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"Mr. Xerox," the Domestic Terrorist, and the Victim-Citizen: Masculine and National Anxiety in Fight Club and Anti-Terror Law

Ruth Quiney
Law and Literature
Vol. 19, No. 2 (Summer 2007), pp. 327-354
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of the Cardozo School of Law
DOI: 10.1525/lal.2007.19.2.327
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/lal.2007.19.2.327
Page Count: 28
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This article analyses Fight Club, a cult film and novel about angry, disoriented and commodified North American masculinity, against the background of the current "War on Terror" and the new British and American law in which this deterritorialised battle is inscribed. Recent literature and cinema has portrayed an often violent emptiness at the heart of Western masculinity: the disillusioned, usually young and white male is depicted as outsider within. This configuration is explored in fictions of the serial killer or psychopath, but remains suppressed in the Western political lexicon, despite the recent history of domestic or "home-grown" terror in America and Britain. In the new terror legislation, foreign males are represented as the prime threat to life and nation while, simultaneously a global, moral, and martial law is promulgated which makes potential criminals of unprecedentedly large numbers of "native" citizens. Fight Club, a late 1990s "pretext" of the "War on Terror," illuminates the psychic and political manipulations which "alienise" threats to Western masculine andnational hegemony, shoring up the myth of a tightly-bordered, combative state, while creating a powerful victim-identity for citizens portrayed as traumatised by the shocks of the post-9/11 world order. The new-exceptionalist identification of national and personal hegemony, security, and control with manly militarism establishes an increasingly authoritarian and exclusionary nationhood. This sets the scene for fractured subcultures that, as in Fight Club, are doomed to replicate the rigid binaries of the dominant culture. I suggest that Fight Club's conflicted fusion of homoerotic, consumption-driven, and militarised masculinities allows examination of relationships between paranoid, nationalistic constructions of the legalised state and changing constructions of gender and sexuality.

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