(WARNING: This post contains spoilers for Fight Club. You've been warned)
If there was ever a feature film that paved the way for late 20th century pop culture consumerism and fine fascism it would have to come down to none other than Fight Club, a film so brutish in its apparatus of depicting masculinity and unflinching violent content that it is damn-near impossible to forget.
Across the concrete floors drenched in the stickiness of dried sweat and the stench of metallic-odored blood from the previous night’s fight, is a character who is forced to witness what he has created unfold before him. This man has one or two problems to say that least, but this is what makes his quest for self discovery all the more entertaining. The camera almost always remains behind Edward Norton’s Narrator character because, in a sense, we are figuring out what is unfolding at the same time that he is.
First things first, there are so many things clinically wrong with the Narrator that are open to interpretation that he might as well be a medical marvel. To diagnose such an intricately complex and binary character would be recognizing him within the very predetermined analytical culture that Tyler Durden and his Project Mayhem squad are attempting to distance themselves from.
So what exactly was wrong with the Narrator? There are a variety of clinical directions we could go for in diagnosing the Narrator, but when the eventual plot twist comes into action just before the third act — one cannot help but be unsurprised given Edward Norton's character's condition prior to meeting Tyler Durden. Here are the possible clinical conditions that could be plaguing the Narrator:
This is an obvious one right here. Before Marla Singer, before Tyler Durden, before Fight Club, we find our unconventional narrator battling the hopeless war of insomnia. The zombified narration present throughout the film should be sufficient enough in establishing a sense of dread and misery that gang up on the Narrator. Those who are afflicted by insomnia are simply those who go through the motions of their daily existence.
The Narrator, at this point in his life, has conditioned himself in a distressing sense of settlement. He is settled with his condo, furniture and corporate job, but he is missing something. Whatever he is missing from his life refuses to give his mind a sense of settlement. At least he knows he can always tune into those late night balding infomercials.
“With insomnia…nothing is real. Everything is a copy, of a copy, of a copy.”
Yes, this is an actual condition and yes, this is also up for interpretation. The reason? The Narrator does not find himself to be any different than the standardized socialite occupying today’s consumerism culture. Oniomania, or compulsive-buying disorder, is — according to PsycheGuides — a consequential form of purchasing products or contents with disregard to a financial or social position.
In a culture where people are constantly revamping themselves and adapting to the latest ill-advised trends, this is an actual addiction that is treatable. As said, while this condition is debatable on behalf of the film’s narrator, one has to wonder if he falls under the criteria of an Oniomania addict (especially when his condo is equivalent to an IKEA catalog).
With quotes that truly hit the nail on the head of consumerism like, “I had it all. Even the glass dishes with tiny bubbles and imperfection, proof they were crafted by the honest, single, hard-working indigenous people of…wherever,” or, “The things you own end up owning you,” how could you not re-evaluate whether you needed that lamp or desktop?
“Like so many others, I had become a slave to the IKEA nesting instinct.”
Schizoid Personality Disorder
Different entirely to Schizophrenia in general, but it share some similar parallels to it. People with Schizoid Personality Disorder have this fundamental need to avoid any and all contact with social circles that they are not associated with — which is, unfortunately, all of them.
The Narrator has this absolute refusal to remain in contact with any and all individuals who remind him of the life he so desires to escape from: his boss, co-workers, or his car crash clients. It is not until he encounters his group meetings that he is able to open up and accept outer social circles. In a sense, he cured himself of this, but once Project Mayhem comes into full swing, does he want anything to do with Fight Club because he no longer wants to be associated with an ever-expanding social circle or does he think they’re just insane?
It is, according to PsycheCentral, a very rare, but nonetheless serious disorder that includes — but is by no means limited to: a strong characteristic of amnesia where personality and motivations are called into question. Memories, sane decisions and overall personality are dropped when this condition takes force. Sounds like someone?
If the Narrator suffers from anything, it would have to be amnesia — to a certain extent. In the film’s hotel scene reveal — a particularly brilliant scene that attests to director David Fincher’s talent for sound editing complimenting story structure — we find out the our dearest Narrator has either blacked out whenever Tyler Durden was planting his mind seeds to his cult-like followers, or he himself was doing it imagining himself watching Tyler. It is pretty meta from a 20th century Hitchcockian perspective.
"You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everything else."
Dissociative Identity Disorder
Probably what we’ve all been waiting for here. Dissociative Identity Disorder, DID, is characterized (according to PsycheCenter) as having multiple personalities stored into one individual. This is a plot that has been used in so many movies time and again that it has become somewhat of a trope at this point.
The Narrator is both himself and Tyler Durden, or Tyler Durden and whoever is narrating, or is neither of them. It’s actually pretty confusing diagnosing this individual— which is I guess the point of Fight Club. While the film ends on the uncertain note of what happens to “Tyler” and Marla, one has to wonder if the other Tyler Durden will ever re-emerge. I mean I’m all for self-help processes but this is a condition that just doesn’t just manifest itself and than disappear when you proclaim that you no longer need it.
With that said, Fight Club did represent a proper clinical rendition of the disorder in the form of the Narrator and how his world began to crumble under societal pressures to reach perfectionism.
Is there any other movie character you'd like a diagnosis on? Leave suggestions in the comments section.