A Comparative Analysis Of The Political Ideology In Watchmen And Fight Club As Seen Through A Marxist Lens

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In the King James version of Catholic Bible, Matthew 6:3 reads, “the right hand knoweth not what the left hand doeth”. In saying this, Matthew was able to capture the underlying ideology that guides the principles of capitalism. This passage essentially brings to light that for capitalism to persist, the low class must remain in a state of oblivion. Likewise, the graphic novel Watchmen, by writer Alan Moore and illustrator Dave Gibbons, makes these principles of capitalism clearly evident.

The novel Fight Club, by Chuck Palahniuk, however, does not reflect such principles. Instead, Fight Club effectively challenges capitalist ideals and reflects the ideology associated with socialism. Fight Club is a more important text than Watchmen to be taught in a high school classroom because it challenges capitalist ideology through the uprise of the proletariat and exhibits the reality of overcoming a false consciousness.

In essence, Watchmen reinforces capitalist ideology through demonstrating the power of the bourgeois, Palahniuk, however, is able to challenge said ideology through the uprise of the proletariat in his work, to which makes Fight Club better suited for the highschool curriculum. Throughout Watchmen, the idea that money is the sole proprietor to societal power and praise is clearly evident as the so called ‘heroes’ of this novel are in a positions of substantial wealth. Take Ozymandias, formally known as Adrian Veidt, for example, who came from an immigrant family with a sizable fortune. In chapter 11, Veidt shares his life story with three of his servants over drinks in his glass enclosed vivarium in the heart of Antarctica. Veidt depicts images from his childhood regarding his exceptional brilliance in school and the loss of his family: “By seventeen, my parents were both dead and I faced a different decision My inheritance offered life-long idle luxury, and yet, needing nothing, I burned with the paradoxical urge to do everything” (Moore and Gibbons 356).

Much like Superman’s rival, Lex Luthor, Veidt proceeded to become a “self made millionaire” by starting a corporation named after none other than himself (Moore and Gibbons 131). Only with this large sum of wealth was Veidt able to save humanity through creating ‘world peace’. This idea that wealth equates to the power of a super hero is not uncommon:

Starting from the first issue of Action Comics O (June 1938), superhero comics have been at the forefront of analyzing the prevailing cultural unconscious, [...] whereas superheroes are used as icons through which one can describe and idolize business leaders (and other organizational figures), our understanding of managers and CEOs is in part affected and filtered through how these are portrayed in comics. A dual figure such as Batman/Bruce Wayne or Ironman/Tony Stark shows this duality well - the hero as a tycoon with multiple masks and identities, and an internalized notion of the business leader as a potential superhero. Working from a cultural studies perspective, the chapter thus studies this duality by discussing superhero-managers, both real/ascribed and fictional. [...]In a very real sense, business leaders can be superheroes and comics management manuals. (Rehn and Lindahl 50-51)

Evidently, Watchmen and other super hero comics alike, are instilling capitalist values in their readers. Graphic novels, such as Watchmen, are raising the bourgeois and business leaders in our society to be god-like figures--Figures that are so high up in the social hierarchy that they have become untouchable by those below. Representing business leaders as such proves to be problematic as it subsequently reinforces the classic capitalist ideology that the class one is born into is the class in which they must stay. Idolizing the bourgeois to the point where society can call ‘heroes’, is keeping the lower class tapped in their position on the social hierarchy solely due to their economic wealth.

Unlike Watchmen, Fight club is able to challenge capitalist ideology through representing the uprise of the proletariat. Fight Club is able to illustrate that an immense amount of wealth is not a requisite necessary in gaining societal power. In chapter 25, Tyler is informed that he will be let go from his position as a projectionist by the head union. Most would see being fired as a major source of economic loss, Tyler, however, saw it as an opportunity to demonstrate his power. He suggests that the union should continue to send him a monthly paycheck in return for keeping quiet about the hundreds of single frame pornography shots he spliced into movies throughout the years. In response, the union president punched Tyler straight out of his chair as he exclaimed laughing: “‘Go ahead, you can’t kill me [...] you stupid fuck. beat the crap out of me, but you cant kill me.’ You have two much to lose. I have nothing. You have everything” (Palahniuk 114-115). With this, Tyler was able to convince his boss to agree with his terms and then proceeded to encourage the narrator, his alter ego, to have the same conversation with his employer. According to a capitalist, it would seem absurd to think that a proletariat could have such a mense amount of power and control over that of a bourgeoisie. This, however, is not as absurd as one may think:

Under capitalism the proletariat was an oppressed class, a class which had been deprived of the means of production, the only class which stood directly and completely opposed to the bourgeoisie, and therefore the only one capable of being revolutionary to the very end. Having overthrown the bourgeoisie and conquered political power, the proletariat has become the ruling class; it wields state power, it exercises control over means of production already socialised; it guides the wavering and intermediary elements and classes; it crushes the increasingly stubborn resistance of the exploiters. All these are specific tasks of the class struggle, tasks which the proletariat formerly did not and could not have set itself. (Lenin 4-5)

This excerpt, pulled from the work of a Russian revolutionary and political theorist, Valdimir Lenin, captures the essence of Fight Club perfectly. Tyler, a proletariat, is able to take control of his boss, a bourgeois. Not only was someone ‘who has nothing’ able to take control over his boss, but was then able to turn around and build an entire empire -- An empire that stretched across an entire country. The idea that a low class member of society could build such power from no economic wealth directly challenges the capitalist ideology that everyone should remain in their place on the social hierarchy. Fight Club is able to demonstrate that you do not need to be wealthy in order to change the world.

This idea is extremely important for todays teenagers to recognize because it proves that people are able to move up in society based on their sheer will and determination to achieve their goals. Watchmen, however, just affirms the idea that we should idolize the bourgeouise and not challenge their position. Instilling such a message in today's young adults would ensure that the low class is kept in a state of oppression. This is especially detrimental when said message is being taught to teens who are easily influenced by such sources of media. For grade 12 students, learning the lesson that no matter your financial stature one is able to make a difference, as portrayed in Fight Club, is immensely important.

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Furthermore, Fight Club is able to challenge capitalist ideology by exhibiting the reality of overcoming one’s false consciousness, to which makes the novel better suited than Watchmen to be taught in a high school classroom. The government system present in Watchmen, keeps its citizens from seeing the reality of their social economic position in society. This idea of social blindness can be most clearly seen through the life of Dr. Manhattan. Dr. Manhattan best describes his situation as he recounts his life in chapter 4: “It’s November. The Newspapers call me a crimefighter, so the Pentagon says I must fight crime. In Moloch’s underground vice-den, the sighs turn to screams of terror. The morality of my activities escapes me” (Moore and Gibbons 124).

Dr. Manhattan is credited with being the most powerful being on the planet, yet he finds himself working under the United States Government. He is clearly willing to blindly follow orders from the government even though the position makes him extremely unhappy. The large amounts of propaganda posted throughout the novel does in no way aid the situation. The newspapers, Nava Express and the New Frontiersman, only help the government keep to their citizens from seeing the true nature of the reality that they inhabit. With the use of this propaganda, the government is able to take advantage of Dr. Manhattan and pry on his moral vulnerability:

“Theoreticians, notably Robert Tucker and Allen Wood, [...] feel that Marx does not have a moral theory and that his critique of the capitalist social system is not based on the recognition of its inherent injustice and immorality. [...] Marx was creating a new social science in which normative and ethical values had no place,” (McCarthy 117).

Dr. Manhattan is no longer able to see the actions he is asked to preform as morally right or wrong. He is limited to only seeing facts and logic. This lost sense of morality allows the pentagon to ask anything of him. Without a moral compass, Dr. Manhattan can do nothing, but what they ask because he is unable to truly understand what he is actually doing. He is being used as an American weapon, yet is fully unaware that this is the case. Dr. Manhattan resembles that of a god and an all mighty power, but feels the need to constantly demonstrating his compliance to the government. He is blind to the fact that the government is manipulating him. Like the majority of the characters featured in this comic, Doctor Manhattan is able to convince himself that his actions are not a result of oppression, but rather for the greater good. He fails to recognize that what needs to be done for the ‘greater good’ always lines up perfectly with the needs of the gouvernent. Watchmen does an excellent job of depicting the reality of living under a false consciousness.

In doing so, Watchmen accurately reinforces the ideology that those whom are oppressed will forever remain oppressed. The problem with Watchmen comes with the fact that the characters are never made to see the true nature of the situation. The characters never come to realize that the government has created a false consciousness for them to live under. This becomes problematic as this idea is congruent with the capitalist value of absolute compliance. Portraying this idea to the reader instills the notion that ‘this is the way it is, so this is the way its going to be’, dissuading readers from participating in any form of activism. Unlike Watchmen, Fight club is able to challenge capitalist ideology by exhibiting the reality of overcoming a false consciousness.

The characters in Fight Club are able challenge capitalist ideology by being able to recognize the reality of the societal conditions they live in. The narrator is able to draw the conclusion that he is being oppressed by consumerism in society and is then able to recognize its effects in his everyday life. He comes to this realization upon returning home from the airport without his luggage, only to find that someone has blown up his condominium. Everything he owned, now turned to ashes. As he looks at his burning condo he thinks:

“You buy furniture. You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you're satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you've got your sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then you're trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you,”. (Palahniuk 44)

In this moment the narrator is able to come to the realization that he is not defined by the objects he owns. Society breeds its citizens to believe that no matter what one has, there is always something bigger, better and more expensive. In the end, people become traped in an never ending cycle of consumerism that constantly demands more. This idea is worded perfectly by author, Nandini Nair: “In novels, only the rich can afford the luxury of complete leisure, and no toil. They have lives of plenty, which end up pyrrhic, as rampant consumerism hints at moral bankruptcy” (Nair 1). By the end of this never ending consumer cycle, one becomes drained both economically and emotionally.

At the beginning of Fight Club, the narrator was in a state of complete false consciousness. A society of consumerism lead him to believe he could only be defined by his life possessions. He tried to use his modern condo at the top of a high rise and luxury cars to buy the label of a high class citizen. Realizing that he was being oppressed by what he owned allowed him to break free from a consumerist mentality. In this moment, he is able to challenge capitalism by breaking from the false consciousness created by society. He is able to recognize that one does not need to conform to societal norms in order to be socially accepted. One has the ability to break free and envoke change.

Adopting this ideology is important for teenagers to recognize because many teenagers are oppressed by consumerism without knowing it. They are being fed the idea that they need materials in order to validate their position in society. Watchmen, conveys this exact negative ideology. It demonstrates that compliance is key, but in reality that is not the case. Such a message should not be passed on to young adults who likely have not yet been able to recognize the false consciousness they live under. For grade 12 students, learning the lesson that one has the ability to overcome a state of societal oppression as portrayed in Fight Club, is tremendously important.

Fight Club challenges capitalist ideology through the uprise of the proletariat and exhibits the reality of overcoming a false consciousness, which therefore makes it a more important text to be studied in the highschool classroom than Watchmen. Fight Club, is a crucial text for grade 12 students in highschool to study as it is able to illustrate that an immense amount of wealth is not a requisite necessary in gaining societal power. In addition, the novel is able to leave readers with the message that its possible to break free from a sense of false consciousness.

Overall, it is safe to say that the words of Matthew 6:3 featured in the King James version of Catholic Bible, “the right hand knoweth not what the left hand doeth”, does not hold as much truth in today’s society as originally thought due to the fact that the ‘right hand’, representing low class, is beginning to come out of its state of oblivion and recognize the actions of the left.

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A Comparative Analysis Of The Political Ideology In Watchmen And Fight Club As Seen Through A Marxist Lens. (2021, April 19). WritingBros. Retrieved June 25, 2024, from https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/a-comparative-analysis-of-the-political-ideology-in-watchmen-and-fight-club-as-seen-through-a-marxist-lens/
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A Comparative Analysis Of The Political Ideology In Watchmen And Fight Club As Seen Through A Marxist Lens [Internet]. WritingBros. 2021 Apr 19 [cited 2024 Jun 25]. Available from: https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/a-comparative-analysis-of-the-political-ideology-in-watchmen-and-fight-club-as-seen-through-a-marxist-lens/
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