Power (Part 4): The Movie “Fight Club”

A theme I refer to often as a lawyer is “power”. [See my previous three posts on this topic.] That is, how can I help clients maintain greater power over their circumstances so as to have, what I consider, a more enjoyable response to life. A life not burdened by indecision, doubt, fear of what or how other people are reacting or thinking about them, etc.  In other words, greater independence and control.

Loss of control fuels anger very effectively. As a relevant aside, I heard on the radio this morning that today is Colin Powell’s 79th birthday. I am reminded of his great “Get mad. Then, get over it.” comment he made a few years ago on a talk show in response to him and his wife on their then-50th wedding anniversary.

I also grew up with many discussions and reflections on the topic of anger. My late father, who practiced law in Atlanta for 45 years, planted firmly into my two brothers and me the notion of “firm, but friendly”. He did not shy away from controversy nor from anger. For him the balance of anger in a firm but friendly manner was a constant aspiration that required persistent practice.

But, this practice is certainly, in my view, a better option than merely being compliant, weak, overly concerned always with what others think, and indecisive.  Two of the saddest characters in literature burned into my early consciousness are George Babbitt (in Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis) and Willy Loman (in Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller). They each powerfully symbolize a compliant, weak, concern-always-with-what-others-think, indecisive character. Images of great unhappiness.

Now, why this blog post? One of my teenage daughters this past weekend wanted to watch a movie “that plays with your mind”.  She selected Fight Club (1999), with Edward Norton and Brad Pitt. The movie is based on the 1996 book with the same title by Chuck Palahniuk. We both thought the movie was compelling and extremely thought-provoking. We liked it.

So as not to be a spoiler, I say only two things about Fight Club for this post. One is that it touches extremely well on bringing the audience directly to the above Babbitt / Loman notion of lack of power and its resulting self-destruction. Two is that if you watch this movie, or have seen it before, ponder for a moment what reaction you have or had to it. The magic of the movie is how likely telling are the array of responses from viewers. Your response might better inform you about your own perspective of the above power / independent notion.

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