The Feminist Mad Max

I remember when I first learned there was going to be a new Mad Max movie. I was ecstatic. It was a teaser on a DVD and it was quite some time ago (I want to say a year, maybe even a year and a half?). It was a teaser in the true sense of the word: short, disconnected images flashing across the screen with little speech. It was hard to tell the plot then but with a movie like this the plot isn’t that important. Basically all I knew was that it had Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy as Max.

And now I’ve seen it. And yes, it IS as good as everyone’s saying. The action starts almost immediately and by action I mean the car chase. Because essentially the Mad Max movies are drawn out car chases- a simultaneous warning against and glorification of car culture taken to the extremes. By now, most everyone has probably seen this movie if they are going to so I don’t see a need to go through what it’s about. But if you’ve read anything about Fury Road, you know that this is a “feminist” movie. As far as I can make out, it’s considered a feminist movie because it has a main female character, Imperator Furiosa, who is not there to be a love interest, a damsel in distress, or a well shaped body for men to ogle at. She is a remarkable woman and leader who is better than the men at quite a few things- and the men even acknowledge this. She is, in fact, portrayed like a human being. I think we can all agree that Hollywood has problems with creating female characters and Mad Max: Fury Road is a step in the right direction.

furiosa

That being said, I have a problem with the idea that this is what feminism means now. Because Furiosa is being hailed as a hero because of how traditionally masculine her actions are. She fights, she shoots guns, she blows stuff up, she kills people. The only thing that really differentiates her from the other (male) characters is that she has a more delicate bone structure. And you can make the argument that there is no place for traditional femininity in a Mad Max movie (and I’ll probably agree with you on a lot of points), I’m tired of being told that the women I should admire are the ones that act like men. While part of me loves Imperator Furiosa, with her toughness and fight skills, just as large a part of me wants to see elegant ladies in beautiful dresses having tea parties, which is probably why I loved the recent Cinderella movie so much. So yes, let’s admire Furiosa and Fury Road for creating women that act like human beings but let’s also stop acting like the only admirable women are the ones that act like men.

Here’s a movie review of Fury Road that better expresses what I’m trying to say about Mad Max “Feminism”.

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5 thoughts on “The Feminist Mad Max

  1. jubilare says:

    You make an excellent point that is too-often forgotten. I think that feminism, really, should mean that women can choose what they want to be. Shaming a woman into trying to take a role that doesn’t appeal to her is anti-feminist, even if that role is a supposedly “feminist” one.

    By the same token, men should be able to choose the same.

    I haven’t seen this yet. I need to. But it seems to me that the reason it is feminist is not simply because of a badass female lead, but because females, in action films, tend to have less agency than their male counterparts. From what I understand, this film flips that dynamic.

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    • Mary says:

      It does flip that dynamic, which is why I assume it’s been such a hit. Max is less the main character here than Furiosa, which is fine, although Hardy does a fantastic job taking over the role. Oddly enough, I found this movie to be much tamer than the original movies but perhaps that’s because George Miller wanted the focus to be more on the women.

      I’ve seen feeble attempts from some people that claim feminism is about letting women choose what they wish to be, whether homemaker, aggressive fighter, or somewhere in between. But in reality, women who choose to take more traditional feminine roles are looked down upon. I think this is because we’re at the tip of a pendulum swing (on our way back to the middle hopefully) where the majority of feminists, or at least the loudest ones, seem to think that men have had their chance to be in charge so now it’s time for women to have the power and control. And unfortunately, that’s not going to make the world any better or worse.

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  2. I followed the link you posted to the other review, and all I can says is Really? You think that what is wrong with the feminism in Mad Max is that it is not Christ like?

    *sigh*

    I get what you are saying: why does feminism have to mean women act the same as the worst men? It doesn’t … always. But it does sometimes.

    There are plenty of movies about women being caring and exhibiting feminine values while still being strong. This isn’t one of them. This is an action movie where women get to blow things up, kill people, and win. And yes it is a definite win for women that we can be depicted doing these things now. A female serial killer cannibal would also be a step forward for women. We are equal when we can be portrayed as being just as bad as them, as well as just as good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mary says:

      Yes, the point he makes in the article about this movie not being Christ-like is a bit silly to me. But I did agree with him about the women being admired because of their violent tendencies and how troubling that is. And again, you can make the argument that in a world like Fury Road, there is no place for traditional femininity and I’ll probably agree with you. I’m just trying to point out that we need more examples of feminine women and that it is ok to admire women like that too.

      But yes, ultimately I agree with you: “We are equal when we can be portrayed as being just as bad as them, as well as just as good.”

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