David Fincher’s 1999 cult-classic Fight Club is regarded by many as one of the most iconic cinematic masterpieces of its time. Based on Chuck Palahniuk’s eponymous novel, Fight Club stars Edward Norton as a disgruntled white-collar worker who experiences an essential personal revelation while confronting his own demons.
Fight Club functions as a scathing indictment of late-stage capitalism, a world where “everything’s a copy of a copy of a copy.” It is a strikingly relevant meditation on the politics of consumerism that incorporates us into the framework of capitalism as obedient consumers whose existential purpose is to fantasise and purchase.
David Fincher confronts these issues head-on through narrative threads like Tyler Durden’s (played by Brad Pitt) famous speech where he talks about: “an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables – slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man—no purpose or place.
“We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our great war is a spiritual war. Our great depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won’t. We’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”
The filmmaker cleverly reinforces these themes through subtextual methods, clearly observable in the film’s recurring obsession with Starbucks. Fincher explained to Empire Magazine that a Starbucks cup was present in almost every shot of Fight Club as a running commentary on the omnipresence of commercialism as well as the lack of good coffee in Los Angeles.
“When I first moved to LA in 1984, you could not get a good cup of coffee in Los Angeles to save your life. I mean, it was really pathetic,” he said. “Then Starbucks came out, and it was such a great idea: good coffee. And when it became successful, there were, like, two or three on every block.
“It’s too much of a good thing. But they read the script, they knew what we were doing, and they were kind of ready to poke a little fun at themselves. I mean, they wouldn’t let us use their name on the coffee shop that gets destroyed by the piece of tragic corporate art, but they were willing to give us the rest of their stuff.”
He admitted that he had no personal grudge against the franchise itself, but a future where one company can have a monopoly on an entire industry to such an extent is a very bleak future indeed. Fincher added: “We had a lot of fun using that – there are Starbucks cups everywhere, in every shot. I don’t have anything personal against Starbucks. I think they’re trying to do a good thing. They’re just too successful.”