The film and consumerism

Posted on November 29, 2005 by John Webster

For a film supposedly criticizing consumerism, Fight Club had a lot of product placement.  I noticed products from Starbucks, Jergens, Super Shuttle, Krispy Kreme, Gucci, Cadillac, Good Year, AT&T, BMW, Apple, Pepsi/Mountain Dew, Busch beer, American Airlines and Jiffy Lube.  This seems hypocritical, considering at one point Tyler says, “Advertising has us working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.”  One of Project Mayhem’s acts of vandalism is to destroy a work of corporate art and a franchise coffee bar at the same time.  But what’s the most ubiquitous coffee franchise in the country?  Starbucks, one of the film’s product placers.  I suppose one could argue that the filmmakers were trying to make a point (such as the one Bret Easton-Ellis made in American Psycho by flooding the book with brand-name references).  But at other points in the movie, we see fake products where we could see brand name ones.  For example, when Meatloaf joins fight club, he fights in a “World’s Gym” shirt, which has a logo that is strikingly similar to “Gold’s Gym.”  Also, I don’t know much about the film industry, but it seems you need permission before you can use a product’s image in your film.  Therefore I take all the product placement in Fight Club as sheer advertising.

At one point in the film, when Tyler is going off about duvets, he complains about celebrity magazines.  This was hard to take seriously coming from Brad Pitt.  Tyler/the Narrator is also an entrepreneur with his soap business.  Can he really combat consumerism when he owns a profitable business?  Is Tyler really discouraging consumerism with his ever-changing outfits and many his cool sunglasses?  Isn’t not consuming the way to not subvert consumerism?  Yet, when the narrator quits his office space job, he keeps his salary.  If you have a salary, you’re going to spend it.  Or you’re going to put it in the bank, and they’re going to invest it.  Either way, you’re helping a capitalist economy that thrives on consumerism.  Therefore, I don’t see Fight Club as effectively criticizing consumerism.

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