top five reasons mad max: fury road is an instant feminist classic
It wasn’t until a self-righteous contributor for the site ‘Return of Kings’, Aaron Clarey, penned a tantrum about feminist Trojan horses taking over Hollywood film that I had any interest in seeing Mad Max: Fury Road. Good action films with well developed plots and at least one complicated and compelling female character are both joys to watch and not as plentiful as they should be. Fortunately, Mad Max: Fury Road does not disappoint – it’s got indulgent car chases, complete with deranged guitar player cranking out a solo on the back of a truck, beautiful cinematography (films set in Australia so often need at least one reverent shot of the outback) and, most importantly, it has women! Not just one, but several, all with their own agendas. I can certainly see why Clarey is having a hissy fit and I very much enjoyed reading it – Men’s Rights Activists stomping their feet and throwing tantrums are just so satisfying. The more we can do to rattle their cages, all the better to taste their rage, as Hollie Pich beautifully puts it.
Here are the top five reasons why Mad Max: Fury Road is an excellent example of a film that embodies several feminist ideals (warning – some spoilers):
1. Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) has a disability and kicks arse. Too long have people, especially women, been overlooked and marginalised due to their disabilities. What was even more impressive about this film was that it wasn’t, to quote the late and savagely witty Stella Young ‘inspiration porn’. Furiosa was not battling nobly despite her disability – she thrived regardless; in fact, it was barely relevant. The depiction of her character was not a trite ‘you can do, just believe in yourself’ mantra. Disability and sex were only relevant when someone else made it so.
2. During a particularly tense scene, Max aimed a sniper rifle at an oncoming truck filled with people who wanted to kill them. He fired twice and missed both times. Without hesitating, he handed his gun to Furiosa, who expertly aimed, fired, and hit the target. I wanted to stand up and applaud – sex and gender ceased to be relevant. She was the better shot, he knew it, so he passed her the gun. No time to grapple with ridiculous sexist notions: that kind of time-wasting will just get you killed.
3. When a bevy of babes appear on camera looking like they stepped out of a Robin Thicke music video, their svelte appearances are relevant. They are a group of women picked based solely for their beauty to serve at the pleasure of Immortan Joe, the film’s primary antagonist. I’ve seen too many disaster movies where the men get filthier and filthier but somehow the women stay not only clean but gorgeous. (I always used to wonder how their legs stayed hairless?! Where did they find razors after the apocalypse? And don’t they have other things to worry about?) In this instance, it makes perfect sense that these women are exceptionally well groomed and further illustrates the brutality of the regime – everyone else in this film is dirty, undernourished in some way and often permanently injured.
4. When the director wanted to demonstrate the extent of the evil the patriarchal oppressors were capable of, he did it by showing them engaged in acts of misogyny. A woman’s baby is ripped from her womb. Her lifeless body is tossed aside. This woman’s reason for existence was defined by the men around her and when she fulfilled that purpose she was disposed of. It is an effective device used by several directors to demonstrate a character’s likeableness. For example, the male characters that are generally the most well regarded on Game of Thrones, such as Jon Snow and Tyrion Lannister, are the ones with egalitarian attitudes to women. By the same logic the most hated, such as Joffrey Baratheon and Walder Frey, are among the most misogynistic and, therefore, the most hated.
5. When all else fails, bring on the matriarchy. A society ruled by a patriarchy smiled malevolently down on people as they starved, were forced into sexual slavery and brought up to participate in brutal fights until they died. There is no guarantee that women won’t screw it up as spectacularly as the men did, however, given their first order of business is to abolish sexual slavery, I have quiet confidence that they know what they’re doing.
I sincerely hope that directors from across the globe will continue to make films that reduce MRAs to stroppy, inarticulate cry-babies. Mind you, I can absolutely see their point – who knows what will happen when resounding equality of the sexes is achieved on all fronts? Women will no longer be dying on a weekly basis due to domestic violence, sexual slavery will be a thing of the past, competent women over the globe will be recognised and rewarded for their talent and efforts… oh God, it’s too terrifying to even think about.