VIDEO: Fight Club + Apes and the Origins of Human Violence

The role of the alpha male -- the virile, hyper-masculine prototype who always gets what he wants and won't hesitate to punch out a lesser male specimen to get it -- has been reprised again and again in cinema. We've seen him in American Psycho's Patrick Bateman, Gladiator's Maximus and, of course, Fight Club's Tyler Durden.

Men admire these characters; women want to sleep with them. It's rare, however, that anyone stops to compare these alpha men of the silver screen to the alpha males of the animal kingdom. That's exactly what Dr. Richard Wrangham, professor of biological anthropology and resident ape expert at Harvard, discussed in a brief, and thought-provoking, lecture before a recent "Science on Screen" presentation of Fight Club at the Coolidge Corner Theatre.

In his talk, Wrangham (who co-authored Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence) illustrated the ties between violent male chimpanzees who fight hard and often, for both status and fun, to the culture of accepted, even glorified, violence that Fight Club examines. Further, Wrangham fleshes out the dichotomy between nature versus nurture, and the great divide between the sexes. Check out the video to see how Hobbes and Rousseau, as well as some serious baby-on-balloon violence, find their way into the talk.

This video was recorded live at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, on February 8, 2010; if you liked this lecture, check out tonight's "Science on Screen" presentation of Best in Show, featuring veterinary behaviorist Dr. Nicholas H. Dodman. He'll be "exploring the sometimes curious bond between people and their dogs." for more info, check out our Editors' Picks write-up. Click here for a full rundown of future "Science on Screen" events.

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