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Tyler Durden: Anti-Hero of the 90’s

Tyler Durden is the archetypical male warrior who is strong, self reliant and courageous and is glorified by the “Fight Club” culture because of these virtues. Being strong and courageous are classical hero traits that can be found in the heroes of “Beowulf” and “Sir Gaiwan and the Green Knight”. Tyler Durden’s courage is displayed in all of its glory within a scene in which he is brutally beaten. He does not once raise his hands to defend himself from an assault that is meant to humiliate him. This display of his courage and strength through non-violence invites references to Gandhi and the awe of his spectators. His reward was the right to use the basement of the bar as a meeting place. This scene shows he is capable of acting in both violent and non-violent ways to accomplish his goals. He approaches everything in his life without fear and because of this, people are inspired to follow him and believe he will protect them. A more illuminating example of his courage is at the climax of the novel when he is willing to sacrifice himself as a martyr for his cause. He draws upon his extraordinary male strength during his fights and regardless of how seriously he is injured, he will summon the will to rise each time he is knocked down. These heroic traits were glorified and a cult of personality formed around him. Because he projected these traits, he attracted followers from a culture that lacked and sought strong alpha males.

The “Fight Club” culture created Tyler Durden in the parking lot of a bar and he constructed the idea of “Tyler Durden” as a urban legend across America. This specific culture can be defined by its demographics: young adult (18-26), male, urban middle class, raised by a single female parent, lacking strong father figures and an outlet for violent expression of primal needs. The main concern of this subcultural group is that their lives are meaningless because they are rigidly controlled by societal norms, and the archetypical male stereotypes have been marginalized and domesticated by modern society. Additionally, they feel that their gender has been culturally neutered by a society that de-emphasises the importance of male values and expression. This created a vacuum of authority that provided a perfect situation for someone like Tyler Durden to emerge as their leader. Tyler Durden imposed rules of conduct and a code of honor upon his followers, much like a patriarch imposes rules upon his clan. He searched for disciples among the fighters and selected the ones that proved they were worthy following their mastery of elaborate tests. The culmination of the testing is swearing fealty to Tyler through sacrifice and pain. His followers are selected and then branded with a chemical burn in the shape of his kiss. He says “this will hurt more than anything you have ever felt before” and “this is the greatest moment of your life”. Tyler is not what is traditionally thought of as a hero, nor is he a virtuous character, however his traits symbolized the needs and desires of the culture that created him.

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