Welcome to Jack Durden
There is more to Fight Club than meets the eye. I know this, because Tyler knows this.
This website is a film analysis of the movie Fight Club, directed by David Fincher. I emphasize the word film here, since it has little to do with the novel Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. Efforts to discredit my theory typically consist of the following highly predictable and easily dismissible claims. Click each weak argument below to see why it is wrong. New claims will be posted and debunked as they are received.
Asking this ignores the fact that we watch Tyler interact with dozens of people throughout the entire movie, meaning it does not matter at all who Marla, Bob or Project Mayhem (or anyone else) talks to or what they do.
This is like saying Tyler must be real because we watch him talking to people, fighting Jack and stealing fat from the liposuction clinic.
Weirdly (and sadly) I’ve encountered this “argument” before (which is really directed at Fincher, yet no one who makes this statement is remotely intelligent enough to see the connection). Saying my claims here are wrong because it makes the movie “stupid” when interpreted through this lens.
“It means that pretty much nothing in the film was “real” and it was mostly a figment of some crazy person’s mind. Making the whole point of the film null and void. You may aswell just say “it was all a dream” which is a cop out too. ”
An IMDB user shut down this argument perfectly…
“Movies like Vanilla Sky and Inception are built around the premis (sp) of one persons dream.”
And besides, what does Jack tell us about insomnia…?
With insomnia, nothing’s real.
Sigh. See hole #2.
Ah yes, the popular book vs film differences: these do not matter. I repeat, these do not matter.
It is important to remember that the book has virtually nothing to do with the film. Film adaptations rarely stay true to the book, and are instead used as a foundation for a completely independent piece of art.
The Shining is a perfect example of this. The book is vastly different from the film, entire situations and scenarios were added and removed deliberately by Stanley Kubrick to convey his own artistic intentions. Kubrick never even consulted Stephen King on most of what he changed, he had free reign.
This is par for the course when a great director is making a film adaptation. The author of Fight Club said himself:
Now that I see the movie, especially when I sat down with Jim Uhls and record a commentary track for the DVD, I was sort of embarrassed of the book, because the movie had streamlined the plot and made it so much more effective and made connections that I had never thought to make. There is a line about “fathers setting up franchises with other families,” and I never thought about connecting that with the fact that Fight Club was being franchised and the movie made that connection. I was just beating myself in the head for not having made that connection myself.
– Chuck Palahniuk
The book is one thing, the movie is a completely different beast. It took the book and built on it, altered its meaning, and so much more.
Remember, we are not talking about The Hunger Games or Harry Potter, folks. Those are examples of a book being TURNED INTO a film.
This is a book being ADAPTED to film. The number of times I have had to explain this to grown adults is absolutely heart breaking.
So, making refutations of my evidence based on the book are by their very nature irrelevant since this is a film analysis of what David Fincher created, not the contents of the book.
For this reason no comparisons will be drawn in my evidence between the film and the book, since they are unrelated. However, it is very important to note that I will sometimes draw comparisons to the book in order to prove Fincher made deliberate changes in order to create his own piece of work with a specific message.
Denier, meet script…
Face, meet palm…
Everything else: every other counter point I have heard so far (i.e. why would Marla never be in the same room as Tyler, etc.) can be answered with one simple idea, which is that no one in the entire movie is real. This includes the people in support groups, the members of Project Mayhem and so forth. This is not a radical idea in the least and I will illustrate why. We know for a fact Jack is crazy enough to manufacture at least one person, why would he stop there? What we see unfold in Fight Club is likely the narrative of one man’s psychotic break and subsequent suicide. That being said, look at the evidence below and decide for yourself.
Marla and Tyler Dress Alike
One of the first clues that Marla is not real is her likeness to Tyler. Fincher offers us clever, subtle hints that Tyler and Marla are the same person as Jack. One of the most obvious signs are the clothing that Marla and Tyler wear.
Tyler's hair is styled and worn almost identical to Marla's throughout most of the film. Marla and Tyler are both seen wearing a similar faux fur coat, wearing sunglasses, almost identical rings and they are seen smoking in virtually every scene in the film.
Even the framing of the shots is nearly identical when they are shown wearing similar clothes as well as the same facial expressions.
Marla and Jack (Edward Norton) Dress Alike
This is even more telling than Marla's likeness to Tyler, but slightly more symbolic.
Jack (the narrator, played by Edward Norton) is seen gradually looking more like Marla up until the final scene where we see the silhouettes of the two standing together, holding hands.
From the back, it is virtually impossible to tell who is who.
Note how Jack's long coat and lack of pants have made it seem as if he is wearing a dress, a near perfect mirror image of Marla as they watch the 12 skyscrapers be demolished.
Marla Has No Reflection, Neither Does Tyler
Marla and Tyler do not have reflections, because they do not exist.
Unless Jack is with Marla (or Tyler) their reflection or image will not appear. This is because this is the only time Marla is "real" to the narrator.
We can see a great example of this in the scene when Tyler is saving Marla from suicide and goes to her hotel to save her. On their way down the hallway they walk directly by a convex mirror.
When they both walk by, neither of them has a reflection. The mirror is facing the camera and should show the reflection of the two walking by, but the only reflections we see are of the paramedics running past Marla and Tyler in the same exact spot where they had been walking.
We know for a fact that Jack's imagined alternate personalities have no objective "image" in the real world. This is clearly the case in the final scene of the movie where Jack is fighting Tyler in the parking garage.
The film cuts to the security cameras in the parking garage (which Jack never saw, just like he never saw the scene where Tyler saves Marla) and we can see that Tyler is not visible, since he does not exist.
The reason we see that Tyler and Marla have reflections in other scenes (e.g. when Jack is checking Marla for breast cancer or when Tyler is looking in the bathroom mirror) is because at those points Jack was acting his himself observing the alternate personality as a separate person.
In the scene where Tyler goes to save Marla, Jack is supposedly not there, meaning Tyler and Marla are not actually being observed (except by us). We are being told to "imagine" what it would be like to see Tyler and Marla escape the hotel and in doing so the illusion of Marla and Tyler's existence begins to disintegrate.
We are not watching Tyler save Marla in this scene, we are watching Jack leave the hotel completely alone, yelling at the paramedics franticly about how Marla is infectious human waste (hence the use of the 3rd person when Marla is yelling at the paramedics.
Check the 3 slides above for proof or go to 50 minutes, 40 seconds in to the film to see it yourself.
Any 3rd person view will show they have no reflection (which is why we don't see it here, Jack is just telling us to imagine it - so we see them). This is just like at the end of the movie where we see the security footage from the garage. We see it is just Jack fighting himself alone, because Jack did not see the footage, we are just supposed to be imagining seeing it.
The blue arrow in the first slide is showing the reflection in the convex mirror as Tyler approaches it reflecting the image of the metal box/cables on the wall. In the second slide you can see Marla and Tyler coming around the corner, directly in the line of the view of the mirror - and all we see is the reflection of the box on the opposite wall (even though the mirror is pointed TOWARDS them).
In the 3rd screenshot they still have no reflection even though the paramedics, who are now behind them, have a reflection.
Marla Takes Control of Jack In the Laundromat
Marla opens 2 Speed Queen brand dryers and takes out multiple pairs of men's blue jeans. She then walks to the vintage clothing store and sells them. This all takes place while Jack is negotiating with her about sharing the support groups.
This marks the point in the movie where Jack is "becoming" Marla. If Jack is Marla then this means he is selling his own pants to the thrift store and figuratively surrendering his masculinity.
Consider this: What are the odds that two dryers right next to each other would contain only men's blue jeans and not some other clothing? How did Marla know those clothes were in there? Is there any other article of clothing that is more representative of Western "masculinity"? It is obviously a deliberate metaphor for Jack's masculinity being hijacked by Marla, his alter-ego.
Later in the film we see Marla wearing a pink bridesmaid dress she claims she "got at a thrift store." What if Jack, acting as Marla, bought this dress at the same time he sold his own jeans? This would make perfect sense since Marla is seen selling her clothes at a vintage consignment store, which is for all intents and purposes the same exact thing as a thrift store.
In fact, upon reading the script, we see that the vintage clothing store is literally labeled as "thrift store". Marla is likely hinting at Jack being the true owner of the dress when she says to Jack, "you can borrow it sometime," since she knows it is actually his.
Everything points to this scene representing the rapid change from Jack into Marla (Speed Queen…get it?) or at the very least the psychological transition of Jack into someone whose alternate personality is primarily Marla.
The Speed Queen dryers, only removing men's blue jeans, selling them in front of Jack and Marla's later admission that she got the pink dress at a thriftstore are all very obvious signs this is what is taking place. Fincher did not accidentally create this sequence, it was very carefully planned.
If the idea of a cross dressing Jack is hard to believe for some reason, just think about Jack's relationship to Tyler. Everything we saw Tyler do, Jack was actually doing or imagining himself watching.
It is only in the film's narrative that Jack shows us a flashback where for a few spliced-in frames Jack IS Tyler. If you accept that this is a fact of the film's narrative, then it is completely logical that Marla is just another, yet unrealized, figment of his imagination he is living through. This ties in heavily with my timeline theory.
At the end of the film we watch Jack run around frantically, without pants, after he has decided he wants Marla instead of Tyler and Project Mayhem. He has abandoned his masculinity entirely and is either accepting his emasculated self or is literally becoming a woman, depending on how you interpret the film.
This culminates in the final scene where we see the mirror image of Marla and Jack holding hands . Jack creates Bob, then Marla, then Tyler, then finally betrays Bob and Tyler to accept his place as Marla (notice how Bob and Tyler both die the exact same way: a gun shot wound blowing out the back of their heads).
Jack has accepted his emasculated self, simply chosen to identify as an actual woman or is only keeping Marla as his "main" alter-ego.
Tyler Takes Over Jack On the Airplane
The first time we meet Tyler in the film is on the airplane. Did you ever notice what happened immediately before Tyler shows up?
On the plane Jack is talking to a middle aged black woman who is wearing sunglasses that resemble Tyler's (see below comparison) and sitting next to Jack eating a meal.
Jack then begins fantasizing about the plane breaking apart mid-flight after it collides with another plane. After he snaps out of this fantasy, Tyler is now sitting in place of the woman. How on Earth could this be possible..?
"It's called a changeover. The movie goes on, and nobody in the audience has any idea." - Jack
This means the woman does not exist and Jack is likely sitting alone, either talking to himself or imagining himself talking to the woman and to Tyler. We watched a woman turn into Tyler, sitting right next to Jack. What might this represent? Hmmm.
Furthermore, we see the woman is somewhat older and eating from a tray, which is an interesting parallel to how Marla provides food for herself: stealing Meals on Wheels trays of food. This scene denotes the transition from Marla being the prominent alternate personality of Jack, to Tyler taking over.
Jack boarded the plane as Marla, the destruction sequence is showing us the "end" of Marla and then he "becomes" Tyler. This explains why he loses his baggage once he gets off the plane and is so confused as to why it was vibrating. Jack didn't pack his bag, Marla did!
He is now Tyler, and this is why the damaged cardboard box is the only luggage left on the conveyor belt, since this is Tyler's luggage.
Fincher could not have made this much clearer when you consider the emergency exit sign above the door (last 2 slides above).
The emergency exit image shows a woman on the first section of the diagram, she then opens the exit, then in the final image is replaced by a man standing in her place.
You can tell the female turns into a man by the change of clothing and hair between the first and final image of the emergency exit diagram.
Testicles and Balls, Marla is Jack Post-Testicular Cancer
If you look at the film as a commentary on the emasculation of men in Western culture, it makes sense. But it goes deeper and helps explain why Marla and other characters are not real.
There is an over-arching theme of "removing" manhood throughout the film.
Whether literally removing someone's testicles or through references to sex toys. In either case it suggests the removal of what defines a man.
The metal cage behind Jack literally containing balls in the testicular cancer support group.
What is the significance of this? Why would members of Project Mayhem have such a fixation on removing men's balls?
Why would Marla go to a testicular support group in the first place?
Why would testicles need to be removed? It does not make sense unless you consider the idea that very little of the film is real.
For example, in the police interrogation room it makes sense that the police officers say "We gotta get his balls" since Jack would have anxiety about figuratively "losing his balls." Jack has essentially pussied out of a major plan, he has lost his balls (figuratively speaking, of course).
If Jack is Marla then it makes sense that Bob and Marla are both members of the testicular cancer group. Jack feels emasculated, at first he only feels moderately insecure, so he imagines Bob there to help cope with his insecurity and anxiety about his actual testicular cancer.
He then creates Marla, who helps him cope but also represents his feeling of being literally feminized by the prospect of losing his balls.
If most of these things are not happening at all or are happening differently than they are presented (i.e. interactions with Marla, the support groups, etc.) then this evidence lends itself to the theory that we are simply seeing Jack's insecurities leak into the narrative through the coping mechanisms he created to suppress them.
Marla makes a really interesting comment when she says that she has more of a right to be at the testicular cancer group than Jack, since "you [Jack] still have your balls."
He says, "You're kidding…" and Marla says "I don't know, am I?"
This is a really telling exchange, particularly when you consider they have this conversation mere seconds before the Speed Queen scene.
It suggests that if Jack is Marla neither one of them can possibly know if he does still have his testicles, since Jack is already so far into denial he has created two alternate personalities as coping mechanisms already.
Big Rubbery One
Dildos are extremely prominent throughout the film and lend a lot of credibility to the fact that Marla is not real.
Dildos represent the fact that Marla is taking Jack's masculinity or that he is surrendering it, and this could likely be a metaphorical device used to illustrate Jack literally no longer physically has his testicles.
This would explain why we see Marla with dildos at the times and places that we do.
For example, outside of the support groups we see Marla smoking a cigarette when Jack goes to see if Marla is still attending groups.
In the shot, it is very difficult to see what she is holding in her hand as she lights her cigarette. If you adjust the color levels of the image, you can make out what is clearly a dildo.
Why on earth would she be holding this outside of a support group if she were actually real? It makes no sense what so ever unless this is all just being imagined by Jack as he is fondly remembering Marla and the support groups, only to remember that she (and the support groups) are the enemy of his masculinity, which explains why she is holding the dildo.
Did you ever find it odd that when Jack is hugging Bob for the first time he says, "strangers with this kind of honesty make me go a big rubbery one."
Have you ever heard this phrase used before? No?
That is because no one says it. It makes no sense.
Unless you consider more of his insecurities are leaking into the narrative. He could only be referencing the BIG, RUBBERY dildo that he owns.
Another significant place we see a dildo is on Marla's dresser, which is a very interesting place for it. When Tyler goes to save Marla, he leans against the dresser, causing the dildo to move. Marla then says, "Oh don't worry, it's not a threat to you."
This could be interpreted a number of ways. If Marla is Jack, and Jack is Tyler, then the dildo is likely not going to be used by any of them, so it is literally not a threat. In addition, if Tyler is a coping mechanism who represents masculinity, he presumably actually has a penis - so the dildo is not a threat - while Jack who has been possibly physically emasculated would see the dildo as a threat.
In addition, the positioning of the dildo on the dresser and next to the door lends itself to another interpretation that I feel makes more sense.
If Jack believes that this is where Marla stays, yet he is Marla, then this is a clever way of communicating to the viewer that Jack is leaving his manhood at the door when he arrives and takes on the role of Marla. This would also help add even more strength to my vibrating suitcase theory (below).
The Vibrating Suitcase (Dildos Part II)
So, what was vibrating in there anyway..? The security guard says himself…
This is one of the strongest points for Marla's non-existence. The most interesting part about this scene is that Jack is utterly confused.
If he had been the person to actually pack his bags, then surely he would understand what COULD be vibrating in the suitcase.
The security guard even says, "9 times out of 10 it's an electric razor."
But Jack continues to look at the security guard confused and says, "my suitcase was vibrating?" Implying he has no idea what could possibly be the cause.
However, if Jack is actually Marla, then Marla is likely the one who packed his bags. Which means there actually is a dildo in the luggage.
Jack acts totally confused about this because he himself has no idea he is Marla.
Think about it: the dildo is even sitting on top of the dresser, and Marla packed it.
The security guard even hints at this by saying, "of course it's company policy never to imply ownership in the event of a dildo, we have to use the indefinite article a dildo, never your dildo" and looks at Jack skeptically.
If you think this evidence does not make sense as "dildo" and "vibrator" are not the same thing, and that "dildo's don't vibrate", please click here (NSFW).
This is brilliant because the security guard is essentially saying we cannot say it's actually Jack's dildo, because we do not know he is Marla, it is indefinite and ambiguous on purpose.
The fact that it is a security guard telling him this adds even more weight to this theory, as security guards act as a clever and reoccurring theme in the movie as a metaphor for Jack's insecurities.
This also helps explain the box on the luggage carousel. This is likely the luggage that Tyler packed, or at the very least is supposed to represent Tyler's luggage being picked up by Jack while Marla's luggage has now been confiscated.
This ties in absolutely flawlessly with the transitioning theory where the woman sitting next to Jack becomes Tyler instantly on the airplane.
Jack then leaves the plane, his luggage is no where to be found (which is really Marla's luggage) yet Tyler's tattered, broken box is on the luggage carousel waiting to be picked up.
The fact that the security guard also refers to the baggage handlers as "throwers" is very interesting.
This is not a common term that is actually used, which you could argue is supposed to be funny, but if you accept the fact we are potentially talking about a character whom is either figuratively or physically becoming a woman, then this could be a reference to the homosexual slang "pitcher."
Marla and Jack Live In a Hotel, the Paper Street House Doesn't Exist
The house Tyler lives in, where Jack moves into and Project Mayhem uses as a base does not exist.
Equally interesting is Marla does not have an apartment…or a house…she lives in a hotel.
This is information we never directly receive during the entire film, unless you are paying very close attention. Marla clearly lives in a hotel, but Jack somehow does not even know this even after having been at her hotel room.
Who else do we know that spends almost all of his time in hotels? Oh right, Jack.
When Marla calls Jack to tell him she is committing suicide, Jack says, "just picturing Marla throw herself around her crummy apartment" but we know that Marla is staying at a hotel because the exterior shots of her "apartment" have a neon sign in the background that says "Rooms".
If this isn't enough to conclude she is living at a hotel, in additional exterior shots we see the hotel name (two different names are shown), Hotel Lindy and Bristol Hotel.
The latter of the two being the actual, real hotel in Los Angeles where the exterior shots were filmed.
In the beginning after meeting with Tyler after his condo explodes, Jack says "ah, I need to find a hotel."
After Jack's condo exploded, he met with Tyler, said he needed a hotel, and actually went and got one.
He did not go to the Paper Street house, because it does not exist.
This explains why when he handed the beer to Tyler, the neon sign in the background went out (which is a visual representation of his masculinity…it's an actual penis). He was transitioning back into Marla and turning off his masculine persona.
Tyler and Marla's residences are the exact "same" residence, in that it is only the hotel Jack is living at but he is imagining two separate places for his two separate alternate personalities.
He has multiple people living in one "house" which also serves as a clever metaphor for his psyche.
This helps explain Jack's distaste when Marla begins spending more time at the Paper Street house, why Tyler and Marla cannot be in the same "room" together (because he cannot be two people simultanousely) and why Project Mayhem causes the Paper Street house to turn into a "living, breathing thing".
Jack says, "She invaded my support groups now she invaded my home" and explains why Tyler is adamant about not being in the same room.
The personalities are losing their compartmentalization (think about it, Marla begins living at the Paper Street house even, then Bob moves in and Project Mayhem, they all wind up in one house or one "compartment") and Jack is losing his sanity as a result, which we watch deteriorate through the rest of the film.
The house itself is dilapidated because it is a visual metaphor for Jack's mental break down between the different personalities he has manufactured.
The Paper Street house now clearly becomes just an illusion, even the name of the street of the house points to this. A "Paper Street" is a street that an engineer has planned for, but has not yet been constructed. The house does not actually exist, Jack just imagined it.
This explains why Bob is buried in the garden and essentially "recycled" into Jack's psyche at the Paper Street house.
Recycle Your Animals
This explains the "Recycle Your Animals" bumper sticker on the Lincoln Towncar car Tyler and Jack crash with two project mayhem members in the back, and why Tyler refers to Marla as a "predator posing as a house pet." And yet another nail in the coffin is Marla comparing her "death rattle" to a "hair ball."
Bob is even referred to as "the big moosey."
We even see that as Jack gets off the bus at the Paper Street house, the advertisement on the bus (which is not easily visible without adjusting color levels) hints at this, right before he enters the Paper Street house where the "animals" are (Bob, Tyler, Project Mayhem).
Click the images to see the full text on the bus advertisement then view the following frame of Jack walking into the illuminated Paper Street house.
Myself, Myself, Myself, Myself
Once Jack leaves Marla's place after examining her for breast cancer, he runs into Bob. We can see written on the wall behind Jack the phrase "Myself" 4 times, in a column. In other shots we can see the full writing actually reads "I love myself."
Why does Bob appear at this point when we haven't seen him since the beginning of the movie?
This is why Bob is profoundly thanking him after the fight. By doing this he has given Bob enough attention and validation as a separate identity that he is now "alive" to his psyche again, he is again a living person as far as his mind is now concerned.
Marla has just told Jack she stopped going to the support groups, why? It's actually because Jack is no longer at the support groups, that's the only reason.
The same goes for Bob. Bob hasn't been going to the support groups because now Jack is no longer there, so they do not exist without him there since they were his coping mechanism for dealing with his use of the support groups and nothing more.
His two other personalities are now using this opportunity to try to get back into his life. Need even more proof? Did you notice anything interesting about the screenshot above? Scroll back up the previous screenshot of this same scene where Jack is walking out of Marla's hotel after checking her for cancer.
The spray painted words are not there. This is telling us that now there are 4 main people that Jack is essentially operating as, including himself in addition to Bob, Marla, Tyler. This could not be anymore obvious as the writing "I love myself" is literally written on the wall.
The only characters throughout the entire film who we ever know the full names of are Bob (Robert Paulson), Marla (Singer) and Tyler (Durden). These are the only "real" people as far as Jack is concerned.
Tyler Saves Marla from Committing Suicide
Even Jack says "now why would Tyler think it's a good idea to save Marla?" This is partly a sly reference to the twist ending, where we discover Tyler is Jack. But if you take this deeper you realize it's because if Marla dies, Jack dies, meaning Tyler also dies.
If Marla is committing suicide and she is also Jack, then it means Jack will die as well as Tyler. In other words, we are watching Jack lying in the bed trying to commit suicide - "calling" Tyler at the non-existent Paper Street House. This is the incentive for Tyler to save her. If Jack dies, everyone dies.
This is why Jack asks this rhetorical question of why Tyler would waste his time saving her. Why else would Tyler save her if she were an actual person? It makes no sense.
In addition there is this: and this is a theory with only circumstantial evidence, I admit, but it makes sense. The Xanax Marla tries over dosing on is the Xanax that the doctor prescribes Jack at the beginning of the film, which we never see happen.
Jack requests two pills, one of which is an anxiolytic like Xanax.
We know Jack initially sees his doctor at the beginning of the film to get medicine to help him sleep and specifically mentions two separate kinds of pills in the voice over.
Jack has in mind Tuinal and Seconal, both of which share very similar properties to Xanax, being anxiolytics and hypnotic drugs.
What if when Jack is at the doctor, he is actually getting diagnosed as having testicular cancer, and is in fact prescribed these drugs to help cope with the anxiety (along with being told to attend cancer support groups)?
Left In the Copier
Jack's boss finds the fight club rules in the copier and confronts Jack about them. Jack replies with something Tyler might say, then says "Tyler's words coming out of my mouth. And I used to be such a nice guy."
Immediately following the phone rings and it is Marla saying she thinks she has breast cancer.
She interestingly says "my tits going to rot off" This is carefully worded, since it implies she is dead and decaying or falling apart.
Why is this? Consider that up until now Marla only seems to call out of desperation, and within the context that she is dying or about to be gone forever (her suicide call first, now she is "decomposing").
Is it really a coincidence that Marla calls him right after we see Jack being taken over by Tyler's personality (i.e. the words he chooses to use to tell his boss off?)
This is Marla saying to him that she is basically dying and her personality isn't needed anymore, she's trying to get his attention so she can continue to exist to Jack. If anyone thinks this is a stretch, consider who pops up out of no where immediately after Jack leaves Marla's, where he checked her for cancer. Bob. What are the odds that 2 previously forgotten characters appear within 60 seconds of each other, both in need of Jack's attention and help?
What's really interesting about this is that if Marla isn't real, then it means the phone never rang. Which means Jack said something that was certainly disturbing to his boss, but even more disturbing is that he just picked up a telephone that didn't even ring and then told his boss it was important and he had to take the call.
This would explain the boss looking disturbed and genuinely put off. It also provides more proof that Marla is simply another figment of his imagination in that she is a coping mechanism. The more she is needed, the stronger she becomes. This applies to Jack's other personalities as well.
Jack has just been found out along with his association with Fight Club, an enormously panic-inducing experience, triggering the need for his coping mechanism, Marla, to help him through the ordeal.
Right on cue, the phone rings and it is Marla to help get him out of the situation, literally asking him to leave work immediately and come to her house to check her for breast cancer.
Jack's boss says something quite revealing as well, "Pretend you're me."
Self Improvement is Masturbation
This is a big one. There are a ton of references to masturbation and "fucking yourself" throughout the film. The most notable scene is where Tyler and Jack board the bus and Tyler says, "Self improvement is masturbation, now self destruction…" and trails off.
The actual full sentence Tyler was supposed to say, according to the actual script, is "masturbation is self improvement, now self destruction is the answer."
Fast forward to when Tyler saves Marla and they are now in the habit of constantly having sex with each other. If masturbation is self improvement, and if Marla, Tyler and Jack are all the same person, then Jack is masturbating.
So…where does the self improvement come in?
This is proof that Marla is not real, and is in fact Jack, since he is essentially masturbating in these scenes through his self improvement as the house is destroyed. This ties in later with the demolition of the credit card buildings.
Breast Cancer Time Change
When Jack goes to Marla's to help her check for breast cancer it is still day light outside. His exchange with Marla takes less than a minute, yet when he leaves it is entirely dark outside. Immediately out front of Marla's he bumps into Bob. He had just saved Marla "from dying" now Bob appears, someone we basically thought was gone/dead up until now.
Where did the time go? We know Jack didn't hang out with Marla for an extended period of time since we watch the entire exchange and right after checking her for breast cancer he says "Are we done here?" and rushes out. This takes place in just seconds.
This change in time makes sense however if he simply lives at the hotel, and when he left the hotel was transitioning from being Marla to becoming Jack again. Why would Jack think it's necessary to help Marla check for cancer anyway?
If you consider the idea that Marla is in fact Jack, then it makes perfect sense. If Marla has cancer, Jack has cancer - so he has to check himself for cancer. This explains why Marla offers to return the favor as well.
She says she will check his prostate, which is interesting since it connects to the idea that he is somehow removed of his sexual organs or they are compromised by cancer.
Marla's anxiety about having cancer is figurative in that it represents her impending death if Jack doesn't acknowledge her, but it also, again, represents Jack's anxieties about his actual cancer leaking into the narrative through his manufactured alternate personalities.
Infectious Human Waste
Everyone remembers how Tyler Durden makes his soap - stolen fat from the liposuction clinic. In the scene where they go to steal the fat they alert the attention of the security guard (more on this later) and hide behind a dumpster marked "infectious waste". To be more specific, the contents of the dumpsters are in fact infectious human waste.
When Tyler had gone to save Marla, we see her yelling at the paramedics and emergency responders that are coming to save her that she's "infectious human waste." Even more interestingly she is speaking about herself in the 3rd person.
This makes perfect sense since Marla is Tyler and in this scene we are actually watching Jack running away from the hotel and speaking about Marla.
She's referred to as "infectious human waste" because Tyler and Jack know this, so she knows it. Just like Jack said in the first 30 seconds of the movie, "I know this, because Tyler knows this."
What are the odds that Marla, if she were her own individual person and not a figment of Jack's imagination, would choose to use the word's "She's infectious human waste!" to describe herself in the third person when we know that Jack and Tyler literally use infectious human waste to make soap. This is a deliberate connection the director was trying to make.
This is why Tyler is wearing rubber gloves when he has sex with Marla.
"I Want to Have Your Abortion"
After Tyler and Marla have sex Marla famously says "I haven't been fucked like that since grade school." This line in the film was actually improvised by Helena. The actual line in the script is "I want to have your abortion." This is an odd choice of words even for someone who is supposed to play a dark and cynical character like Helena - it kind of doesn't make sense.
However if you consider that Marla is Tyler and Jack, then Jack is fucking himself, and will ultimately destroy himself - essentially an abortion of himself. This makes her choice of words make much more sense. "Self improvement is masturbation, now self destruction…" is related to this also.
Tyler never finishes his sentence. Since we know that Tyler was actually supposed to say, "masturbation is self improvement, now self destruction is the answer" (based on the script) then this makes perfect sense. Marla is Jack, Jack is also Tyler, when Marla and Tyler are done having sex she says "I want to have your abortion" which is the same as self destruction, since they are the same person.
Cinderella and the Glass Slipper
Marla says something very interesting after having sex with Tyler, as she comes downstairs while Jack is feverishly trying to scrub his jacket clean in the kitchen. Earlier in the film we saw Jack go into the bathroom to find used condoms in the toilet.
"You know, the condom is the glass slipper of our generation."
For those of you who might not know, this is a reference to the fairy tale Cinderella. A story of a woman who puts on a piece of clothing (a shoe) and undergoes a transformation. Remember the gown Marla is wearing?
Marla even says herself… "It's a bridesmaid's dress. Someone loved it intensely for one day, and then tossed it."
Was Cinderella a bride's maid? No, but she was a "poor maid" (literally taken from the Cinderella text) and the entire story of Cinderella occurs in one day and completely revolves around the transformation of characters.
When Jack is first talking about Tyler having sex with Marla, he says,
"How could Tyler not go for that? Night before last, he was splicing sex organs into Cinderella."
Why would Marla make this comment about the glass slipper and then why would Jack conveniently make such a direct parallel with his comment about Tyler SPLICING IN SEX ORGANS (literally) into Cinderella?
Marla saying this implies she is Cinderella in this metaphor, Jack then says that it makes sense that Tyler is ok with this - since he is used to splicing in sex organs to Cinderella. There's one problem here though, Jack says this about Tyler before Marla ever makes her comment about the glass slipper.
This is consistent with other points in the film where we see that characters seemingly "share" what they know with one another, i.e. "I know this, because Tyler knows this." because ultimately, they are all sharing the same brain.
And sure enough, how many condoms are in the toilet, despite the script stating there should be 6…? 4 (one for each main alternate personality).
In the script the original Disney film that is referenced in Jack's comment is Little Mermaid (instead of Cinderella). This shows that Fincher deliberately made a change to the script in order to make this connection between the two.
Think about the implications of making a parallel between Fight Club and Cinderella, particularly with Rule #2. This would make Bob LITERALLY the fairy godmother, which is completely congruent with my statements so far about him being some type of feminized God and/or nurturer.
Rule #2 - Bob Is Not Real
Had Bitch Tits
Bob (played by Meatloaf), who we later come to know as Robert Paulson, supposedly was a former body builder who had his testicles removed and grew breasts after receiving hormone therapy.
There are a few obvious issues here.
Obviously Bob's breasts symbolize the emasculation of men in American culture, even under very shallow scrutiny, this is generally accepted.
But doesn't giving a supporting character actual breasts come across as cartoonish and unrealistic?
How many men have you ever heard of have breasts as large as Bob? It's so uncommon that it is almost unheard of.
Jack describes Bob's breasts as…
"Huge sweating tits that hung enormous, the way you'd think of God's as big."
This is yet another odd choice of words amongst many others throughout the film (remember "a big rubbery one"?) that doesn't seem to make sense unless taken in a tongue-in-cheek, very ironic kind of way.
But even if it is tongue-in-cheek, what are we supposed to deduce from it?
To give this some context, the actual lines from the script are:
"Six months ago, Bob's testicles were
removed. Then hormone therapy. He
developed bitch tits because his
testosterone was too high and his
body upped the estrogen."
If you have been following along until now and agree that it is probable that none of the other "people" exist, and that Jack most likely was either diagnosed with testicular cancer (and feels feminized) or has chosen to actually become a woman, it makes the case for Bob's inexistence even stronger.
If Bob isn't real and is just another personality of Jack's, then this further supports the theory that Jack's testicles were either removed or going to be and he received hormone therapy either to account for his lack of testicles (in the case of testicular cancer) or to complete a transformation into a woman (which would account for the anxieties related to growing breasts/losing breasts/selling his clothes and buying women's clothing/etc.)
Additionally there are 2 very strange things that stick out regarding Jack's comments about Bob's breasts.
#1.) Most Western religions do not believe that God is a woman.
#2.) Most Western religions do not believe their male God has breasts.
So what's the significance of this?
Bob is the creator, in the sense that he is the origins of Marla and Tyler. Think about the quote above regarding Bob's breasts.
God = creator.
Breasts = nurturer/mother (creator).
These are two very direct references to Bob being some type of creator or God - or at the very least, the origins of other characters.
We already know that Tyler's appearance was "extracted" from the hotel welcome video Jack saw on the hotel tv and that he readily constructs his alternate personalities around the media and advertising he's exposed to, so this perfectly explains where Bob comes from.
Bob is just another construct of his psyche, pulled from scattered artifacts he has experienced due to his insomnia and/or general psychosis.
Jack even hints at this when he says…
Who stays up all night watching television and infomercials because he can't sleep? There you go.
The breast expansion program isn't the only piece of media influence that we see in Bob.
When we see him again outside Marla's hotel he is holding a box of Krispy Kreme donuts and Sunny D orange juice, 2 items that were in Jack's garbage can in the beginning of the film and in the refrigerator of the Paper Street House.
Bob Gets His Mind Blown, Just Like Tyler
When Bob is doing an operation for Project Mayhem he is shot in the head by a security guard as he is running away.
Right from jump street there are some major problems with this idea that are highly unrealistic.
Bob was unarmed, running away, and was shot in the head.
Meanwhile his only partner who was helping him, who was also running away, found the time to go back and pick up big Moosey all on his own and bring him back to the non-existent Paper Street house.
The big questions here are…
Why would a cop shoot someone who was unarmed and running away? Keep in mind this film was made in 1999, long before 9/11, and the Project Mayhem members were just interested in vandalizing a "piece of corporate art." Would a cop really shoot someone in the head for this?
Also, where the hell was the omnipresent Tyler Durden when all of this was happening? Tyler is never missing from the Paper Street house or any other Project Mayhem operation and is often the one leading them, yet he is completely absent from this operation with no explanation.
Why is this?
We see Tyler overseeing every other aspect of the house, even doing things as mundane as indoctrinating the Project Mayhem members over a megaphone as they do garden work in the backyard (informing them they are "not a unique snowflake", more on this later), yet he was completely absent and ignorant regarding one of their most destructive operations as an organization?
My 2 Grown Kids
When Bob is first confiding in Jack at the testicular cancer support group, he even implies he has two adult children.
Bob says, "I'm bankrupt, I'm divorced, my two grown kids - won't even return my phone calls."
Interesting. What is something we learn about Marla and Tyler after Jack comes home to find his condo exploded and he attempts to call both of them…?
Tyler: "I star 69'd you, I never pick up the phone."
Marla: "I can hear you breathing."
Tyler is deliberately screening his phone calls, while Marla (who we know lives at a hotel, and cannot possibly have caller ID) simply picks up the phone.
Furthermore, it's pretty damn hard for your 2 grown kids to return your phone calls when the phone you're calling them on doesn't receive incoming calls…
Bob and Marla Lose Their Tits
Another interesting piece of evidence that proves Bob's inexistence are his breasts, or rather him losing his breasts, just as Marla does, when the prospect of him being "retired" as an alternate personality becomes a possibility.
"My tit's going to rot off."
Remember how Marla called Jack and said "my tit's going to rot off"? Consider the timing.
We know she is virtually no longer in Jack's conscience anymore (either as a real or imaginary person) and she begins to have anxiety that she is going to lose her breasts. Weird.
"They're going to have to open my pecs and drain the fluid again."
Bob tells Jack, "they're going to have to open my pecs and drain the fluid again" while confiding in Jack at one of the support group meetings. In other words, Bob is going to lose his breasts.
The timing of this exchange is exactly in the same context as Marla telling Jack her tit is going to "rot off" since this is the time right before Marla enters the story and effectively replaces Bob as his primary alternate personality.
Bob's pecs didn't need to be drained, he was beginning to disintegrate the same way Marla was after Jack had abandoned them for Tyler. And just like Marla "came back" as an alternate personality after Jack checked her for breast cancer, Bob showed up immediately after seeking the same salvation.
The Father Must Have Been Huge
Jack explains his occupation to the woman on the airplane, who later turns into Tyler on the same exact flight, saying…
"A new car built by my company leaves somewhere traveling at 60 mph. The rear differential locks up. The car crashes and burns with everyone trapped inside. Now, should we initiate a recall?"
The movie cuts to Jack inspecting the car wreckage with two technicians. One of the technicians says…
"The father must've been huge. See how the fat burnt into the driver's seat with his polyester shirt? Very modern art."
Who is the father? Just like inferred earlier with the subtle hints regarding the breasts and God, the father is Bob. Further proof he is not real. Right now if you are thinking "so Bob is the father, mother and God..or..huh?" then try not to overthink it.
The symbolism is simple and completely congruent with the theme of the film regarding the duality of the sexes, particularly within the narrator.
Bob is the creator - man and woman - or God, that gives "birth" to the rest. Even the members of Project Mayhem treat Bob like a God after he dies, almost ritualistically chanting "his name was Robert Paulson" repeatedly, even though it makes absolutely no sense in the context of the story or the timing.
So back to the car wreck.
What makes me so certain that Bob was "driving" the car…?
a.) He's huge.
b.) The car that is in the wreck is the same Lincoln Towncar that Jack and Tyler later crash and wreck.
c.) And um, oh, yeah...Bob's shirt is burnt to the seat.
…we have just lost cabin pressure.
Rule #3 - Raymond K. Hessel Is Not Real
Gun to Head
Raymond is yet another personality of Jack's who similarly is threatened with the same fate as Bob, Tyler and Jack. At this point you have probably picked up on the fact that Tyler wants to kill or control any personality whom threatens his control over Jack. Raymond is yet another alternate personality that he threatens in order to control.
The most significant thing about Raymond is that he is unlike other personalities in the story. He is not a completely "full" alternate personality in the same way that Bob, Marla and Tyler are. But he also is not the type of personality that has zero identifiable characteristics like the members of Project Mayhem. He's somewhere in between, and that is important.
Raymond is basically on his way to becoming a real, "full" alternate personality in the same way Bob, Marla and Tyler are - which is why he is a threat Tyler wants to deal with preemptively. As far as we know, Raymond is never actually shot by Tyler, but he is literally ran off by Tyler with the threat of being shot in the back of the head, unless he pursues his actual career of practicing animal medicine.
Raymond Has a Full Name...Almost
Apart from Bob, Marla and Tyler, Raymond is the only other personality that has a full name in the film. But there is a case to be made that his name is only partially complete, as we do not know his middle name. Since we only know the middle initial, we can only guess what his middle name is and since that is deliberately left out, this subtly suggests he is still just a partial or semi-complete identity and also not a fully intact personality like the other 3 main personalities.
Shitty Basement Apartments
How does Tyler know that Raymond lives in a "small, cramped basement apartment"? One explanation is the one Tyler gives Raymond: "they give shitty basement apartments letters instead of numbers."
But how would he know specifically that it was a small, cramped apartment? The answer is simple: Raymond does not exist, and is just another alternate personality that Tyler is trying to control and destroy.
Tyler knows the details of where Raymond lives because he knows where the other alternate personalities live: the Paper Street house basement.
We know the Project Mayhem members live in the basement after Jack goes down to talk to Tyler and discovers the make shift bunk beds Tyler had been noisily constructing while he was talking to Marla in the kitchen. If Raymond had been a personality of Jack's that had been developing inside Jack's psyche, up until this point it is logical to assume Raymond had just been an anonymous member of Project Mayhem, or an equivalent, who would have resided in the same basement apartment.
In addition, when Tyler and Jack are screening the potential Project Mayhem members on the front porch as part of their initiation, we see the address of the Paper Street house, which interestingly has a letter in the apartment unit - 1B. What is particularly confusing about this is the fact the house has any letters on it at all, as it is not an apartment complex or unit, and is simply a house. This further adds credence to the theory that the Paper Street house does not actually exist as Jack imagines it and that it is rather an apartment or hotel room in reality.
When Tyler asks Raymond what he studied at community college before dropping out to work at the convenience store, Raymond says "S-s-stuff." then "Biology, mostly." When pressed for more information Raymond eventually confesses: he was going to college to become a veterinarian.
Why was Raymond so hesitant to tell Tyler this? Sure, he's got a gun to his head - but why does him finally saying "Veterinarian! veterinarian!" sound like such a confession to Tyler? Why does it feel so much like an interrogation?
Why does Raymond act cagey by answering merely…"Biology, mostly" and "s-s-stuff." If you've been following up until now you know there is clearly some type of symbolic connection between animals and characters in the movie.
Just to recap on the persistent animal references: Bob (Robert Paulson) is the "big moosey", Marla Singer is a cat with a "hair ball" instead of a death rattle and we see on the Lincoln town car there is a bumper sticker stating "Recycle your pets" and the bus that delivers Jack to the Paper Street house dons a lighting company's advertisement saying to "Illuminate your pets." which is likely a reference to Jack walking inside the fully illuminated Paper Street house in this same scene that advertisement appears.
So why is Raymond a threat? Why is he being interrogated and terrorized? Because he wants to be a veterinarian. Veterinarians help animals, and more specifically - pets. This is completely at odds with Tyler's motives - which is to remain Jack's primary alternate personality and to take over Jack completely.
If Raymond is the type of alternate personality that would metaphorically help heal and in general care for dying or soon to be dead "pets" (personalities), he would be directly working against what Tyler wants, which is to destroy any other alternate personalities Jack has created. Each alternate personality poses a threat to Tyler.
Raymond essentially represents a rogue personality that has developed past the stage of a mindless, controllable Project Mayhem drone into an alternate personality so real to Jack that he has a backstory (community college), a part time job (convenience store worker) and an almost full name (which no one else has, except his other primary "complete" alternate personalities).
Tyler knows he doesn't need to kill Raymond, so he does the next best thing and terrorizes him into running away, but to Jack this is all the same. Raymond will never return, and he is effectively dead to Jack. Bob wasn't so lucky.
Tyler takes Raymond's license under the guise of being able to keep tabs on him - in order to make sure he continues with his schooling. But is this really why Tyler takes his license? And why does he refer to this "exercise" as a "human sacrifice"?
Toward the end of the film when Jack is in Tyler's room searching for information on where Tyler might have disappeared to, we see a shot of the backside of his bedroom door as it closes, with all of the licenses he has taken from, presumably, other people just like Raymond K. Hessel hanging on the door.
This is likely shown to illustrate that Tyler was routinely eliminating other potential alternate personalities and getting rid of them. Taking the license serves as a metaphorical device as well, representing Tyler taking control of that personality - literally and figuratively removing their identity - so there are no potential alternate personalities to attempt controlling Jack.
Referring to them as "human sacrifices" also helps further the illusion for Jack that these are in fact real people - and not just equally imaginary personalities like Tyler.
Rule #4 - Project Mayhem Is Not Real
One of the most common questions I have been receiving email about is, how did Project Mayhem carry Marla into the building at the end of the film if she is indeed not real, and why were the Project Mayhem members chanting Bob's name? The answer to this is pretty self explanatory - Project Mayhem does not exist.
Project Mayhem members do not exist and are instead like under developed alternate personalities of Jack's.
Think about it: none of them have a full name (except Bob, who we knew of before) and even Tyler tries indoctrinating them, telling them they are not special or unique. What's the point of this? Consider that up until now we know that Tyler wants exclusive control over Jack and this is likely why he doesn't like Marla (Tyler even says she's a "sport fuck" - he doesn't actually care about her).
This follows a very similar film where ultimately nothing was "real" - Inception. We see the subconscious represented as a bunch of random, manufactured people who are not actually real or part of the story as a whole, yet still behave in a way to protect the mind from realizing what it is experiencing is not actually really happening.
This is why all Project Mayhem members must wear the same clothes and not ask questions. Project Mayhem members are nothing more than the subconscious producing more alternate personalities. This is explains why Tyler gives each member of Project Mayhem a test before getting into the Paper Street House by forcing them to stick around on the porch, he's basically vetting them as compliant alternate personalities.
He wants control, and once they're in they are told to do everything. No hair, no name, no unique identifying characteristics whatsoever.
"You are not a unique snowflake, you are the same decaying matter as everything else."
As referenced in Rule #1 and Rule #2, Bob is "recycled" into the garden at the Paper Street house as would any other casualty that does not exist. Bob being "buried in the backyard" as Angel Face suggests is just as much symbolic as it is literal, he would be buried in the backyard of this nonexistent house, which serves as a metaphor for his psyche, "recycling" him.
Jack mentions, "I wrote little Haikus, I faxed them around to everyone." The haiku poem that Jack is shown writing is a glaringly obvious nod to the focus of this rule. Jack is saying in his poem that worker bees can leave and even drones can fly away, but the queen is dependent on them.
Worker bees in this poem likely refer to Bob, Tyler and Marla - the most important alternate personalities of his. Drones are most logically interpreted as the Project Mayhem members, as drones in a bee colony are quite literally just anonymous, robotic like members with no identifiable traits.
This makes Jack the "queen", yet another reference to him being feminized and even embodying a popular culture slang word of a feminine homosexual man.
You're Tyler Durden...
The first time we ever find out that Jack is actually Tyler is when the bar tender in the halo brace tells Jack that he was the one who gave him the lye burned kiss. There are some very interesting things about this scene.
The most direct evidence that this man standing behind the bar does not exist is that he appears from absolutely nowhere. We can follow as Jack walks right past the bar and sees nothing behind it, then a single second later he magically appears when Jack turns back. There are no doors leading to behind the bar and he is wearing a halo brace which is screwed into his skull - so there is no way he was bending over, somehow behind the bar (as some people have speculated).
So where did he come from?
Additionally, the fact this Project Mayhem member is wearing a halo brace is obviously symbolic. It fits in perfectly with the religious/God oriented thread that is seen throughout the film and makes him the second member of Project Mayhem that has a very obvious and literal tie in with this religious motif. Angel Face (Jared Leto) being the other member.
Remember what happened to Angel? Looks like the same thing that happened to the bartender, what a coincidence 😉
Rule #5 - Chloe Is Not Real
Chloe Doesn't Have Cancer, She Has AIDs
Do you believe Chloe has cancer and that is why she is slowly dying? You're not alone.
Despite the almost universally held idea that Chloe has cancer, there is a lot of evidence to suggest she is instead HIV positive and suffering from AIDs. But Chloe isn't a "she" at all, since Chloe likely does not exist and is just another figment of Jack's imagination.
The first evidence that Chloe may be HIV positive is the name of the support group. The support group we meet Chloe at is called "Partners in Positivity" a pretty on-the-nose reference to it being a support group for HIV positive people. If the name of the support group does not seem like a direct enough implication this is a HIV support group, there is text immediately beneath the name that says "Thanks for sharing!"
We can see the name of the support group when Marla and Jack are talking near the coffee dispenser and during the actual group meeting in the church as the support group name is written on a green chalk board in the background.
While we are never given direct information that Chloe is HIV positive, we are never told she has cancer either. Most people believe since Chloe is wearing a bandana she must not have hair - and she likely doesn't - but this doesn't mean anything since she's approaching death anyway (in the alternative personality sense) just like Project Mayhem members. Tyler would likely refer to her as a "monkey ready to be shot into space."
Another less direct, but more symbolic link to Chloe having AIDs is what Tyler says about masturbation.
"Self improvement is masturbation. Now self destruction is the answer."
Considering that Chloe presumably contracted AIDs through sex, this offers an interesting connection between self destructing and sexual activity.
Chloe is Transgender
If Chloe has AIDs, there is a possibility this character has some connection to the late Chloe Dzhubil, a prominent transgender AIDs activist. This may not have been Fincher's idea either, considering Chuck Palahniuk is a homosexual man who may have known about Chloe and chosen to build this character around her. If nothing else, it's food for thought and could strengthen the idea that Jack is struggling with his gender identity.
I'm in a Pretty Lonely Place Right Now
When Chloe is first introduced to us at the "Partners in Positivity" support group she is updating the other support group members on her struggle - with whatever disease she's struggling with.
"I'm still here...but I don't know for how long, that's as much certainty as anyone can give me."
There are some very interesting things about this.
Chloe states that her indefinite prognosis is "as much certainty as anyone can give me." She does not say it is as much certainty doctors or professionals can give her, she just says it is as much certainty that "anyone can give her".
She is strangely vague considering if she is dying from a disease, the only people who could give her some type of prognosis would be a doctor, so why the ambiguity?
This is interesting because if Chloe is just another alternate personality of Jack's and she is dying, ultimately because she is no longer required by Jack, then this is why she does not specify exactly who would be reassuring her about her prognosis.
Chloe isn't dying from cancer or AIDs, she's dying because she is no longer necessary now that Jack has Marla.
"I'm so close to the end and all I want is to get laid for the last time."
What do we know about masturbation? It's self improvement. When Tyler saved Marla from suicide and had sex with her, it symbolicaly "saved" Marla and made her "come back to life".
This is much like when Marla says, "If I fall asleep, I'm done for. You're going to have to keep me up all night."
Marla is saying she is close to dying if she doesn't have sex soon, just like Chloe. Keep in mind this is immediately following Marla's attempted suicide, so it is as much figurative as it is literal, just like with Chloe.
If Chloe is real and giving this speech at the cancer support group meeting, basically begging for someone - anyone - to have sex with her, what exactly is the point of showing this to the viewer?
In fact, it is difficult to rationalize this part of the film as dark humor or consistent with the rest of the film since ultimately it's difficult to appreciate, even in a perverse way, any humor in a dying woman begging to have sex one last time before she dies.
So what's the point of this if Chloe is real?
Chloe mentions that she has pornographic movies, lubricants and amyl nitrite at her apartment. Amyl nitrite and amyl nitrite containing drugs are more commonly referred to as "poppers". Poppers were once very popular in the gay community, here's why…
"Inhaling nitrites relaxes smooth muscles throughout the body. Smooth muscle surrounds the body's blood vessels and, when relaxed, causes these vessels to dilate, resulting in an immediate decrease in blood pressure. They facilitate anal intercourse by relaxing the anal sphincter muscles." - Wikipedia
The proverbial "icing on the cake" is that there has even been an alleged link between amyl nitrite use and AIDs.
Marla Replaced Chloe
Following Chloe's begging-for-sex speech, there was originally supposed to be a brief interaction between Jack and Chloe, which we never see in the final cut of the film.
However, in the script we can see that Jack and Chloe talk to each other briefly.
This interaction is seemingly signifying Chloe's desperation to be recognized and needed by Jack again until right at the last moment, when he leaves to pay attention to Marla - physically grabbing her and attempting to scold her behavior.
Chloe looks on helplessly as he leaves, knowing she's done for. And she is.
In the guided meditation, who is now being depicted as Jack's power animal immediately after Chloe gives her last ditch effort at begging for sex? Marla.
Later on after Marla has been spending more time at the Paper Street house, she tells Jack Chloe is dead. In this scene both Marla and Jack say equally revealing things. Jack responds to Marla asking, "Chloe…when did that happen?" and Marla scoffs, "Do you care?" Jack then says, "I don't know, I haven't thought about it in a while."
Jack saying he has not thought about Chloe in a while and is unsure if he cares strongly supports the idea that in order for one of his alternate personalities to continue to exist they must be actively part of his psyche. He has not thought about her in a while, and that is the very same reason she no longer exists.
Marla then replies, "Yeah, well it's a smart move on her part." Many people interpret this as Marla being dark and morose, but this ties in to an earlier statement Jack made about Marla. "Marla's philosophy of life is that she might die at any moment. The tragedy, she said, was that she didn't."