I just went to see Mad Max: Fury Road and now I am sitting here obsessively reading articles in the hopes of finding one that explains my feelings about this movie. I couldn’t find one, though this one at least acknowledged the strength of The Wives instead of immediately writing them off.
I’ll admit, I have not seen the original Mad Max films. I went to see this one because the villains looked bad-ass and it looked like a solid action film. I had also read about it being a new feminist take on the usual action-hero storyline and I was intrigued. Plenty of people are saying that the film is not that radically feminist and I see their point, but I still think the movie has a powerful message that is not typically found in action movies.
Charlize Theron plays the badass heroine of the movie. She isn’t overly beautified like female characters in most action movies tend to be. Really, she is the focus of the movie and Max is just along for the ride. This in itself is a change of pace from your usual action movie, where the female characters tend to just provide motivation for the male leads. The Wives were not so blatantly heroic. In fact, it didn’t really even occur to me to think of them as heroic until I started reading other people’s reviews of the movie. They were more stereotypically feminine, less skilled at fighting and using guns than Furiosa and Mad Max. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that physical strength and revenge seeking do not necessarily make a person heroic.
Everyone in the movie has their own version of courage. Furiosa shows leadership by executing the escape of The Wives and herself but also her compassion allows her to see the human in Max, who ends up being a great asset. The Wives hope for something better drives them to do what was necessary and enables them to avoid being blinded by revenge or personal survival. They are able to find love for the war boys, Nux in particular, despite all of the terrible things they have done, because they understand that the war boys are just a product of their circumstance. I’m sure most of our reactions when we learned Nux was stowed away on the rig was “KILL HIM, KILL HIM,” but that isn’t Capable’s first instinct. And that’s amazing. We should applaud people’s ability to forgive and see beyond what is immediately presented to them. We should applaud understanding and compassion.
Sometimes, in a misguided attempt to empower, women are encouraged to let go of their “weaker” traits such as forgiveness, acceptance and sensitivity. I personally try not to ascribe gender to traits, but generally speaking, it seems that these are traits stereotypically thought of as feminine. What infuriates me about women criticizing other women for being too forgiving or nurturing or accepting or any of those things is that it implies that these are bad traits to have. At the risk of getting super “woo-woo” sounding, let me say that our strengths and our weaknesses are the same and that there are benefits and disadvantages to every single quality a person might possess. I think the real issue is that certain traits are thought of as weak while others are thought of as strong. It just so happens that usually the traits that people consider “weak” are usually traits that are thought of as “feminine”.
In conclusion, here is why I loved Mad Max. First of all, it was a solid action movie. They used little CGI and put so much effort into each detail, particularly the cars. There wasn’t a romance driving the plot, which was refreshing. The movie was centered around women. There were badass “old” ladies on motorcycles. There was a flame-throwing guitar player. But what set it apart from the other action movies I love is that it shows multiple ways to be strong. It doesn’t emphasize physical strength and force over the strength of resilience and spirit. It acknowledges that everyone is strong and weak in their own ways. Maybe if we begin to understand this in ourselves we can stop being so competitive and constantly creating hierarchies amongst ourselves.