David Fincher spoke to The Guardian about how his 1999 cult classic “Fight Club,” a huge disappointment, became a rallying cry for right-wing gangs and infiltration of society. “I’m not responsible for how people interpret things,” he told the publication, slurring his words. “Language evolves. Symbols evolve.”
Let’s back up a little. “Fight Club” received mixed reviews upon its release. It’s the cute story of a white-collar worker played by Edward Norton who starts an underground fight club with soap salesman Tyler Darden, played by Brad Pitt. The film delves into the modern male psyche, questioning the emptiness of consumer culture and corporate life. It is multifaceted and generates heated debates about masculinity, consumerism and the human condition.
To this day, the film has taken on a life of its own and many believe it glorifies a certain type of poison. This new fan base includes insulars, neo-Nazi gyms, and the gay pride “manosphere.” These groups see Tyler Darden as a hero, representative of a generation of marginalized people. And according to Fincher, that was not his intention.
He was disappointed, a little disappointed. When he becomes the cornerstone of his movie, he responds, “Okay, okay.” When he was making “Fight Club,” critics questioned his decisions and now, as he moved on to other projects, Fincher says, he still reacts to that film. He was in the state of geniuses. But in the end, he puts it all on the audience and says, “We’re not doing it for them, but people will see what they’ll see.”
Pincher draws parallels with famous works such as Norman Rockwell’s paintings or Picasso’s “Guernica.” People only see what they want to see in them. If you think Tyler Darden deserves the praise, you’re wrong. “I can’t imagine people not realizing that Tyler Darden is a negative influence,” he says. “People who don’t understand, I don’t know how to respond to them and help them.”
The question is whether artists are responsible for how their work is interpreted. Fincher, at least, says no. Through his eyes, the image is created and presented to the world, and now it is up to us to see what we see, whether we like it or not.