On story and writing – Part Four: Is Mad Max Fury Road a feminist action movie?

22 May

We haven’t seen a Mad Max film since the mid 80’s when the titular character was played by Mel Gibson.  Now, that role  is taken up by Tom Hardy, but I’d argue that the real stars of Mad Max Fury Road were the women of the film, in particular Charlize Theron’s character of Imperator Furiosa.  Here’s her IMDB description.

Furiosa is an Imperator, a war leader in Immortan Joe‘s fanatical army. Her left arm was severed above the elbow, so she wears a makeshift prosthetic limb. As an Imperator she is issued a sacred steering wheel fetish that allows her to drive and command a war wagon. In the beginning of the movie she is seen as so loyal and capable that her War Boy crew follows her unquestioningly when she radically deviates from Immortan Joe’s orders.

Furiosa was kidnapped by the forces of The Citadel when she was a child. She was a member of The Vuvalini – a matriarchal tribe of the Clan of Many Mothers that dwelled in The Green Place. Furiosa believes this is her only chance to return to her people and a better life. She helps the Wives to escape from Immortan Joe – partly because she believes they should be free and mostly because it will hurt and anger him.

She may have been the catalyst of the Wives’ desire to leave. The heretical motto “Who Killed The World?” the Wives chant is a feminist doctrine that blames men for the shape of the post-apocalyptic world – something Immortan Joe would never have allowed. Furiosa might have been taught it as a child and passed it on to them.

Furiosa drives the War Rig, a Tatra T815 18-Wheeler Truck. It has a powered retractable plow blade in front. The cab is extended by adding the back half of a 1940s Chevrolet Fleetmaster sedan that has “suicide doors” that are back-hinged and swing backward rather than front-hinged and swing forward. It pulls a large water tanker and an articulated fuel pod that holds 3,000 gallons of guzzoline. The cab has a left-side skeleton arm painted on the upper part of the driver’s side door – indicating that it is Furiosa’s personal vehicle.

This seems to really be getting under the skin of MRAs who call Mad Max an American classic (even though it’s Australian) and Mad Max would never take orders from anyone, in particular a woman.  Even though Mel Gibson’s character in all the other movies did in fact take order from other people, including Tina Turner’s character in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.

By no means is Mad Max: Fury Road a threat to men’s sensitivities.  I’m often bored with parts of action movies because they are the same thing all the time.  Watching Fury Road though, I was not bored at all.  A lot of the same devices were used that you’d expect in an action movie, but they were used in ways very different than you’d expect.  You’d expect the primary leader to be the male, working to save everyone else, but It’s Theron’s character who is take charge.  Overall, Furiosa is a pretty badass character.  She has a definite goal in mind and she rarely detracts from it at all.

This isn’t so much a review of the movie as it is a commentary on the way the story is being told.  But as far as a review goes, this movie was an excellent action movie.  It was new, different, and very exciting to watch.  Yes, a lot of the same plot devices used in this film have been used in other films, but the way they were used was important.  Had this movie not had Furiosa as such an integral part of the film, along with the Wives, that without her this film would not be the same.

Make no mistake, Mad Max Fury Road still has high octane, explosions, car chases, the cars themselves, hand to hand battles, shooting and all the other pieces that make a great action movie.  But it’s also got a lot more that make it even better.

Even with all of that, there is still a glaring problem with this movie.  With all of the women that were seen, this movie failed one of the most simplest of tests created.  It failed the Bechdel Test.  With the large number of women involved in the film, there was not one conversation that was had between any of the women.  Having said that, it can be argued that it did pass the Mako Mori Test.

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Posted by on May 22, 2015 in Fun, Life, randomness


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