“Mad Max: Fury Road”: An Action-Packed Feminist Piece

Screenshot of Charlize Theron in the
Screenshot of Charlize Theron from the trailer for “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015). Dir. by George Miller

Anyone who knows me knows that the movies I usually gravitate towards belong on the Richard Linklater, Alexander Payne and Spike Jonze side of the cinematic spectrum or, in other words, films that don’t usually include cars being blown up and individuals in chains beating the shit out each other for twenty minutes straight.

But I consider myself pretty open-minded, and I do enjoy an action flick from time to time. So when my sister invited me to a Saturday matinee showing of “Mad Max: Fury Road”, I thought, “Hm, why the hell not?”

But what I saw in the next two hours was not what I expected. From quick glances at the trailer, I thought I’d see another sexist, male-heavy, Michael Bay-esque action film with static female characters used only to further the developments of the male characters.

Boy, was I wrong. What I thought was a film that objectifies women turned out to be the exact opposite.

“Mad Max: Fury Road” (directed by George Miller) takes place in a water-deprived, post-apocalyptic desert society ruled by the corrupt Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), who holds down a fort of wives whose sole existence is to bear his heirs and farm breast milk.

Enter Max (Tom Hardy), a former cop, who is a prisoner of Immortan Joe’s band of minions called “The War Boys.” He escapes captivity and runs into Joe’s lieutenant and scene stealer Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who is on a mission to smuggle five of Joe’s wives out of captivity. With some convincing, Max aids Furiosa and the wives on their journey to find a promised land where women are treated justly.

It’s called “Mad Max” after Miller’s original Mel Gibson-led film series, but Max is really the Trojan Horse of this new installment. The women drive the film. We see a strong female in Furiosa, who is cunning, but flawed, beautiful, but deadly. The five wives were also more than just beautiful faces on the screen. They’re not overly sexualized, and they each have their own unique kick to them.

Screenshot of (back row) Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton,  (front row) Zoe Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Riley Keough as Joe's wives in
Screenshot of (back row) Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton, (front row) Zoe Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Riley Keough as Joe’s wives from the trailer for “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015). Dir. by George Miller.

“We are not things,” says Splendid, one of Joe’s wives, played by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. The women know that they function only as child-bearers and sex slaves, and it’s the only way to be relevant in this particular society. As a woman, you’re really only either a slave or an outlaw.

But still, they know there is more for them.

But of course, this type of female-led action flick does run the risk of being laced with misandry, which, in my opinion, is just as bad as misogyny. Feminism is about equality among genders and sexes, and I think that Miller did a fantastic job making sure it stayed within the boundaries of feminism.

Max and Furiosa are each other’s equals. They’re both hasty individuals quick to throw a punch at any disagreeing party, but they ultimately work well together in tight situations. Neither wanted to admit it, but they needed each other to succeed in each of the film’s obstacles.

Yes, of course there is a lot of women killing men in this movie. But those men had it coming, and if you watched the film, you’d get that. These women are battling a violent patriarchy that has subjected women down to their fundamental biological functions; they’ve become nothing more than property. To me, that’s grounds for some redemption.

After watching the film, I did as most do and researched the hell out of it, and I found out something wonderful. Legendary feminist and writer of the “Vagina Monologues” Eve Ensler was a consultant on the film. Miller reached out to Ensler to help solidify one of the film’s central themes: ending violence against women.

There has been lots of praise for the action flick; it’s currently holding a 98% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes (omg, right?). But my favorite piece of press comes from a men’s rights activist group (yes, this is a real movement that actually exists) who’ve called for a boycott of the film because they believe it is a “feminist piece of propaganda posing as a guy flick.” *insert eye-roll here*

Nevertheless, “Mad Max: Fury Road” is one of 2015’s best and biggest films so far. The action-packed blockbuster even got a premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was so well-received that the audience gave it three standing ovations – pretty great for a setting usually reserved for the Woody Allens and Terrence Malicks of the film world. The word “Oscar-worthy” has even been mentioned to describe the film.

“Mad Max: Fury Road” surprised me enormously. Miller revolutionized his original story for the 21st century and did it in a brilliant way. Here’s to more action films following suit.

“Mad Mad: Fury Road” premiered on May 15 and is currently in theaters.

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