Tag Archives: Fight Club

Palahniuk takes on some beautiful ‘Monsters’

All the world’s a stage and all the men and women are merely players. – William Shakespeare

What is the cost of beauty? If you go all in on your looks, what lengths will you go to seeking attention for your long eyelashes, lean legs, toned abs? And when you lose those looks, what is left of the person when the pretty is stripped away?

Chuck Palahniuk’s Invisible Monsters takes a deep, twisted dive into those murky waters. This is the tale of Brandy Alexander, a pre-op transexual who was thought to be dead by her multi-monikered sister, the narrator of the tale. Sister narrator was always a beauty and grew to be an up-and-coming model in the fashion world, until she is shot in the face by her lover Manus … or her best friend Evie … or maybe neither. She awakes in the hospital to meet Brandy, a big, brash, beautiful product of multiple plastic surgeries financed by three brothers who made a fortune in dolls. And from there, it’s a non-stop race to defy beauty and seek truth, no matter how ugly said truth may be, until the walls close in and everything burns to the ground.

In true Palahniuk fashion, Invisible Monsters isn’t nearly  as simple as this previous, vague paragraph suggests. The author lays out the case for pure, simple beauty as a wonderful thing that is then marred, manipulated and repackaged for sale as just another consumer product. “Shotgunning anybody in this room would be the moral equivalent of killing a car, a vacuum cleaner, a Barbie doll. Erasing a computer disc. Burning a book. Probably that goes for killing anyone in the world. We’re all such products.”

Narcissism is an industry, just like technology or manufacturing. The lengths – both physical and financial – to which our model narrator and Brandy will go to either to enhance their looks or re-create themselves is startling. Waxes, dyes, make up, dresses, shoes, diets, drugs, nips, tucks, implants. Money, money and more money, to fight that nasty aging and freeze their perfect countenance in time for as long as possible, projecting the flawless mask to the camera, the photographer, the entire world, and hide that invisible monster that no one wants to know exists.

The grotesque nature of the proceedings, the absurdity of this pursuit of eternal and false perfection is the perfect world for a mind like Palahniuk’s to explore. I’d encourage you to jump into the journey and take the ride.

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5 reasons to watch ‘Mr. Robot’

5. Christian Slater. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen Christian Slater in something where he was doing anything other than a poor imitation of his persona from Heathers. Here, Salter’s character is the mysterious leader of a hacker group called F Society who is interested in crippling the global banking system, specifically with the idea to eliminate personal debt for everybody, truly allowing them to be free. He is duplicitous, self-righteous and manipulative. When he’s not on screen, you are left to wonder what schemes he might be following through on that are going to cause more stress for our main character, Elliot.

4. The hacking. Hollywood, of course, likes to put its spin on anything. Frequently, the entertainment industry works to romanticize or make glamorous that which is neither and is not meant to be either. And while I don’t know shit about programming, writing code or hacking, Mr. Robot seems to have a more realistic take on it than most of the shows and movies I’ve seen. It’s detail oriented, tedious, tests patience, an insider’s game. Mr. Robot manages to make hacking interesting enough without trying to make it sexy. They also do a nice job of using hacking scenes to build tension or give us insight to the mindset of the characters, rather than just using it as a means to an end to be rushed past so we can get to more interesting scenes.

3. The women. Don’t get me wrong: There are more than a few good looking women in Mr. Robot. But Darlene (Carly Chaikin), Trenton (Sunita Mani), Angela (Portia Doubleday), Shayla (Frankie Shaw) and Joanna (Stephanie Corneliussen) aren’t just there to be eye candy. Darlene and Trenton are both capable hackers. Darlene is the one who is forced to deal most with Elliot’s foibles and problems, trying to keep him on track and focused by any means necessary. Trenton is the conscience of the hacker group, motivated by more than just giving a middle finger to the man or hacking the impossible hack. Shayla is the one character that really humanizes Elliot in a way he and other characters can’t. Joanna might be the most delightfully dark and perverse femme since Catherine Trammell in Basic Instinct. And Angela, who initially ends up seeming as if she will be nothing more than the best friend with relationship issues, could end up having the most interesting story line outside of Elliot’s. These women aren’t just there to satisfy the Bechdel test. Each is a capable and interesting character, and their presence makes the story that much stronger.

2. Evil Corp. C’mon, we all think Apple, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, etc., are Satan’s emissaries here on Earth. Mr. Robot is just a little more honest about it.

1. Remi Malek. The star of Mr. Robot is the man who makes this whole thing work. The hacking, the interpersonal drama, the corporate drama, the anarchy, the big Fight Club-esque twist. None of this can happen if Elliot, the character the whole shebang is centered around, is weak sauce. Elliot is emotionally cut-off (likely on the autism spectrum, frequently implied but never verbalized), battling mental health issues and drug addiction, still reeling from the loss of his father at an early age, unwilling to play the game the rest of the people around him play. As the madness swirls around him, Malek floats through Mr. Robot with his dark, intense eyes, hoodie up, lost in his own thoughts and ideas of what the world is and how it should be. There’s never a moment where his performance falters or seems off in any way.

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CEO fight clubs and crashing cars to get turned on: The trippy tales of J.G. Ballard

THE FIRST RULE OF CEO FIGHT CLUB is there is no CEO fight club.

While reading J.G. Ballard’s Super-Cannes, I thought a lot about Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club. Both center themselves on the idea that unrestrained violence and sexuality are healing actions, rather than negative or self-destructive. However, in Fight Club, that violence is directed to cripple a society that has already crippled the clubbers. In Super-Cannes, the anarchy is more controlled, with the idea that these periodic bursts of lunacy will help make the world a better place by allowing elites in their fields – business, engineering, medicine, etc. – to release this pent-up rage and malaise, to unblock their psyche and intellect so that they can focus on their chosen professions and studies with a singularity and fervor that they would have been unable to do before said acts.

Paul, a magazine editor, moves to the elite business park Eden-Olympia after his pediatrician wife, Jane, accepts a position there. David Greenwood, the pediatrician who preceded Jane at Eden-Olympia and an acquaintance of Paul and his wife, is dead after going on a rampage at the business park, shooting a number for fellow co-workers before being gunned down by security. While Jane is immediately immersed in her work, Paul starts to wonder what exactly set David off and gets his Hardy boys on digging into the incident.

What Paul comes to find is that the elites that populate Eden-Olympia are participating on “bowling teams.” These teams periodically go out to areas around the park, in Cannes and the neighboring towns and cities, stealing, committing vandalism, beating up immigrants and more. The staff psychiatrist, Wilder Penrose, encourages this psychopathy. He believes that these elite individuals really don’t understand down time, unable to commit to average hobbies and pastimes that help soothe the souls of normal people. This negatively impacts their health and productivity. But after evenings beating up prostitutes or stealing top-end furs from a commercial shoot, these leaders in their respective fields get physically and mentally healthier and are able to spend even more time working.

Super-Cannes is intriguing and works well, with one exception. On the one hand, Paul seems sucked in by this madness, wanting to stop it but unsure how. On the other, Paul almost seems completely removed from the madness he witnesses or even is involved in personally. When it comes time for him to shit or get off the pot, you can see why he chooses what he chooses to do morally and personally, but Paul seems to lack the rage and passion required for his book-closing move. The journey is interesting and well-executed, but the wrap-up feels like it doesn’t quite fit.

DO MANGLED STEEL, broken plastic, burning wires, spilled gasoline, broken limbs, dripping blood, scarred torsos and metal leg braces turn you on?

Ballard’s Crash confronts the sexual nature of the automobile in ways I never imagined. I saw David Cronenberg’s Crash back in the 1990s (see The 5 Most Disturbing Movies I’ve Ever Seen) and was pretty appalled by what I was witnessing. The idea of intentionally crashing vehicles as well as maiming and killing people in order to achieve some ultimate turn-on – known as symphorphilia – isn’t exactly commonplace stuff, and it was hard to digest. The movie is compelling if you can stomach the perversity, but I didn’t really connect with it.

If it’s possible, Ballard’s book is even more startling, but in a different way. Cronenberg’s flick is really about the relationships that form among the members of this bizarre subculture. And while Ballard’s Crash does that as well, there is one thing that both separate it from the film and make it, to me, at least, the superior work of art.

I’m a man. I’m an American. I get the idea of a hot car and how it appeals on a sexual level. But the intensity and detail that go into Ballard’s description of vehicles here take that to a new level. It’s the one part of the book that, for me, doesn’t feel absolutely bugshit insane. The angles, the chrome, the lights, the shadow, the feel of a leather interior, the cool cleanliness. I’m not saying I’m jumping into the fetishism with both feet, but for brief moments of the book, I gained an understanding of how combining the cold-steel eroticism of the vehicle with an intense, life-altering event like a near-fatal car crash could push a person over the edge and into an obsession with this very dark kink.

That, to me, is the power of Crash. There are plenty of kinks – for example, watching a pretty girl in expensive shoes crush worms on a sidewalk – that I look at and think, “How do you get to the point where that gets you off?” With Crash, I feel like I gain some understanding of how, in a singular instance, one could get to that point. That Ballard could find a way to convey this unique psychological outlier in a way that brought me to greater understanding of it says something about the author’s abilities (or possibly about my own pysche). Quite the feat.

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