Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fight Club and Gender Roles

Something that often seems to be portrayed in the media and accepted to be a societal norm is the idea that men are always more violent than women.  As a result, it is rare that women appear as the main character in violent movies and these roles are generally reserved for men.  This implies not only that men are inherently aggressive, but also that there is none of this aggression in women.  An example of a popular movie with these stereotypes is Fight Club.  While there are many other themes in this movie, one of the main ones is violence and the leader of the underground fight club is a male.   The choice of a male leader and predominantly male cast propagates the idea that men are more violent than women and fit these roles better.

Fight Club is a prime example of the types of movies released often in which violent characters are male.  Even on the short description found on IMDB, the fight clubs are said to be created as a place to "help vent male aggression".  Fight Club clearly characterizes the aggression and violence created as a male trait, as the network of fight clubs is filled with men.  One of the few female characters enters the plot not as someone who joins into the violence, but as a love interest.  This seems to be characteristic of many plot lines in other movies and as a stereotypical role for women.  When the story involves something such as violence, the female characters take a much more passive role while the male characters are the ones to display aggression.

The success of males in more aggressive roles is shown by the reluctance of movie studios to produce a superheroine movie.  They believe that this would not be successful after movies like Catwoman were not.  If women have taken on a role characterized by aggression or violence and the movie was successful, that was the exception not the norm.  In general, men occupy the roles that involve hostile behavior and this idea is not challenged.  Because it has become so  normal for men to be in movies where they are more violent, it is expected that the main character in these plots will be male.

Considering the popularity of Fight Club, viewers must accept the gender roles as believable or at least acceptable for society.  If people found this type of characterization too unrealistic, they would likely not enjoy the movie as much.  The success  of characters such as Tyler Durden in Fight Club seems to hint at the idea that society accepts men as more violent and that it is acceptable to portray males that way in popular media.  Furthermore, women seem to be resigned to the role of the love interest in the majority of these types of films, regardless of their success as more powerful and aggressive characters in other media such as comic books.

Photo and quote from:


  1. This is a very good point! I've seen perhaps three man-on-man fights at parties in my lifetime, and upwards of ten woman-on-woman fights. Since alcohol is considered "liquid courage," and when drinking, one is more likely to pursue actions that inhibition would normally suppress, this leads me to believe that women have more violent tendencies than men. How curious!

    Considering the majority of other species, however, it would appear as if the aggression gene is programmed directly into the Y chromosome.

    Whats's that..? You don't believe me?! Let's take this outside.

  2. I definitely agree with you that this movie is playing to a stereotype of male aggression. However, is assuming that most women in society would not willingly partake in recreational physical violence really mean that women are perceived as weaker? It seems to me that not putting yourself in a place to be hurt just for recreation is a smart thing to do. But, like what was mentioned above, I have seen a few girl-fights in my time that varied quite a lot from what the fights in this movie were like. Although they consisted of a lot of hair pulling, these fights do prove that women can experience these same moments of aggression that males do, but for some reason Hollywood doesn’t want to make film revolving around the cat-fights of young females.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.