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After reading this article on the existence of Marla Singer, I am fairly convinced she represents his guilt and remorse. It seems entirely plausible Marla Singer materializes to remind Jack he is exploiting these therapy groups. In fact, even when Marla enters she says, "This is cancer, right?" nobody responds.

In addition to the blog, there are three examples of where I can think Marla Singer's presence is suggested but not required.


After Tyler's confrontation to Marla, he follows her to the laundromat where she removes the clothes from the dryer and proceeds next-door to sell them at a thrift shop. Even though the two are having a conversation in front of the thrift-shop attendant, she does not interject and instead only remains silent with a puzzled look on her face about the talk of bowel cancer.

Does this suggest that overly-civilized and feminized Jack invents Marla, a symbol of his guilt, and steers her toward outlet for his disdain of the order of society? Marla is self-destructive, manipulative, and a kleptomaniac. Whereas later on, Jack invents a hyper-masculine Tyler who is outwardly destructive, blatantly honest and disdains materialism and thus has no need to steal.


After Jack's boss finds some Fight Club paraphernalia on the Xerox machine, Jack says:

I'd be very careful who I talked to about this. It sounds like someone dangerous wrote it... someone who might snap at any moment, stalking from office to office with an Armalite AR-10 Carbine-gas semiautomatic, bitterly pumping round after round into colleagues and co-workers. Might be someone you've known for years... somebody very close to you. Or, maybe you shouldn't be bringing me every little piece of trash you pick up.

Then the phone rings, and it's Marla. Since we already know Jack invents Tyler as a way for him to cope with his repression from civilization, it seems like picking up the phone and talking to an imaginary person would use the same set of coping skills that led him to invent Tyler.


In the diner after not having seen Marla for an extended period of time, she orders food:

"I'll have the clam chowder, the fried chicken with the baked potato with everything, and a chocolate chiffon pie."

If Marla isn't real, the waiter only responds to Jack's subsequent request for Clean food, please., by saying,

In that case, sir, may I advise against the lady eating the clam chowder?

We know the clam chowder at any of the restaurants is arguably the most contaminated food item. So, it would be logical for the waiter to recommend not eating clam chowder to anybody requesting clean food.

There are many possibilities as to why the waiter says the "lady" but it seems like this is the most damning to the theory of Marla's non-existence. The waiter may be attempting to allude to the fact that Jack isn't the same person as he is during Fight Club. But it may not be as bad as it seems at first glance, because the waiter doesn't use the pronoun she or her.

It is also acceptable to refer to a high-ranking woman to their face as "the lady".

Since Jack even thought to himself --

Even if I could tell someone they had a good fight, I wouldn't be talking to the same man. Who you were in fight club is not who you were in the rest of the world.

Perhaps this is a play on Jack's lack of masculinity outside of Fight Club, the same way drill sergeants call their recruits ladies. After all, Jack does not want to be a celebrity, he wants to be one of the masses along with his followers.


Is there any more evidence or counter evidence to the claim?

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Interesting theory +1. I'll have a think about it - but the explanation for why the waiter says "lady" is quite weak. –  iandotkelly Mar 11 '13 at 17:05
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Ahhhh I've been waiting for this one to crop up :3 INCOMING WALL-o-TEXT –  TylerShads Mar 11 '13 at 17:05
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The waiter is dressed up, therefore a more formal meaning than "her". –  TylerShads Mar 11 '13 at 17:21
    
As an aside, becareful how much you're editing. Too many edits in a short amount of time (think 1 edit every 10 min) will force this post as a CW –  TylerShads Mar 11 '13 at 17:25
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I never thought about this and I've probably watched this film more than any other. +1 –  Tony Mar 11 '13 at 20:11

6 Answers 6

Marla Singer is real.

And here is why.

Throughout the movie, she does have a certain ring about her that would allude her to the same appearance as Tyler. A mechanism to cope with him exploiting the groups by introducing a woman into the mix. She is inherently, a real person in terms of the movie.

The Restaruant.

Probably the most obvious reference to her reality is this scene where the waiter acknowledges both the existence of The Narrator (Jack from here on out) and Marla sitting together at the table

In that case sir may I advise against the lady eating the clam chowder...

That article does reference a great counterpoint, stating that they know he is insane and compensate for it by making sure to continue Project Mayhem on their own even with a direct "Stop" order from him. But I counter with a fact of how does the waiter know this is another personality, let alone female in nature? The answer is, her physical existence.

The Support Group

Her existence is acknowledged more than most people take into consideration. If it was really Jack approaching the group after several meetings just asking

This is cancer, right?

They would approach with more smiles and laughter on their face than surprise and disgust that a woman is joining their male support group. Not to mention the fact that Bob would recognize "Cornelius" instantly.

Also, the other scene where they are embracing each other the proctor (leader?) of the group would have said something about Jack being alone hugging the air and hug him herself or some cheesy thing like that. It is nigh on impossible that she would let him stand there alone (assuming Marla's non-existence) in a group that helps others cope with such strong emotions.

The Thrift Store

Quick point here that if Marla is selling the clothes and she looks at Jack when Bowel Cancer is involved, why wouldn't she just look at Marla instead?

The Ending

This is also the point that the article doesn't bring up in any great detail as it drives a train through this theory.

The simple premise of Project Mayhem members actively tracking down Marla and bringing her to Jack is shown as the ultimate proof of her existence. It is one thing to allow your leader to have his little insane quirks of talking to himself, contradicting himself, even fighting himself. But to bring his actual alter ego to him is quite impossible. Let alone finding who she is if they have seen her before and know her exact description

Ladies and gentleman of the Jury, I submit with the aforementioned evidence, that Marla Singer is REAL


An aside:

The book itself reveals a bit more to her existence than the movie does.

Marla is a real person as it is because he sees her with a support group he decided to erase Tyler from existence in order to prevent him from ruining Marla's life further and then shoots himself when he thinks everything else is hopeless after the bomb fails.

The restaurant scene is also there but with more interaction between her and the waiter.

I applaud the movie in that it allows one to have this theory of Marla, vs her portrayal in the book where it is much more obvious that she is a real person.

Another aside that struck my mind reading that article is how the house is actually a physical representation of Jack's psyche. I disagree in the physical part because then it can be argued that anyone that joined Fight Club and later PM is just another alternate personality of his. I do like thinking it is more of a symbolic representation, however, which fits a lot better.

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Excellent refutation. However, one thing I'd like to point out is that there are some interpretations that at some point Jack actually becomes institutionalized, and the building at the end is an insane asylum. The Project Mayhem guys, along with Marla, who come into the room could actually be nurses and/or doctors. –  Cayetano Gonçalves Mar 11 '13 at 17:49
    
The book implied the institutionalization doesn't happen until after shooting himself. Presumably, one could assume the police searched the building, found him with a hole in his head, bombs around, etc and brought him in. And/or PM members placed him in there in order to keep him out of jail and to 'get better' to lead them again (by exploiting the legal system, etc). –  TylerShads Mar 11 '13 at 17:54
    
@TylerShads +1, agreed just after reading half of your answer. Will read it full later –  Near Mar 11 '13 at 18:03
    
While I agree with everything else you're saying, I don't think by her saying This is cancer, right? it is telling, because nobody really responds to her, and nobody notices except Jack. Although Bob may or may not, it's hard to tell. Her entrance may be the coalescence of an idea. –  Cayetano Gonçalves Mar 11 '13 at 19:17
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@CayetanoGonçalves If you want to get really technical, any scene with Marla and Jack or Marla and Tyler, are really scenes with all 3. –  TylerShads Jun 24 '13 at 14:49

I have never heard of this theory before but it does make sense from the movie perspective only though the book does make it clearer that she exists. Just to play Devil's Advocate to TylerShads I'm going to say that Marla is another one of Tyler Durden's personalities.

Let's take it from the top.

She walks into a testicular cancer group smoking and asks "This is cancer right?" Everyone stares at her.

She shows up at all of the groups smoking and no one says anything to her about it.

She invades the penguin dream.

She finds him when he thought he was done with ever having seen her again. "You stopped coming to group."

Tyler rescues her from her suicide attempt, shes yells things to the emergency crew which they ignore.

Ed Norton sees Project Mayhem grab her on a bus that he just put her on when it seems highly unlikely that so many members would have been on the bus or any for that matter.

We see her again at the end brought to him by Project Mayhem.

Okay so we have Marla Singer this mysterious woman who seems to be on a very similar path to Tyler Durden or whoever he was before this movie begins. She has troubles and gets through them by pretending to need group therapy for her own cathartic reasons. She first appears when he has finally gotten some release from his insomnia by lying at therapy groups. She stops this release by merely existing. She is a reflection of his lies. Pretty and obnoxious. She is very much like Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) yet she dwells on misery and isn't as honest. It is telling that she appears when he summons his spirit animal.

But why would she be addressed as a Lady by the waiter and why did the testicular group stare at her. I think the answer is quite simple. We see that Tyler Durden sometimes dresses as Ed Norton and sometimes more like his ideal self Brad Pitt I think he also dresses as Marla Singer if she is indeed him. I think it's shown by one of my previous questions that Tyler Durden sometimes sees himself in more places then one at the same time since he has split his personalty into doing two different actions sometimes. In the goup seen he's being hugged by Bob but then Marla walks in. I think the reaction is one he received when he had walked in as "Marla" before. After all man in drag could have as much reason to be in a group as any other man but a woman might very well be asked to leave. I think his groups are used to him switching between Marla and whatever other name he chooses. Project Mayhem would likewise be used to Tyler Durden switching and would address him as Lady if they saw him dressed as one. They are his soldiers and conform to his rules which are pretty much destroy all the rules. Also Marla is constantly trying to make Tyler aware of who Tyler Durden is. Her interaction with everyone else is on the same level as Tyler (Brad) and even Tyler (Ed) when he is watching Tyler(Brad) interact with others.

One more thing Marla never talks about a job yet she has an apartment. She is always reachable by Tyler and she eats by stealing meals on wheels. My guess is that Tyler was helping the elderly as one of his part-time jobs. Those that would be close to death. When one of them died and no one noticed then Marla got an apartment which is probably paid for by a SS Check still coming.

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The scene in which Marla is asking whom Jack is speaking to while Tyler is in the basement is interesting. Why would she ask if she was also another split personality? Tyler manages to avoid being in the same room with her throughout the movie. Why? Also, why else would Tyler demand Jack to never talk about Tyler or what goes on in the house to Marla. One would assume, that Tyler viewed her as a threat, therefore as a real person.

Also, Marla had paramedics outside her door. A split personality that manages to actually get a suicide response team outside their door, then jet off with another spilt personality, has to be a record as spilt personalities go.

These are just a few things I noticed while watching it last. Open to critique.

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Jack even says "Except for their humping, Tyler and Marla were never in the same room. My parents pulled this exact same act for years." There is a really common literary theme where one person is pretending to be two people, and cannot ever be in the same room with that other person, think of Mrs. Doubtfire at the restaurant scene. He is supposed to be there at two tables, being two people, but has to keep running away and making excuses why he can't be in the same place at the same time. –  Cayetano Gonçalves Jun 24 '13 at 14:45
    
As for the basement comment, is it not possible that since Tyler and Marla are two of Jack's personality fragments that they can't stand to acknowledge each other's existence? –  Cayetano Gonçalves Jun 24 '13 at 14:47

I'm not sure because I didn't read the book. But in the movie, when Marla crosses the street to the thrift shop a car stops to avoid hitting Marla. From the perspective of the camera there was absolutely no reason for the car to emergency brake to a stop. However, if Marla were a manifestation of Jack's psyche, the perspective would be Marla looking back at Jack and Jack (Marla) would be looking, in essence, at himself. Sorry to confuse the issue but both sides seem completely plausible.

My thought is that Marla is a manifestation of Jack's feminine side and he does actually cross dress because Marla talks about her bridesmaid dress and tells Jack "you can borrow it sometime". Also the first time we see Jack smoking is at work which illustrates to me that Marla would be Jack's daytime character and Tyler would be Jack's night character crossing paths occasionally morning and evening which would be a result of his insomnia.

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Wow, I've always thought the line "You can borrow it sometime" was odd, but I think you are on to something here. –  Cayetano Gonçalves Oct 25 '13 at 22:01

My comment is about the book not the movie, but it is relevant to this thread because many of you think that Marla's ontological claims are stronger on page than on screen. I beg to disagree. But then my theory is even more extreme than any I see here. I think that all of Project Mayhem is a part of "Jack's" delusion. None of it is real. If I am right about this, it would answer the objection about the waiter (which I admit is a strong argument for Marla's existence if Project Mayhem is real). My evidence for believing that PM is an illusion? The mechanic scene (where the mechanic drives the car and swerves into incoming traffic). In the movie, the mechanic is played by Brad Pitt (a strong hint that the mechanic is not real). Things are much less clear in the book, where the mechanic is presented as a separate character. If the mechanic is indeed Tyler, we are asked to believe that three Space Monkeys would sit obediently in the back of the car (barking "Sir!") while a single lunatic has a conversation with himself and drives toward oncoming traffic. Even the most dedicated follower would be moved to interject, "Excuse me, Mr Durden, sir, but . . ." in these circumstances. But the problem vanishes if there is only one real person in the car.

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my reason on why the waiter called him "Lady" is because theyre use to him acting like a woman so they can tell the difference between Tyler and Marla. So as a sign of respect they play along with it.

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