Mad Max: Fury Road – A Wild Ride of Empowerment
(There will be spoilers in here but there is an all caps and bolded warning before the spoilers start)
Finally an action movie I can recommend without saying “It’s great! But….it’s sexist or there’s a really violent assault scene or there’s a lot of heterosexual sex or there are no women”.
Now in case you haven’t seen the original 1979 movie staring Mel Gibson, Mad Max takes place in dystopian future and chronicles the experience of motorcycle cop Max Rockatansky and his attempt to stop a violent motorcycle gang.
After the first movie came out two more followed in the 80s, Mad Max 2 -The Road Warrior and Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome (my family still makes fun of this one, if you watch it do it with friends).
However last weekend a fourth Mad Max joined the ranks, Mad Max: Fury Road, staring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron. I was thrilled when it was announced that Hardy would be playing the new Max, I knew he would do an amazing job. And I was right. When the first trailer came out my excitement only climbed higher, the movie looked awesome.
Now that I’ve seen the movie twice I feel I’m able to fully review and promote it.
This movie is one of the best movies I’ve seen in a very long time. The world building is incredible, the stunts are awe-inspiring, the characters are fleshed out and fantastic, the soundtrack is killer…. I could go on forever probably. But the things about this movie that I loved most, was that it wasn’t chock full of unnecessary heterosexual romance and sex and there were actually women in it.
Now yes, I admit freely that this movie is severely lacking in people of color, which is extremely important to notice and talk about. I don’t care that this is a dystopian future, people of color have always and will always exist and filmmakers need to finally notice this and include them, for accuracy and for representation. The movie legitimately would have been perfect if more people of color were in it.
But I also want to point out that Zoë Kravitz was absolutely phenomenal in this film. She was a strong woman without being a caricature of a “strong black female”. For those of you who are unaware, Zoë is Ashkenazi Jew and African-American. Also joining the ranks of the few women of color is The Valkyrie played by Megan Gale who is Maori-Polynesian and English, and Cheedo the Fragile by Courtney Eaton who is Maori, Chinese, and English. These women are amazing. Valkyrie is strong yet caring, Cheedo is complex in that she is struggling with her choices and is not afraid to display fear or sadness, but finds strength along the way. It is important to pay attention to the fantastic women of color in this movie while also understanding that we needed many more. We cannot settle, we cannot tell WOC to get over it, we need more WOC in movies, especially ones that are extolling the power of women. We cannot only empower white women, we must empower all women.
That being said the women in this movie kick ass. They’re not overly sexualized, there is no “fighting fuck toy” archetype to be found here. And they’re not one-dimensional badasses either, women with no feelings who are just killers. These women are fully fleshed out characters, each of the fourteen, yes count that FOURTEEN, women that hold speaking parts are different from one another. They are portrayed as real people, with flaws, intelligence, anger, fears, and strength. These women are human, not pretty bodies for male enjoyment. As Splendid says, “we are not things.” Yeah, that’s real dialogue from the movie, it’s that good.
*SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT*
And Charlize Theron, I was in awe. She plays Imperator Furiosa who is one of Immortan Joe’s (the evil ruler of the Citadel) right hand people. But she defies him by talking his wives (read sex slaves used for breeding) and protects them by leaving the Citadel for her old home. Women protecting women, I could have cried. When Immortan Joe figures out what has happened he goes to Miss Giddy, who has been taking care of the wives in their lavish prison. She is a small character but is a complete badass when she stands up to Immortan Joe and protects her girls. Not only are Furiosa and Miss Giddy helping and protecting the wives, the wives protect and support each other. It’s beautiful to see. The women aren’t fighting over a man, they are fighting to get away from a man who has stripped them of their autonomy, and together they are finding it again.
Also Furiosa is disabled. I can’t not mention that. She’s missing part of an arm. But she’s never portrayed as less of a person, even when she isn’t wearing her metal prosthetic she is strong and capable. She even beats up Max without it, but at the same time it’s not ignored, we are well aware that she is missing part of an arm. This movie is a gift.
And then there’s The Many Mothers or the Vuvalini. Yup that’s what they’re called. A group of women who protect each other and kill any man that tries to hurt them. Some might scream misandry, but it’s not like they do it for fun, they only kill when they have to. And the best part? These women are old. Not 40, no we’re talking in their 70s. We get to see old women fighting back against a tyrannical ruler and his war boys. It’s amazing. I think that’s one of the beauties of this movie, we don’t have to settle, we get a whole variety of women who can be our favorite character.
But my other favorite thing? No romance. Yes one can totally interpret love between Nux and Capable, but it’s never really fully realized, and it’s not in your face so even if you count it as romance, it doesn’t take away from the story. Okay maybe I should rephrase this, there’s no sex! It’s a miracle! Hallelujah! An action movie with tons of women in it and no sex! Asexuals rejoice! There’s no point when the story stops and unnecessary heterosexual sex occurs, leaving you to question the entire time how there is anytime for that when you’re on the run. Or at least that’s what I think about. Nothing is forced, Max treats Furiosa with respect and she does the same for him but never once do they kiss or look at each other longingly. Look Hollywood you can have a man and woman work together and not fall in love/have sex! Platonic relationships are totally possible and valid!
Seriously go see this movie; it’s so worth the $11. And it’s not gimmicky either, I haven’t seen it in 3D because it makes me nauseous but it was totally enjoyable in the regular style too. There was only one time when I thought “ah a 3D moment”. So that helps too.
I know some people have come out saying this movie isn’t feminist but I disagree with them. I understand the critique that it is not feminist because of the lack of women of color and that is legitimate. It’s something I struggle with as a white woman, can I declare this feminist? I’m not sure if I am comfortable saying this movie is feminist. But I am more than comfortable saying this movie has many aspects that are feminist. But most critiques have not been about that, and in fact I’m surprised at the lack of critique surrounding the lack of WOC. The critiques that have been said that I disagree with include saying that the brides are objectified, I say this could not be further from the truth. These women may be dressed somewhat scantily, but that’s what they’re given as sex slaves. It’s all they have. And they’re never shown as sexual objects, the one scene that one might argue about, is a scene when Max finds them drinking water and washing off, but never did I feel uncomfortable during it. We see the women as pure, as untouched as their white gauze outfits, they look like angels, not like sexual objects. Another critique is that violence is not feminist, that just because girls are handed guns too doesn’t mean it’s a feminist movie. And I totally can understand that but that’s not valid in this movie. The brides are all against killing, they prevent Furiosa from killing Nux when he threatens them, clearly saying “no unnecessary killing”. They are focused on life not death, and this is especially seen with Dag’s love of seeds and her silent promise to protect and plant them for one of the Vuvalini. Women protecting the earth? That’s totally feminist. Women protecting each other? Totally feminist
I would even argue that we see allusions to how men need to fight the patriarchy themselves. In the film the war boys and Immortan Joe are totally the patriarchy, I mean come on they enslaved and objectify women for milk, sex, and babies. That’s patriarchy to a T. Towards the end of the film when the brides are trying to get from the War Rig to The Gigahorse, Max puts himself between the women and Rictus Erectus. He is fighting the other man so the women can do what they need to do. Hello this is how you ally. Thank you George Miller and thank you Tom Hardy.
So to conclude, because this review is getting too long, this movie is amazing. And you all need to see it. However I do warn all, there is pregnancy in it so if you are tokophobic prepare yourself. But if my review hasn’t motivated you to see it, maybe the knowledge that MRA’s are boycotting it will.
[Featured Image: Tom Hardy as Max Rockatansky and Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa – Photo Credit: http://www.ew.com/article/2014/06/25/mad-max-fury-road-tom-hardy-charlize-theron-cover]