In 1989 Chuck Palahniuk participated in a controversial type of “personal development” seminar, known generically as a large group awareness training (LGAT) and, according to Palahniuk, this seminar inspired him to become a writer.
In the two decades since Fight Club was published and released, film reviewers, academics, journalists, and the public have largely agreed about Palahniuk’s commentary on consumerism and masculinity; however, just as Tyler Durden spliced single frames of pornography into family films, it will be argued that Chuck Palahniuk, and later David Fincher, spliced numerous references to the LGAT industry into Fight Club. It will be contended that, while Fight Club touches on multiple themes, a major metaphor relates to Palahniuk’s involvement with these organisations.
Because Palahniuk and Fincher refer to various individuals, processes, criticisms, and critics associated with LGATs, this analysis will start with an overview of the LGAT industry. Evidence of Palahniuk’s participation in the most well-known LGAT of its time will then be provided, and the remainder of the paper will discuss the parallels between this industry and the book/film.
John Hunter, author of this essay, was diagnosed with bipolar I disorder in 2003 and since then has been trying to understand the illness, and its impact on belief-formation. In 2017 John completed his PhD in psychology, contending that a brutal form of “personal development” training triggers a bipolar state (hypomania/mania), that this experience contributes to a kind of religious conversion… and that Chuck Palahniuk and David Fincher were satirising these trainings in Fight Club.