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How 'Fight Club' Became the Ultimate Handbook for Men's Rights Activists

Tyler Durden is a hero to MRAs and pickup artists alike. But how did a 90s film about toxic masculinity come to define the manosphere?

When it was released in 1999,  Fight Club was seen by many critics as a damning statement about consumerist culture, the de-humanizing roles forced on men by American capitalism, and the excesses of masculinity. In fact,  Empire describedthe movie adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's novel as possessing "a great deal of sick humor at the expense of masculinist ideals and white-collar society." Its director, David Fincher, was largely lauded for having captured the zeitgeist. But the legacy of  Fight Club may end up being quite different. In the decade and a half or so after its release and reception as a cult classic,  Fight Club has been embraced by the loose collection of radical online male communities (known as the "manosphere") as a kind of gospel text. Members of these groups, who congregate around sites like Return of Kings, Masculine Empire, and The Red Pill subreddit, attribute the ills of Western society to the decline of traditional gender roles. All of them—pick up artists and men's rights activists alike—share a deeply ingrained hostility towards women, and more importantly, feminism. Think articles titled "Five reasons you should date a girl with an eating disorder". They dichotomize men into two types: 'alpha' and 'beta.' Alpha males are dominant, tough, brutish, and have regular sex with attractive women; betas are weak, emasculated, and sympathize with social justice warriors. (Unsurprisingly, many are fans of Donald Trump, and some men's rights activists have also  flocked to join the so-called alt right.) If you're one of the few who hasn't seen Fight Club, the plot is relatively straightforward: Anomic 30-something Jack (Edward Norton) creates an alter ego, the macho and anarchic Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt). Durden creates a movement which sees disenfranchised men meeting up to physically beat the shit out of each other, eventually forming a group called Project Mayhem. His ultimate goal: Destroy the pillars of corporatism so men will once again regain their importance and purpose. Read more on Broadly