I couldn’t help it. I had to see “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Why? Well, a few reasons.
ACTION: I love action movies. I have no problem with adults watching movies with tons of car crashes, guns, and testosterone-fueled grunting. I am OK with little plot, really.
ANTI-FEMINISTS: I couldn’t stay away from the faux controversy, whereby I heard that “men’s groups” were protesting a female heroine, a plot about rescuing abused and raped women, and the film having a female editor (as if that means she has a “feminist” agenda just because she carries two X chromosomes). I don’t really understand “men’s groups,” and I was so curious what this was about.
FEMINISTS: I couldn’t stay away from the possibility that this was potentially a “feminist” film! I did enough research on feminist websites to know that, indeed, there was no gratuitous rape or a fascination with depicting rape and the abuse of women as some certain TV shows of late have been accused of. I don’t have a tolerance at all for movies glorifying the torture, abuse, or rape of women, and I made sure this film did not have any of that.
Here’s how each element of my interest shook down:
ACTION: Yes, this is a great action movie if you like that kind of thing. It’s basically one long car chase. All the fighting, action, and suspense is on cars and trucks. On top of them, inside of them, underneath them, and in between them. Name a part of a vehicle and there’s a fighting scene on it. The director of this film, George Miller, has created a bizarre and beautiful Fellini-esque world which combines the acrobatics, make-up, and theatrics of Cirque du Soleil, the esoteric artistry of Blue Man Group, and all of the original action and adventure of “Mad Max.” There are people of every shape, size, and disability in this movie, and the world he has created is so strange but so fascinating. It is an assault on the senses and a challenge for your brain to hold it all in. But it is truly awesome.
ANTI-FEMINISTS: OK, men. I get it. I can see how you see this movie as a “women taking the reins” kind of movie. It features some women who choose to live without men, eventually fighting those men they chose to live away from. It highlights most men as villains complicit in the manufacturing of women designed to be breeders. (Reminding you again that none of this is depicted, it’s simply spoken about, or rather shouted about over the sound of cars and trucks racing at 90 mph.) Ultimately, the film is very light on any plot, and there is no true message of any kind that women or men should have a problem with.
Whether this film is anti-male or not is kind of a non-issue for me. Eve Ensler (of “The Vagina Monologues”) was involved in teaching the actresses playing the abused women what it’s like to be abused to help with their performances. But to be brutally honest, these women and their acting chops were not that big of a part of the movie, and none of the actresses seemed like they had enough material to even incorporate deeper issues.
FEMINISTS: So here’s the thing. As a feminist, I do appreciate the notion that the film supports rescuing women from being treated as objects and sexual slaves. The film depicts a group of women enslaved and forced to produce breastmilk, a very interesting post-apocalyptic idea to ponder, to say the least. I don’t necessarily feel empowered as a feminist watching this movie, though. Here’s why.
THE HEROINE: Charlize Theron, while badass in her own right, is not the Linda Hamilton or even Sigourney Weaver heroine of my action movie fantasies. She’s just not. I know: She’s supposed to be one of the women who was victimized in this society, and therefore her stunning good looks can’t and needn’t be muted, but her character wasn’t written as absolute as I like my “feminist” heroines to be. I wanted less emotion and nurturing from her. But that’s not an absolute requirement, it’s just mine!
THE BREEDERS: The five rescued women are supposed to be attractive, sexy, and the chosen harem of the big bad mean guy in the movie. They are rail thin and sexy. And it’s hard to make Charlize Theron look like a solid-built, healthy-weighted female since she is much thinner than most women, but these women manage to achieve that. They are sort of sensual visions in white muslin, and there was nothing empowering to me about them holding guns in between cuddling up together with all of their long limbs entwined in the back of a truck traveling at 90 mph. It just didn’t resonate with me, but that’s not to say it won’t resonate with others. The love plot between one of the women and one of the villains who turns nice because he is kicked out of the villain gang actually really bugged me, because it reinforced the notion that women really just want a man to hold onto–even if he tried to kill you.
THE ISSUES: The movie isn’t made to tackle any large issues. Watching this movie is the closest I got to being entertained in a long time. I rarely check my brain at the door when I go anywhere or do anything, so I couldn’t help analyze this movie as I did! But I will say that it’s so light on plot and so non-threatening in its attempts either to demonize men or empower women, that I was able to see it just for what it was: a two hour car chase. With a woman driving the main car. And a bunch of scantily clad models in white muslin in the back. With a villain. And also Thomas Hardy who barely speaks but is handsome and rugged in a Mel Gibson kind of way (when he was that age).
All in all, what stays with me about this movie are the gorgeous visuals, the use of sound and filters, and the toying with the senses that the director achieves. The story is brave in its depiction of race, class, and gender inequality, but it could have gone further.
I guess at 90 mph it went as far as it could for now. Maybe there will be a sequel, and it will be called “Beyond Thunderdome: Dismantling Misogyny.”
A feminist can dream, can’t she?
Watch the trailer for “Mad Max: Fury Road” below: