Andrew Ducker (andrewducker) wrote,
Andrew Ducker

The Death of Rebellion

Warning: minor spoilers for Fight Club, major ones for A Clockwork Orange.

When Stanley Kubrick made a film of A Clockwork Orange he sadly left off the ending  (actually, the American version of the book lacks the final chapter of the UK version and he filmed the US version).  To recap slightly on the film, savage teenager Alex is sent to prison for murder and an experiment is performed upon him to see if he can be brainwashed into socially acceptable niceness.  The experiment succeeds but there is a public outcry at the government 'programming' a person, even so loathsome a person as Alex.  He is returned to 'normality' and there the movie ends.

What Kubrick left off is the epilogue, whereby Alex looks back on his life and realises that he's losing the lust for mayhem and destruction that he once had.  He may not exactly be growing up but he is calming down, leaving the adolescent state of rebellion and moving on, to what he has no idea.

When David Fincher filmed Fight Club he did something similar.  Over the course of the film the main character spirals downward into a pit of anger and depression, lashing out at all the parts of modern life which he despises, determined to bring society to it's knees, preferably by chopping off its lower legs.  The worst excesses are masterminded by his 'friend' Tyler Durden, who embodies the angsty teenage part of this lost every-man, wanting to lash out at everything.

"I wanted to destroy everything beautiful I'd never have.  Burn the Amazon rain forests.  Pump chlorofluorocarbons straight up to gobble the ozone layer.  Open the dump valves on supertankers and uncap offshore oil wells.  I wanted to kill all the fish I couldn't afford to eat, and smother the French beaches I'd never see.
I wanted the whole world to hit bottom.
[...] I really wanted to put a bullet between the eyes of every endangered panda that wouldn't screw to save its species and every whale or dolphin that gave up and ran itself aground."

Eventually the protagonist realises that Tyler is going too far and acts to stop him.  He achieves a kind of victory and the film ends with a bang.  It doesn't really tie things up thematically, and some people seem to think that the film is actively _promoting_ blowing up those things that we find objectionable in society.

The book, however, carries on for another chapter in which the narrator comes to the realisation that in his haste to flee from self-improvement that he ends up at self-destruction.  Given the space to escape from the pressure of real life, he comes to the conclusion that

"We are not special.
We are not crap or trash either.
We just are."

And this seems to me to be the mature way to tie things up.  To say that yes we can find outselves in bad situations that leave us feeling trapped and alone.  But this doesn't make us bad or make the world evil - it just means that we are in a situation that makes us feel bad.

The way out of this is not to resolutely head in the opposite direction of the things that you dislike.  To do so is still to be ruled by those things.  To strive to be anti-fashion makes fashion your driving force.  To be a militant atheist, constantly arguing with religious fundamentalists is to make religion your raison d'etre.

The only way out is to say that you will not follow and you will not rebel, you will simply do your own thing.  To say that if the fashion is for lime green that you will neither seek it nor avoid it but wear what you think looks good for you.  That if the streets are full of Starbucks then you won't drink there incessantly or blow it up, but treat it like any other shop - either it sells something you like or it doesn't.  Either you shop there or you don't.

Sure, point out things you don't like.  Avoid what you find objectionable.  But don't let it rule your life.  Your life is for living.

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