“Mad Max: Fury Road” Is Not Quite Feminist Propaganda But Still Damn Good
In case you missed it, the absolute best thing about the release of Mad Max: Fury Road (apart from the film itself) is that “Men’s Rights Activists” are up in arms about it. That’s reason enough to see it, but thankfully it’s not the only one. It’s been decades in the making, but it’s finally here, and it seems that Mad Max: Fury Road was worth the wait because this film is phenomenal. It’s beautiful, bonkers, and incredibly exhilarating to watch. It also surprisingly maintains the tone of the original films while diluting a lot – but not all – of the misogyny.
If you’re a fan of 70s exploitation, or action, or car chases, or sci-fi, or apocalyptic themes, or just damn good movies, then you HAVE to see Mad Max: Fury Road at the cinema. It’s worth the price of admission for the spectacle alone. There’s a reason everyone that’s seen this movie is raving about it. There’s a reason there are only 2 negative reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. This is a rare example of a film that lives up to the hype, and you do not want to miss out on that.
Big action films are often dismissed as frivolous, and while many of them are fairly frivolous, the simple inclusion of action does not automatically result in frivolity. The reason that so many action/adventure films feel frivolous is because they insert action for the sake of it, without any narrative or emotional purpose. But action and stunts are storytelling devices just like any other, and when they are used properly they can have the same impact as in-depth dialogue. That’s what Fury Road does; it tells the story almost entirely through action, and it’s amazing.
As for any feminist leanings, I would hardly call this a feminist film. It has some fantastic female characters – especially Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa – and it shows women protecting other women, which is always wonderful to see. I don’t know about you, but I hardly think that a group of women trying to escape sex slavery is an amazingly progressive idea. And this film is still beholden to its exploitation origins.
70s exploitation is all about objectification. It objectifies cars, violence, and of course women. And while it’s obvious that George Miller and the rest of the creative team are TRYING to change their depiction of women, the objectification comes through in Miller’s direction. Personally, I think the blatant objectification of female bodies actually worked to intensify my emotional connection to the escaping women, but that doesn’t mean I would call this film feminist propaganda. Sorry, “Men’s Rights Activists”, the inclusion of more than one female character with agency does not a feminist film make.
I don’t know, maybe I have higher expectations for feminist propaganda than simply the inclusion of a number of interesting female characters. That’s not a political push for me, that’s just good movie making.
Honestly, though, I would urge all of my fellow fangirls to go see this film. Not because I want to piss off Internet misogynists (although that is a bonus) but because you will love this film. There were only a handful of women at the screening I attended, and I’d hate to see girls missing out because they don’t see what this movie has to offer them. It might be called Mad Max but it’s not about Max. This is Furiosa’s story, and her story is tied to protecting other women. At one point there are literally 12 women together on screen talking to each other, and they are not talking about men. It’s wonderful.
Look, there are thousands of reviewers that can expresses why Mad Max: Fury Road is a phenomenal film better than I can. I feel like I’m just screaming incoherently at my computer screen, but to be honest that’s how this film made me feel. It made me incoherent. I don’t think I blinked at all for 2 hours while watching this film, and all I could say as I exited the theatre was “wow”. If that’s not enough to convince you to see Mad Max: Fury Road, then I don’t know what will.
Author: Undie Girl
Undie Girl (aka Von) has a BA (Hons) Major in Cultural Studies. The title of her honours thesis was “It’s just gay and porn”: Power, Identity and the Fangirl’s Gaze. She’s currently pursuing a Masters of Media Practice at University of Sydney. Von’s a former contributor The Backlot’s column The Shipping News and a current co-host of The Geekiary’s monthly webcast FEELINGS… with The Geekiary.
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