Mad Max. When I hear that name, the first thing to come to mind is the visceral image of a metal boomerang sticking out of the head of the “male companion” (the description given by Wikipedia) of Wez, the burly biker and secondary antagonist from Mad Max: The Road Warrior, the second film in the Mad Max franchise. Add to this, that the boomerang was thrown by a feral kid whose character’s name is actually listed as ‘Feral Kid’ in the credits, and you may just start to get an idea of the chaos and volatility that makes up the Mad Max world.
I was initially surprised when the first positive reviews of Mad Max: Fury Road were followed quickly by articles describing the film as having a feminist element—the most extreme—blogger, Aaron Clary of American Men’s rights group Return of Kings, stating: “This [Fury Road] is a Trojan Horse feminists and Hollywood leftists will use to (vainly) insist on the trope women are equal to men in all things, including physique, strength, and logic. And this is the subterfuge they will use to blur the lines between masculinity and femininity, further ruining women for men, and men for women”.
The main issues touched upon were the role of Charlize Theron’s character ‘Imperator Furiosa’ being seen as the film’s real main protagonist making most of the choices, and doing most of the fighting.
The Mad Max films are no stranger to having its share of strong female characters: two of note (from previous films) being, the ‘Warrior Woman‘ in ‘Mad Max: The Road Warrior,’ and if we are to make an argument to the above in terms of female leadership of males, ‘Aunty Entity’ in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.
The questions as to whether Mad Max: Fury Road is a feminist film could be bantered about until the gas ran out in the Mad Max universe, but ultimately it shows that there is still a long road ahead for many to understand what true feminism is about.
On this note, a recent report released by ‘Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film’ at The San Diego State University shows some depressing statistics in regards to screen time and the representation of females and female characters in film, specifically those released in 2014, such as Females comprising “12% of protagonists featured in the top 100 grossing films of 2014.”
The film itself was certainly action-packed. There was very little let up, though in many ways, so much so that in the first half of the film I became desensitised to the violence, crashes and explosions. I’m all for an action-packed film and thoroughly enjoyed the chaos and random collection of characters, machinery and vehicles that made up the war parties of Immortan Joe.
It was not until the latter half of the film where characters had developed, allegiances had been formed and the group had a clear goal, that I had a vested interest in the fate of the protagonists and the violence, chaos and explosions took on meaning.
I especially enjoyed the introduction of the Vulalini also know as The Many Mothers, a clan of desert-dwelling, hardy and rugged women from whom Imperator Furiosa and her mother were kidnapped by ‘Immortan Joe’s’ forces some many years before. It was great to see something that I have rarely seen in mainstream cinema. Not only strong female characters, but strong female characters in their late 50s and 60s who were able fighters and motorcycle riders.
Overall it was visually spectacular with a heavy metal/ orchestral score to match, but it took until the second half of the film to feel emotionally invested in the characters and I give it a 7 out of 10 for the second half and the Vulvalini alone.
It was great to see something that I have rarely seen in mainstream cinema. Not only strong female characters, but strong female characters in their late 50s and 60s who were able fighters and motorcycle riders.