Once the dust, credit card companies, and Jared Leto’s dislodged teeth settle at the conclusion of Fight Club, America’s most pressing concern will be responding to the debt record’s sudden erasure. After that, the country will undoubtedly turn its all-seeing gaze to the real issue at hand: What the hell is the name of Edward Norton’s character?
Was the Narrator really just Tyler Durden all along? Maybe he’s named after that “Jack” fellow he’s always talking about (“Hello there! I’m Jackson Flamed Sense of Rejection. Jack, for short.”) Or could it be that the Narrator was never intended to have any name, and we’d better get out of Chuck Palahniuk’s upstairs shower right this instant or he’s calling the police? The options are endless.
Fight Club never provides a satisfying—or really any—answer as to what’s written on the Narrator’s driver’s license. Thankfully, I do know what’s written there, and it’s not just that he’s an organ donor. Not only does the Narrator have a solid, Christian name, but he shares it with one of America’s sweethearts. That’s right, the Narrator of Fight Club is none other than a certain Ralphie Parker.
As we all suspected, the adorable, bespectacled child from A Christmas Story one day beats the lead singer of Thirty Seconds To Mars’ face into an unrecognizable pulp just because he can. They grow up so fast, don’t they?
But don’t take my word for it, let’s look at my evidence!
They’re Both Unreliable Narrators
The protagonists of both A Christmas Story and it’s sequel, Fight Club, love recounting their life story via voice-over narration. The big problem is that neither of them know what the hell they’re talking about.
By the end of Fight Club, it’s safe to wonder if a single thing the Narrator has told us is true. Not only has he created an entire separate identity that he himself is entirely unaware of, but the Narrator attributes a massive amount of his actions and life to the fictional Tyler Durden. He remembers virtually nothing of his relationship with Marla Singer, and he’s apparently forgotten acquiring the skillsets necessary to craft bombs out of soap and soap out of nasty-ass human ass-fat. Remember Fight Club is set in the long-lost time before Google and Tinder so making love and bombs took a little extra effort. It’d be difficult to forget.
The Narrator even manages to scheme an incredibly complicated operation to eliminate credit card debt in America, without remembering a single detail. That’s Jason Bourne-level amnesia, and there’s no reason to trust virtually any section of his story—just like we should never trust any Jason Bourne movie after Ultimatum.
You know who else really sucks at truthfully retelling their life? Sweet, sweet Ralphie. The story Ralphie relates to audiences is riddled with more anachronisms than America’s developmental history in your average Civilization III campaign. Bildungsroman? More like bulldungshitman*. *Writer’s note: crushed that joke*
Ostensibly, A Christmas Story is set before World War II, though narrated by an older, wiser Ralphie from the 1980s. Little hints point to Ralphie’s story being set in 1940. For example, Mr. Parker’s car registration is dated 1940, Ralphie’s decoder pin is the 1940 “Speed-o-matic”, and Mrs. Parker owns a stack of Look magazines from the late 1930s. A quick glimpse of a family calendar suggests the film might be in 1939—as it shows December 1st falling on a Friday, which was the case in 1939—but we could dismiss it as last year’s calendar that was never replaced. That puts us back in 1940 and feeling fine.
Yet nothing else in Ralphie’s story fits into any sort of neat timeline. Virtually every other item in the film evidently fell through some sort of time vortex. Ralphie’s three-hinged glasses weren’t invented until the 1980s, Scut’s braces didn’t exist before the 1970s, Mr. Parker’s type of bowling ball wasn’t possible before the 1960s, racial integration in Indiana classrooms wasn’t legalized until 1949, and on and on.
Are we supposed to believe that nine-year-old Ralphie was exceptionally good at imagining a future where all men are finally treated equally and bowling balls come in different, customizable colors? Or is he simply struggling to remember what his “childhood” was actually like, because, you know, he’s making the whole thing up? Ralphie recounts what he thinks 1940 was like, despite not actually having grown up or lived during that time. It’d be like me describing my 1990s childhood as full of all-nighter Fortnite binges and non-stop One Direction concerts. Ralphie’s inability to accurately recollect era-specific details from his childhood is incredibly disconcerting and casts doubt on the other aspects of his story.
Adult Ralphie and the Narrator tells stories in almost the exact same way: Falsely.
They’re Both Incredibly Violent
A penchant for violence is central to the Narrator’s character. Not only does he establish a national club based on bare-knuckle fighting, he’s prone to repeatedly punching himself in the face when he doesn’t get his way. He bashes in some dude’s head solely to “destroy something beautiful” and threatens to remove another man’s genitals with less remorse than me settling on a Starbucks’ order (which, coincidentally, sneaks into virtually every single shot of Fight Club.) The Narrator builds IEDs nonstop, and he shot himself in the head, and, honestly, I think it’s pretty apparent that this dude fits the descriptor of “violent.” Let’s move on to when he was a little boy.
Remember when the Narrator punched Jared Leto until on Leto’s face was a map of the world? I’ve mentioned it several times. Anyway, the way he sits on Leto’s chest, pounding him from yesterday, is eerily similar to how Ralphie earlier brutalizes his bully, Scut. Both Ralphie and the Narrator rain blows down upon their helpless victims, alternating fists, and both are dragged away before they kill somebody.
And lest you think Ralphie’s fight is just an example of boys pounding boys (coming to Pay-Per-View soon!), keep in mind that Ralphie butchers that kid for nearly a full two minutes before anybody stops him. Ralphie gives no indication that he intends to relent—despite Scut’s repeated protests and weird pig squeals. Had Ralphie’s mother not intervened, Ralphie would have beat those braces through the top of Scut’s ginger head.
Besides just his brutal fighting methods, literally all Ralphie wants for Christmas is a dangerous weapon. And he doesn’t just want a Red Ryder BB Gun so he can shoot cans or defend the bird feeder from aggressive squirrels, Ralphie explicitly wants to kill people. When Ralphie imagines his life as the proud owner of said air rifle, his imagination immediately conjure forth a home invasion scenario where his sharpshooting skills result in the untimely deaths of four adult men. Is that normal? Do most kids daydream about all the human lives they could take with their Christmas present? Is there some nine-year-old child out there right now plotting to smash a Barbie Dream House over a jaywalker’s head?
Ralphie’s attack of Scut was just the beginning of his internal violence escaping into the real world. As he grew older, Ralphie likely suppressed those urges, at least until they manifested as Tyler Durden and forced their way onto the faces of dozens of hapless blue-collar workers.
They Both Have Highly Detailed Fantasy Lives
Both Ralphie and the Narrator are incredibly prone to imaginary fantasies. Obviously, the Narrator imagines an entirely different identity for himself, which feels extreme, but that tendency was already present in Ralphie as a kid. A Christmas Story depicts several of Ralphie’s daydreams ranging from getting an A+ on an essay to the aforementioned brutal murder of four thieves. Lots of kids—and let’s face it, grown-ass adults—spend a great deal of time daydreaming when they should be engaged in the moment, but few dream as vividly or violently as Ralphie and the Narrator.
Both characters have a rich, detailed inner life, which—coupled with their love of violence—eventually leads to the creation of Fight Club and Project Mayhem. It’s like my mom always said, daydreaming starts with imagining succeeding on a homework assignment but ends with becoming a domestic terrorist and shooting yourself in the face to get rid of your imaginary friend.
Both Have A Falling Out with Consumer Culture
It is the Narrator’s hatred of “working jobs we hate to buy shit we don’t need” that eventually leads to his creation of Fight Club. It’s an attempt to find some true purpose after a life spent perusing Ikea catalogs searching for the most complimentary ottoman foot rest. The Narrator’s Project Mayhem takes this nihilistic hatred of consumer culture even further by bombing corporate businesses like Apple and ultimately destroying eliminating the national credit record.
But Ralphie also has something of a falling out with consumer culture. He frequently finds his desire for meaning thwarted by the very products he craves. Early in A Christmas Story, Ralphie so desperately wants to learn what Little Orphan Annie’s secret message is that he drinks an ungodly amount of Ovaltine so he can qualify for the necessary decoder ring. In fact, he drinks so much Ovaltine, the stuff makes him sick. And what does that secret message actually say? “Be sure to drink your Ovaltine.” Ralphie thought he would learn something new and exciting, but instead he realized he’d played right into the hands of a giant corporation. That’s enough for anybody to pick up The Battle of Los Angeles.
Later, Ralphie rests his hopes and dreams on getting ahold of that dope BB gun. Since everybody warns Ralphie he’ll “shoot his dick off” (that’s the quote, right?), Ralphie goes directly to the king of consumerism himself: Santa. Of course, Santa also doubts Ralphie could actually kill a gaggle of thieves without shooting off his own body parts (a fair assumption, given the end of Fight Club), so Santa also denies Ralphie his request. Frustrated, Ralphie begins to realize the world is set up to deny him the things he thinks will provide him purpose.
He didn’t understand it when he was nine, but Ralphie was already laying the foundation for his inevitable, savage break from consumer culture during his later years with explosives and underground fist fights. Adulting, amirite?
They’re Both Emasculated, Sexually Confused
Ralphie does eventually manage to get that gun, no thanks to the women in his life. Throughout A Christmas Story, female authority figures—his teacher, his mom—constantly tell Ralphie that he’s not man enough to wield the incredible power of a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle. To make things worse, what Ralphie’s mom does get him for Christmas is the most humiliating, emasculating bunny suit ever crafted by man or demons.
By contrast, Ralphie’s emotionally distant father does gift him the weapon Ralphie so desperately craves and likely becomes Ralphie’s primary role model in the process. Remember also that while Ralphie’s dad encouraged violence, Ralphie’s mother is the one that stopped his fight with Scut by physically pulling him off in front of a large group of kids. Ralphie later identifies with strong male figures like Tyler Durden as part of his disgust being a member of a “generation of men raised by women.” All because his mom wouldn’t… buy her child a gun or allow him to beat another kid? That doesn’t seem fair
The Narrator, for his part, has an incredibly strange, complicated relationship with Marla. She forces him out of most of his support groups—including, notably, one for testicular cancer—and when they do hook up, he’s not even aware that it’s happening. If ever there was a way to be emotionally uninvolved in a relationship with a woman, it’d be to pretend that it’s not even you doing the nasty but your imaginary friend who totally looks like 90s Brad Pitt, by the way, so it’s cool. Also, the end of that quote about a womanly raised generation is, “I’m wondering if another woman is really the answer we need.” The seed planted in Ralphie when he was a kid finally blossoms into full-blown misogyny by the time he’s an adult automobile recall specialist.
Speaking of Ralphie’s weird dad and strange relationships with women, a large part of Ralphie’s story revolves around his erotic fascination with a gross leg lamp and its “soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window.” It’s unclear why he finds that plastic leg so attractive exactly, but from an early age, Ralphie is already learning to view women as objects. Never in the film is Ralphie interested in any actual girls or women. They’re either emasculating authoritarians, or sex lamps. Indeed, Ralphie’s budding sexuality is further complicated by the rough relationship between his father and mother. His mother’s destruction of his father’s literal idol to sex becomes yet another metaphor for female-driven emasculation.
When looking at the uncanny similarities between the two, can there be any doubt that this violent, sexually confused, oft-emasculated kid one day starts a hyper-masculine Fight Club alongside his imaginary friend. Isn’t that just what always happen?
There’s Two Different Ways the Timeline Works Out
But all of this comparison is pointless if the two characters are too far apart in age. After all, if Ralphie is nine-years-old in 1940 or so, that’d put him close to 68-years-old around the time of Fight Club’s release. 1999’s Edward Norton doesn’t exactly look like an advanced sexagenarian, but there are two easy ways to explain the incongruity.
The first and easiest reason is because Ralphie probably lied about his age and birth year. As I already mentioned, his story includes items that were invented in the 1980s, which means he could have easily been born much, much later than 1940. Ralphie’s likely an adult in 1983 (given his voice in A Christmas Story during the retelling), but even if Ralphie was born in even just 1960, that’d put him only in his late 30s by the time of Fight Club.
Even if you think the Narrator still doesn’t look quite that old (the real Edward Norton was an even 30 when Fight Club released), what the hell does the Narrator look like, though? We’re seeing the film subjectively through his eyes, and we already know that he’s created at least one entirely different individual who nobody else can see. What’s to say that he’s not “punching up” his own appearance a little bit? For all we know, he could be a spry 86-year-old who imagines himself as a 30-something. That could be pushing it, but we can’t just assume some aspects of the Narrator’s retelling are completely visually factual and others aren’t. After all, this is a movie full of subtle visual sleight-of-hand tricks like randomly inserted single frames of pornography.
When the evidence is looked at objectively—something Ralphie and the Narrator are never able to do—it becomes clear that Ralphie Parker grows up to become a psychopath. But really when you think about it, didn’t you kind of have that feeling all along?