STRONG CONTENT WARNING
Contains content some viewers may find distressing, and quotes offensive and derogatory language for critical purposes.
A journey into the disgusting dark-hearted internet, alt-right fantasies of freedom and power, Hollywood’s effect on our thinking, Western malaise, toxic communities, men in crisis and lashing out, disenfranchised protagonists.
As a desktop documentary, Hard As You Can is the surface of the story of artist Tiyan Baker’s attempted infiltration into real-life fight clubs of sad men in the inner west of Sydney. Beyond that, it traces the connections between that film and online communities of men looking for power and status, spurning heartlessness and malevolent machismo.
In David Fincher’s 1999 cult film Fight Club, a nameless protagonist glorifies male-on-male bloodshed as a moral protest against the emasculating effects of contemporary corporate culture. Twenty years later, in forums like those on Bodybuilder.com, men trade Fight Club fan art and compare their bodies to Pitt/Durden, in toxic communities formed on bonds of fear and emasculation. Fight Club and Tyler Durden are foundational to such alt-right groups as the pick-up-artist community, The Red Pill men’s rights activists, and MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way, an anti-feminist web presence). To them, Tyler Durden manifests a hot, cool form of male freedom, pitted against what they see as a conspiracy of women. These addictive, dangerous ideas have spread to such groups as Lad’s Society in the Sydney suburb of Ashfield, Wolves of Vinland and Rise Above Moment which rioted at Charlottesville and tried to recruit the recent Christchurch shooter.
Of course these men feel hard done by. We already live in a shady future — robots have replaced humans at the supermarket checkout; the Internet is far from the democratic utopia we once imagined; many who understand that the coming decades will give way to mass extinctions and climate disaster have decided to live anxiously and childlessly; the two day working week hasn’t arrived; the media, popular cinema, academia, unions and democracy are all in decline; the world’s most culturally and economically powerful country is governed by a fascist-leaning and illiterate reality-TV graduate; income inequality is more gulfingly massive than ever before.
Even so, there are some real perks to being a man at present. Protein powder is cheap and abundant. The Internet provides endless ways to connect with similarly unhappy and angry guys. And so, protected by a ripped avatar, Tiyan Baker got to know some of the emotionally down-and-out, protein-slurping men who are trying – and sometimes failing – to create their own IRL fight clubs in Australia, and eventually visited a fight in Sydney’s inner west. In Fight Club, Durden was a delusion, a satire of buff, swaggering alpha maleness. But to Baker’s subjects he’s aspirational, and realer than anything.
About Tiyan Baker
From Darwin, and now in Sydney, Tiyan Baker swoops in on moments of Western malaise and crisis in today’s pre-collapse era.