Utopia/Dystopia Cinematic Visions of the Future
10 December 2011
Dystopia: The Result of the Explosion of Surplus Repression in
Fight Club and Forbidden Planet
By analyzing and comparing Fred M. Wilcox’s Forbidden Planet and David Fincher’s Fight Club we can see how too much surplus repression due to restrictions that exist in our society can lead to theoverpowering of the id, the rebellion against such society and as a result, a dystopic one emerging. This is important because it shows us that “The conquest of the 'monster of the id' is the structural raison d'etre of many science fiction films” (Grant 341) making us realize that Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis is so important that it is one that films never cease to experiment with.By exemplifying the result of the repression of human desire in an exaggerated way, these films allow us to better understand human nature. Also, by psychoanalyzing the film’s main characters we can see human nature in not only a society as a whole, but also at the individual level. I will concentrate in analyzing specific scenes in these two movies where I believe we can best see the results ofoverflowed surplus repression.
Fight Club and Forbidden Planet use aspects of Freudian psychoanalysis to create their characters and are ultimately the drive that is used in advancing the narrative. Many aspects these two films allude to psychoanalysis, but none is so evident as the portrayal of the ego, the id and the superego. Wayne Weiten explains these terms:
The id is the primitive,instinctive component of personality that operates according to the pleasure principle (instincts such as hunger, sex, thirst)...The ego is the decision-
making component, that operates according to the reality principle... The superego is the moral component, that incorporates social standards about what represents right and wrong. (Weiten, 481)
In his Psychoanalytic theory of personality,Sigmund Freud states that the id is the part of our unconscious mind that strives to satisfy basic urges and desires. He calls it, "the dark, inaccessible part of our personality” (105-06). He compares the relationship of the id and the ego to that of a horse and his rider. The horse provides the energy, but the rider decides the direction. At times however, the rider is obligated to steer in thedirection the horse wants to go. In Forbidden Planet we see this when Dr. Morbius tries to stop his unconscious mind from killing and creating more destruction. His ego is trying to stop his id, but even though his conscious mind is trying as hard as it can, it is in vain. In Fight Club we see the id take over when the Narrator’s personality splits and Tyler Durden is created. Even though theNarrator is not conscious of it, he is following all his basic urges both by being encouraged by Tyler Durden as the Narrator or being completely transformed into Tyler Durden. Freud states that the id has no organization, that it is what we call “chaos.” Chaos and dystopia, as we know, are fundamentally linked. What is it exactly that causes the id to take charge? The answer is an explosion ofrepression.
According to Freud, our civilization is built upon repression. As Robin Wood explains it in his book, Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan . . . and Beyond, there are two kinds of repression: basic repression and surplus repression. Basic repression, also called necessary repression, is the condition in which we are forced to repress our libidinal instincts in order to survive, “it isbound up with the ability to accept the postponement of gratification, with the development of our thought and memory processes, of our capacity for self-control”(Wood 63). Surplus repression, on the other hand, is caused by predetermined roles in each separate culture; it is the way in which people are conditioned to participate in certain roles within their culture. Wood presents us with a...