying everyone else down is destroyed. Now, a forgiving point in his plans is that the only people put in harm’s way are the ones who are pulling the stunt. Even in his grand finale which will result in city blocks of destruction, he has made sure that no civilians will be around.

But, I feel that all of the destruction he organizes and the way he uses his freedom aren’t all that cool. Yes, the destruction will be very effective and wake people up to their reality of unnecessary consumerism, but contradictory to his freedom, he isn’t giving society the freedom to choose what they want. It is one thing to make someone aware of what is tying them down, and completely another thing to destroy everything they have to force them to stop being consumers. Another contraction he has is that although he is free, those who follow him are completely controlled by him and his rules. He is free, and he seems to want others to have his freedom, but his method of achieving that is to tie everyone around him down with his authority. There is so much about Tyler that is cool, but he also has his flaws.