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Palahniuk: Marketing 'Fight Club' is 'the ultimate absurd joke'

"Fight Club" author Chuck Palahniuk

October 29, 1999
Web posted at: 2:40 p.m. EST (1840 GMT)

(CNN) -- For writer Chuck Palahniuk, the commercial success of the film based on his anti-consumerism, anti-commercialism book "Fight Club" is "the ultimate absurd joke. In a way it's funnier than the movie itself."

Palahniuk made the comment during a recent online chat on

"Fight Club," a 1996 cult classic in book form, tells the story of a group of disaffected Gen-X guys who gather secretly in basements to fight. The film, starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, has been a commercial success, with Fox marketing a myriad of merchandise, including posters, the soundtrack, and even email addresses (

Palahniuk didn't disagree when a chatter asked if he meant for the story to be morally instructive. "It is entertainment first," he said, "but it dies carry an extreme message. It isn't an imperative, but it is a message."

Questioned further about whether the "film seems to try desperately to ... beat us over the head with its message of anti-consumerism," he replied, "Hey, a heavy message beats no message, and since most of our entertainment is comforting and vacuous, I think we should risk being pedantic."

Palahniuk said he had discussions with the film's director about who might be cast in the movie, but "not for Edward and Brad, because they were both perfect. David Fincher and I talked a lot about the female role, whether it would be Courtney Love or Winona Ryder, or David's suggestion, Helena Bonham Carter." The role went to Carter.

During the chat Palahniuk addressed a variety of questions about the book and movie, including how he had volunteered at a hospice for indigent young adults, where he got the idea for the soap that is sold to finance the club, and how Hollywood is fearful of the message in "Fight Club."

"The system is more frightened of our anti-consumerist message than they are of our violence," he said. Criticism of the "violence is just an excuse to trash us."

Books turned into movies

And he was quick to defend a group of Oregon City, Oregon, teen-agers whose loosely organized punching matches were outlawed by city government.

"I think they got dumped on by the publicity of the movie," he says. "These kids created the idea for their club without having read the book or seeing the movie. Their club would still be thriving if the movie had not generated so much publicity around fighting. They are, in a way, innocent victims. But I do admire them."

And would the idea of a real fight club address societal ills?

"Think about George Orwell's three-minute hate from the novel '1984' and how that left everyone sort of exhausted and able to live their boring humdrum lives," Palahniuk said. "If our lives are going to continue being unfulfilled and boring, perhaps we do need some sort of short-term violent chaos incorporated into them, to make them more palatable."

Begin reading 'Fight Club'
read the complete transcript of the online chat
October 27m 1999
'Fight Club' emerges as box office champ
October 19, 1999
Review: 'Fight Club' a two-fisted knockout
October 15, 1999
Brad Pitt spars with 'Fight Club' critics
October 14, 1999

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