Monday, October 22, 2012


i was looking at some examples of kinetic typography and came across one from the "lye" speech from fight club (note: there is a moment of rough language). which isn't too surprising, since a) kinetic typography is the sort of assignment that would be given in an undergraduate after effects class and b) undergraduate guys tend to think fight club is one of the most profound things they've ever seen. in all probability, it likely is the most accessible exposure they've had to something philosophical (editor's note: the kinetic typography video was made by a professional graphic designer and not a college sophomore as our writer brazenly presupposed.) i think it's a great movie, but i also think there are far greater things out there. (i think it's also one of the most popularly misunderstood movies of my generation, too, but that's another post.)

for those of you not familiar with the scene, edward norton jr. plays a man who feels completely hollow, with little more than apathy filling up his life of consumer products. he meets brad pitt, a cool, confident, rebellious soap salesman who seems to be everything ed is not and wishes he could be. (again, this movie really taps into the collegiate male psyche.) in the scene in question, pitt tells ed they are going to make soap, then proceeds to scoop a spoonful of lye onto the back of ed's hand.

the only thing i (and i think most people) know about lye is that it's used in making soap and that its at the very end of the "acid/base" ph scale that we learned about in high school chemistry. ed screams in pain as brad holds him down, forcing him to stop trying to ignore the pain and to face and accept it. as the narrator continues to fight, brad explains that pouring water on it (the instinctual reaction) would only spread the burning chemical. but if he relaxes and submits to pitt and accepts his philosophy that there is nothing to life, that god has abandoned them, he will pour vinegar on it to neutralize the burn. i suspect this scene comes across as a sort of enlightenment for a lot of people.

listening to the speech this time, i was surprised at how so very close it is to the truth. ed norton is struggling in pain, crying for help, and brad pitt is there, coaching him to not deal with this pain the way he would naturally think to. instead, pitt offers to help him with what will really ease his pain, but only if he will stop fighting him and completely trust him first. heck, when he screams "you don't know how this feels!" brad actually holds up his hand and shows the scar as proof that he's been through this, too. could it be any more analogous?

instead of looking to God, the whole speech is about how God has seemingly disowned them and that they need to confront the cold harsh reality that life is cruel, dark and empty. and it seems that a lot of people really resonated with the philosophies of this movie. the irony is that the actual truth is the opposite; that instead of fighting and finally giving up to accept that there is Nothing out there, the other half of our nature continues to fight until we relent and give up to God, accepting that He is there and He will pour the vinegar on us and neutralize the burn. oddly, the nihilistic center seems to make it much more appealing to so many people than the actual divine center.

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