It’s a beloved cult classic, a film that has proved formative for countless audiences around the world and remains one of the more quotable movies of all time. After all, even if you haven’t seen Fight Club, it’s likely you’d know the line: “The first rule about fight club is you don’t talk about fight club.” For fans of David Fincher’s 1999 film that saw Edward Norton’s character kill off his imaginary alter ego Tyler Durden – played by Brad Pitt – the ending was one of seismic proportions. Buildings exploded, the alter ego was trumped, and mayhem ensued. The imagery was one of chaos, in keeping with the film’s message which presented a plan to bring down modern civilisation.
But it seems Chinese authorities aren’t fans of the film’s message – even if it is only one of fiction. Over 20 years on from the release of Fight Club and the anarchist, anti-capitalist message has been transformed by Chinese authorities to reflect their own values.
The newly available version, available on streaming platform Tencent Video, sees the narrator kill of Durden, but before the exploding buildings can enter the frame, the scene is instead replaced with a black screen and a coda: “The police rapidly figured out the whole plan and arrested all criminals, successfully preventing the bomb from exploding.”
If all that wasn’t enough, it also adds that Tyler – the figment of the narrator’s imagination – was sent to a “lunatic asylum” for psychological treatment before later being discharged.
Naturally, it didn’t take long for fans of the film to notice the change in China. Viewers who had seen the original version were immediately confused and took to the internet to voice their frustration. “This is too outrageous,” one commented on Tencent Video. “Fight Club on Tencent Video tells us that they don’t just delete scenes, but add to the plot too,” said another. “I’d rather see Tencent pull this film. What you are propagating here is not ‘positive energy’. What are you trying to achieve by changing the ending?” remarked another viewer.
Tencent has yet to comment on the matter and it’s unclear whether the government censors had ordered the ending change or if the original movie’s producers made the changes on their own accord. Ultimately though, it comes as yet another example of the pervasive censorship in China that extends to cultural products, many of which are seen as tools to promote societal values. As The Guardian reports, “Campaigns to cultivate an ideal relationship between culture, the market and the population have been ongoing in China for a number of years. Last December, China’s president, Xi Jinping, urged Chinese artists to strengthen their cultural confidence and contribute to a “socialist cultural power”. And on Tuesday, the Cyberspace Administration of China announced it was launching a month-long “clean” web campaign to create a “civilised and healthy” atmosphere online over the lunar new year holiday.”