No, this is *not* a movie
If you'd asked me at age 17 what my favorite movie was I would have probably said Fight Club. I thought it was a fun, well-made, movie with great acting and some memorable dialogue, and a great sense of dark humor. I would have also said that I "identified" with Tyler Durden and his rejection of empty modern mass culture. I went out and bought the book as soon as I could after watching the movie. And I definitely had quotes from it as my AIM away message for years (forgive me).
About 20 years later I still think that Fight Club is an entertaining, darkly comic movie with great acting and dialogue but I also recognize that its characters have a deeply fascist worldview (ex. a feeling of persecution despite being not being persecuted, a glorification of violence as the only way to earn one's place in society, an equation of anything "feminine" with "weakness", the belief that a formerly great and powerful group [all men in this case] need to take back their glory from a degenerate society that's robbed & weakened them, etc). And now, after having lived outside my mom's house, experiencing meaningful relationships with women, and reading books other than Catcher In The Rye and...Fight Club, I see that Tyler Durden is kind of pathetic.
I mean, I share his belief in the emptiness and soul death of modern global capitalism, I just don't think that the pathway out of that is.... entering a cult-like secret society + punching dudes in a damp basement + domestic terrorism.
All of which brings me to this excellent analysis of the recent Qanon cosplay storming of the Capitol and a central motivating current for the movement behind it. This was not a published article but rather a Facebook post from friend and fellow Story Studio storytelling instructor Brad Lawrence. Brad's a great performer and as of late has been dropping some true gems about our political moment on social media. I read the following commentary by him and knew I wanted to share it here so I reached out and asked for his permission to share it here and I'm so glad he said yes. You check out Brad and his work HERE and HERE. As soon as I read his words I thought of the above speech from Tyler Durden (words by Chuck Palahniuk) and I think this is a solid pairing and food for thought.
There is a small part of all of this that is just people not being able to believe that this is it, this is life. Having a job, paying a mortgage, raising kids, taking your car to the shop.
You are not going to be an action hero, there is no plot, there are no big bad guys that are doing something clearly evil (like molesting kids in the basement of a pizza parlor) and it is not up to you to take up arms to stop them.
This is it. Health insurance, kids' college bills, figuring out how to take care of your parents' senior years.
And I can tell you where this comes from.
I was raised evangelical Christian in the 80s at exactly the moment that faith was starting to grow. This was when the language of dark forces and secret cabals started to creep into it. You were a warrior for Jesus in a secular world that was trying to oppress you because of your faith. Cable and MTV were trying to seduce your kids to try drugs, barcode symbols on commercial products all translated to the Number of the Beast, and your neighbors were running satanic cults in the basement of their daycares. It was exciting, it was the end times, and everything was couched in language that said you were in a war against secret evil.
All that might have stayed on its reservation if not for the fact that the evangelical movement grew fast and, at the same time, became the heart of the Republican party. That idea of seeing yourself as an oppressed people who needed to arm yourself for a war - in spite of your two car garage and peaceful streets and abundant food - that language is the same language as conspiracy theorists and militias and white supremacist groups and the NRA. It blurred the lines between the language of morality and the language of paranoia.
All of those groups are now the base of the Trump movement.
People wonder why seemingly normal people with pensions are showing up on the Capitol touting the paranoid slogans of White Nationalist conspiracy groups on behalf of a man who has affairs with porn stars and holds a bible upside down. It is because evangelical ministers like the one that taught my youth group, Kingsley Walker, employed the language of oppression and threat and secret wars to keep butts in seats. It was like an inoculation to ideas that, without that priming, they might have found abhorrent.
But instead, the racists and the Lizard people nut jobs just sounded familiar. There was that same sense of urgency and danger and unseen actors.
And they didn't sound like someone trying to explain your mom's medicare paperwork to you. Which is the sound of meaninglessness and drudgery. Who wouldn't want life to be more than that? Who wouldn't be tempted to lie to themselves to have life be more than that?