In the 1999 movie Fight Club, the main character is experiencing symptoms that can be associated with Multiple Personality Disorder or Dissociative Personality Disorder. The narrator plays a man who finds the world around him and his own desires for happiness utterly in conflict. The movie places strong emphasis on the evils of modern consumerism, and adopts a “fight the system” attitude throughout. The setting is bleak and degraded – the main character, who remains unnamed for the entirety of the film, inhabits a city that seems perpetually dark and run down.
The movie attempts to make a statement on the effects of society norms and “the system” on an individual’s pursuit of happiness; at its center, it uses dissociative identity disorder to do so. The narrator eventually meets Tyler Durden, a kind of personification of his own id. At the end of the movie, the twist is that narrators character and Durden are actually different personalities within the same person, in what is supposed to be a form of DID. The narrator portrays many signs of this psychological disorder.
Some are amnesia, hallucinations, having different personalities, and depersonalization. The criteria for DID require 1) the existence of multiple “identity or personality states,” each of which exhibits independent opinions, 2) that two or more of the subject’s personalities are at some point in control, 3) amnesia of “important personal information,” and 4) that symptoms are not caused by substances or medical conditions. Following these conditions, the movie’s presentation of the disorder does seem to fit. “This is your life and its ending one minute at a time”.
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The first line of the movie not only sets the dark mood for the entire film, it also breaks the fourth wall and establishes a relationship with the audience directly. The narrator is a white-collared employee of a nameless firm, plagued by insomnia and the feeling of being trapped. He medicates himself through consumerism; through the steady acquisition of “things”, he attempts to cure his anxiety and depression. However, these things do not help, and his condition worsens until he meets Tyler Durden. The first sign for the narrator that something is off occurs when he would wake in a different place than he went to sleep the night before.
The occurrences are too much of a major change that there was no way that in a normal mind, the narrator would have forgotten. Along with waking up where he didn’t go to sleep the night before, there are lapses in time that he cannot remember. The personality of Tyler Durden takes over his actions when he is asleep, and he also appears to him as a realistic hallucination while he is awake. As stated in the DID criteria, Edward Norton’s character has no memory of actually “being” Durden, suffering complete amnesia of all the actions Durden performs.
Although it is not explicitly stated, the viewer can reasonably assume that Tyler’s personality is not manifested by drug use or any actual medical condition; Norton’s character does visit a doctor, who only tells him he needs sleep. A way that the narrator was able to control his insomnia was by going to help groups. When his comfort of the help groups was taken away, his insomnia returned and caused a lot of stress which could, if such a link exists, have triggered the narrator’s Dissociative Personality Disorder. Dissociative Personality Disorder has been distantly linked to overwhelming stress.
When the narrator’s alter ego first arrives, it is shortly after Marla steps into the scene. For both the movie watcher and the main character, another sign to show that there is a problem with the main character occurs when he is talking to Marla, giving her his usual cold treatment, and she cannot understand why. He asks her questions that are common sense questions to her, because it happens so often, but he doesn’t remember ever doing it. One important parallel between Fight Club‘s DID and the real disorder is the idea that the alternate identities are present as a coping mechanism for the individual.
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A stronger, more confidant personality will oftentimes take over for the benefit of the individual. “I’ll bring us through this. As always. I’ll carry you – kicking and screaming – and in the end you’ll thank me,” Tyler told the narrator. In the film, since the greatest psychological abuse is the domination of consumerism, Tyler Durden must represent the narrator’s inward urge to break free from the system. While the narrator was not aware of this until the climax of the movie, Durden knew his role the whole time: “All the ways you wish you could be, that’s me. I look like you wanna look,
I fuck like you wanna fuck, I am smart, capable, and most importantly, I am free in all the ways that you are not. ” Toward the end of the movie it clearly shows that there are major problems with the narrator. A way to tell that he has Dissociative Personality Disorder is that his character compares to Tyler’s, his alter ego, are very far-fetching. Where the narrator is quiet and timid, Tyler is quick-witted and sure of himself. The fact that the narrator is even seeing Tyler is a sign of the disorder because Tyler doesn’t exist and is in fact a hallucination.
The real solid evidence to show that the narrator has a psychological disorder happens at the end where he is being detained by Tyler. Tyler did spell it out to him at that point in time, but this is where the depersonalization comes into play. Depersonalization can be defined in the terms of watching something happen from ‘third-person’ view because they have no control over the situation. The narrator is tied up and held at gun-point by Tyler at the end of the movie when in actuality, the narrator is holding himself captive, but has no control over it.
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Although Fight Club utilizes DID as an important aspect in its plot development, in some regards it is inaccurate in the development of the psychological disorder. Most importantly, the narrator did not (to the extent of the viewer) undergo any form of childhood trauma. Rather, his anxiety and feelings of entrapment – spurred by the structure of modern society – caused himself to dissociate. In this sense, the movie makes a statement about the intensity of the psychological damage that is caused by such a materialistic culture. Toward the end of the movie it clearly shows that there are major problems with the narrator.
A way to tell that he has Dissociative Personality Disorder is that his character compares to Tyler’s, his alter ego, are very far-fetching. Where the narrator is quiet and timid, Tyler is quick-witted and sure of himself. The fact that the narrator is even seeing Tyler is a sign of the disorder because Tyler doesn’t exist and is in fact a hallucination. The real solid evidence to show that the narrator has a psychological disorder happens at the end where he is being detained by Tyler. Sure, Tyler may spell it out to him at that point in time, but this is where the depersonalization comes into play.
Depersonalization can be defined in the terms of watching something happen from ‘third-person’ view because they have no control over the situation. The narrator is tied up and held at gun-point by Tyler at the end of the movie when in actuality, the narrator is holding himself captive, but has no control over it. For these reasons, it is clear that the narrator in Fight Club did indeed have Dissociative Personality Disorder. He suffered from memory and time loss and well at seeing hallucinations, having two personalities, and holding himself captive.