Mad Max smashes the patriarchy

Dear Dad,

Have you seen Mad Max: Fury Road yet? If not, head to the movies RIGHT NOW and watch it.

Did you do it? Hopefully yes, because I am about to talk about what an empowering feminist flick it is. If you haven’t seen it yet, though, I shall attempt to keep this post as spoilers-free as possible.

Let me start by saying that I planned to see this movie from the first time I saw the trailer. It looked awesome. I mean, hello? Car chases, futuristic desert setting, explosions, post-apoc punks, those awesome firework flares? It all looked rad! 

To top it off, a bunch of Men’s Rights Activist-types were enraged by Charlize Theron’s tough character Furiosa in the trailer, and called for a boycott of the film:

Not only REFUSE to see the movie, but spread the word to as many men as possible. … Because if [men] sheepishly attend and Fury Road is a blockbuster, then you, me, and all the other men (and real women) in the world will never be able to see a real action movie ever again that doesn’t contain some damn political lecture or moray about feminism, SJW-ing, and socialism.

As David Futrelle writes over at We Hunted The Mammoth, these men are enraged that an action movie would dare to have a woman in one of the lead roles. So of course, if misogynists want to boycott a film, I have to go see it.

I was expecting action, explosions, a post-apocalyptic world and Charlize Theron. But I got an incredible movie about the power and agency of women.

To start with, there are the wives, the pretty young women wrapped in white cloth in the trailer. The harem of a powerful dictator, they rebel and try to escape, setting up the entire conflict for the movie. And their mantra? 

“We are not things.”

These women fight actively against being objectified, and their fight is the central struggle of the film. All of these car chases and explosions happen because a patriarch wants to keep women as property, and they refuse.

There’s also a delightful number of women in this movie, not just the wives and Furiosa, but a matriarchal tribe of biker babes who are badass and good with muskets. And these women are of all ages, with more women over 40 in speaking roles than any other film I can think of off the top of my head. (I will say no more on this matriarchal tribe as I don’t want to spoil anything, except that they’re called the Vulvalini, which is delightfully campy as well as hella feminist.)

And then of course there’s Furiosa, Charlize Theron’s delightful, glorious Furiosa, who gets top billing alongside Tom Hardy’s Max in the opening credits, who drives a war rig and is well respected in her society, who is missing an arm and wears an awesome robotic prosthetic, but can keep up with Max in a fight even without it. Furiosa is fierce, smart, brave, willing to die for what she believes in, and absolutely mesmerizing. She is a complex character, not reduced to eye candy or a love interest, and watching her on-screen made me feel as if I (and women in general) was included in the intended audience of the film, which is HUGE.

In sum, Dad, this is a movie about women’s struggle against an oppressive patriarchy, their fight to be seen as people and not objects, all set to the soundtrack of cars, explosions, and that awesome guitarist hypeman guy. Go see Mad Max.  Go see it again and again! I know I will.




5 thoughts on “Mad Max smashes the patriarchy

  1. Pingback: Idolatry, Beyoncé and feminism | Feminism for my Father

  2. While I don’t know about any “patriarchy” that you are talking about (even in interviews, when asked Miller and Theron said it had nothing to do “patriarchy”) I do believe there is plenty of literally content to this movie that many have missed. The movie treats the viewer far smarter than most action films of today do, thus it may have been difficult to pick as we are so used to transformers and Ninja Turtles ruling the screens. Subtext is key here, this isn’t a movie that’s about spoon-feeding themes and ideas, aside from the very obvious survival and desperation thematic elements. Looking at this simply as an action movie is doing it a total disservice. Yes of course the action is front an center, yet, a lot more is happening going on in the background than many have given it credit for. I find it interesting how it was mentioned that this movie is a cultural throwback, but I don’t necessarily agree. If you look to places in central Africa and some areas in the Middle East, this isn’t too far off from being reality. (different locations, yet lets think thematically here) George Miller has discussed in great detail, things such as how many different cultures are able to make beauty from certain situations, referencing impoverished areas in India and Pakistan. Even in extreme poverty or extreme deprived circumstances, people create, people find deities, people create hierarchies, all of this is there, yet never especially told to the audience. We are left to come to our own conclusions. There are a number of interesting religious parallels going on here, where the radiated wastelanders view Imortan Joe of somewhat a God figure or redeemer of their “Sin.” (He gives them life though water and must maintain his image [plastic armor] to keep the people in check) The illusion continues. . . About the cars, the are particularly worshiped as they are seen as these artifacts of a prior age that somehow survived the apocalypse. Once again with subtext, this is never outright stated, but we infer this from the way they are viewed and a single line about “almighty V8” which is very poetic in nature. Yes the cars are over the top. But you know what else could be considered “over the top” from an Alien Cultural Perspective? The Pyramids, The Statue of Liberty, the 8 wonders of the world, the crucifix or any other number of cultural artifacts. It’s fairly shallow minded to write this off. The awesome looking Guitar player and the drummers are all also part of the culture and have a very real basis in reality. Just look as recently as the American civil war, army’s would carry instruments such as flutes and drums into war. Go back further and this is seen everywhere. In a cultural that worships kinetic energy and must survive the heat of ruthlessness of the desert, people need things equally as ruthless and heat bearing to to keep spirits high. And I’m not totally sure that biker culture is a product of the 1980’s. Yeah it was more prevalent in American media then, but by all accounts biker gangs have grown over the past few decades, the mainstream media no longer focuses on them. Heck just a few weeks ago there was a massive biker shootout in Texas which has only served to show just how ruthless they can be. Calling this a product of the 80’s just sounds fairly uniformed. I find the “characters being too thin” excuse to be totally missing the point here. We are informed about these characters by what we known about them, but also by what we don’t know. Mad Max is a myth, with keeping in the tradition of the last 2 films, the movie is told though a different characters perspective, in this case Furious who is seeking redemption, by which Max is able to find it as well and reclaim some of his humanity. The story is one of learning to trust, how to respect and gender unity is far more powerful than division and “destroying the patriarchy” (which is a silly and outdated notion at this point) as obviously about sacrifice. Now this isn’t to say that I think this movie is some literal interpretation of what a future might be like. But to view it as such is basically missing the point, don’t look at the movie you want about a literal interpretation of the future, but the one we are given, which is more a fable. This is compounded by every shot in the movie looking absolutely stunning. I could take screen and hang on my wall and call it art. Interestingly George Miller had this to sum up Mad Max. A few years back, there were Gasoline shortage in his native Australia. People were restricted to filling up once a week and normal gasoline (guzoline as it’s called in Mad Max) was could only to be used regularly for emergency vehicles. It took just ten days for the first shot to be fired. He wondered what the world would look like if that had continued 10 years, 30 years, 50 years and so on. He wondered how would society react? how aggressive would we become> What would happened? etc. . .

    People focusing on “Feminism,” “Patriarchy,” and other silly words that have become so widely used that they no longer have any real meaning, are missing the point just as much as those saying this movie has no story. Just my thoughts.

    • I think there are a lot of interesting themes in the film to pick apart and examine. I found the religious aspect fascinating, for instance. However, the one that struck me the most, and that I chose to focus on, was of female empowerment. The main characters do, in fact, take down a literal patriarchy, which is not a “silly word” void of meaning, but a society in which men hold the power. Immortan Joe’s society is a patriarchy, regardless of whether or not you are fond of the idea.

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