Mad Max: Feminist Ally

FURY ROAD

“Who killed the world?”

One of my biggest regret of the year is seeing Insidious: Chapter 3 in the theater instead of Mad Max: Fury Road. The story sets in a post-apocalyptic world run by a tyrant overlord, Immortan Joe.

Max Rockatansky, a man haunted by the ghosts of his past, finds himself in an odd situation: being caught and preserved as a human blood supply for Immortan Joe’s crazy war cult. He escaped from a truck chase mission, and ending up aiding the escape of the five wives of Immortan Joe to The Green Place, initiated by Imperator Furiosa.

Even before the year approached an end, the public dubbed Fury Road as the best action movie of the year. After finally seeing it yesterday (thanks to Torrent!), I wholeheartedly agree. The movie was a hell-raising, two-hour thrill of rough action, full of aesthetically pleasing giant trucks, and even more beautiful truck chase scene on a desert plane, satisfying engine growls, memorable catchphrases, and splatters of red blood on the yellow sand. You don’t need to see the previous installments to jump in the bandwagon–though now I’m rather curious about the rest of them.

Another thing to be excited about this movie, is that it celebrates women empowerment as much as explosions and flame-throwing guitar shredding.

What makes it so exciting was the atrocious level of madness in Mad Max’s screwed-up world. The thought of a dystopian future where this wretched guy covered in baby powder controls water supply and the people is terrifying enough. Apparently, this guy also has a god complex. He goes around brainwashing his slaves into going through an awful uniformed makeover, and willingly getting killed for him in promise of salvation. Tom Hardy chained in front of a rapid-moving truck while his blood slowly drained to support a warboy.

George Miller succeeded in visualizing this extreme concept into something whole. Not a lot of action movies could tackle an extremely short time span wrapped in a lot of action elements, while still telling the audience a rich story. There’s a lot of implicit informative dialogue and detailed shots that gave us a bit of a background story about the post-apocalypse situation in their universe without being over-narrating.

They went so far to an extreme (but accurate) depiction of dystopian sexism, where women are kept as sex slaves and breeding stock, and has their breastmilk taken as drinks for the elite.

During release, I’ve heard that some of the men’s right activists tried to boycott Fury Road, and I could only laugh it off. But now I’ve seen the movie, and albeit their ridiculous effort defending their ego, the meninist better be scared. Fury Road is revolutionary. It might be misleading for some people–Mad Max rised from the dead, and they would probably thought they’re going to see a plotless desert car chase, testosterone-induced fights, and saving the damsels / objectificated belly dancers. But no, instead they’re given a story about a woman seeking redemption by helping five other abused women to escape, and Max just happened to be caught up in the middle.

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Our first look of the wives was them washing each other down with a hose in the middle of the desert like a car wash ad. Seems like something leading to objectivism, I mean, sexy attractive supermodels wrapped in bedsheets, right? The moment they attacked Max, who held a gun at them, we all knew they were going to kick ass. Toast, Angharad, Capable, Dag, and Cheedo are not your usual damsel in distress. They work together and defend each other like a dream squad. I also love that even with the minimum clothing they wear, the camera shots doesn’t exploit their bodies. No hidden booty shots slipped in the middle of a scene, which is cool. And, there were no rape scenes throughout the movie albeit the women’s role as sex slaves. That’s a very rare thing in movies and television today, a thing that Game of Thrones should probably learn. That a women’s lowest point doesn’t always has to has something to do with men. We are so fucking complex and layered, we might have our own inner conflict, self-doubt, thoughts, and dreams. Yes, they were hurt and abused, but they’re in the middle of a run in the desert right now, might show their will to help each other and survive instead. I like the thought that after escaping, the women probably gained their self-worth.

What’s also cool, is our heroes teaming up with a gang of maternal bikers, and they instantly imprinted on the sweet grannies. Sweet grannies who hold up the motto “one man, one bullet”. Because, feminism comes in all packages: be it pretty young girls or wrinkled elderly. Femininity is widely celebrated in this movie–it’s cool to shave your head and wield rifles, and it’s also cool to keep your feminine traits AND still be a strong female character (unlike a so-called heroine from another summer blockbuster who explicitly called out her employee “be a man for once in your life”).

The depiction of women in Mad Max is as real as it’s going to get. There are small gestures like Dag kicking her chastity belt after cutting it off, leaving her life as a mere property. Furiosa’s look of pity when she first saw Max, that only lasted a few seconds before she hacked into him. One of the women being afraid, another reassured her, women helping each other, not just sitting idly in the back not capable of doing anything. Also, Furiosa was allowed to have her moment of weakness instead of a downfall (okay, if your heart didn’t break the Oscar-worthy moment Charlize Theron kneel in the sand howling, you’re probably lying). In the usual action movies, at some point a heroine would crack, and The Guy puts her in her place and take charge. Yeah, this is why we shouldn’t put women in charge because they would get sappy and ruin everything, right? But no, she picked herself back up and still lead the next day. Being emotional is okay, same as the notion of being feminine is okay–god, there’s so many positive messages from this movie I might get emotional myself.

I love watching Max’s transition from our usual hero of the story to a feminist ally, which Hardy portrayed gracefully. The first time he bumped into our heroines, he savagely pointed a gun at them and tried to take charge, caused by his survival instinct and male ego at the same time. As the story progressed, he saw what everyone was doing and started to grow some respect to Furiosa and the others. There’s this visceral moment where Max was about to shoot an incoming car but realized he wouldn’t make it through, so he gave Furiosa the rifle and she shooted the car point blank, using his shoulder as a guide. Max also had a crucial role when he talked Furiosa into going back to the Citadel. Mutual respect, guys. THIS is equality.

At the end, the legitimate post-apocalypse situation wasn’t global warming or water shortage. The death to civilization is us, humans, rising against each other, spreading terror and oppression in their thirst of power. Violent patriarchy isn’t going to solve anything. The only way we’re gonna survive it, is with each other, hand in hand, men and women and others alike.


One down, 29 to go. I’m not crying. Later, you can check out the rest of my verdict on the 30 best films of 2015 here.

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