I have to admit I didn’t know anything about the Mad Max films before I watched the most recent installment, Mad Max: Fury Road. It was on father’s day this year that I got to see it in all its feminist glory for myself – or rather, with my dad. We’d planned on watching Jurassic World but due to unforeseen circumstances (aka my dad napped a moment too long) we ended up in the twisted world of director George Miller.
I could confirm the rumours after I left the film: Mad Max Fury Road was in fact a feminist film in all its guts and glory. For some reason, the thoughts in my head while I sat down to watch the previews went something like this: “Mad Max is a guy’s film, is it not? It’s all blood and action and car chases with a hot female on the movie’s poster. Why am I here? Chris Pratt is calling my name…”
There I was conforming to gender norms before being thrust into the most shock I’d ever endured in a film. The film’s female lead, Furiosa, played by the beautiful Charlize Theron, had more lines than Mad Max himself! My god, I was flummoxed by this fact alone. But there was more, much more, than dominate female screenplay in this film.
Furiosa leads a pack of women who’d been used and abused as breeders in this dystopian world away to freedom. We watched them charge against the gunpowder and flaming vehicles that threatened their path. These women, while still managing to hold sex appeal despite their horrible backstories, are strong enough to cut off their own iron chastity belts and scream “WE ARE NOT THINGS!” while the antagonist shouts “MY PROPERTY!” at them during the chase. This alone seems like a smack in the face to sexists having to endure this feminist action film – “but aren’t women property?” I wonder how the men felt watching this film. Max, the movie’s protagonist, spent a vast amount of screen time tied to a chain with his face muzzled in a mask before he finally broke free.
I was enamoured in my own realization that this film, that I had dumbly dubbed a “boy movie” in my head, was making the news as Feminist Propaganda. Good. The fact that this film did so well in the box office proves that audiences are craving what George Miller gave us – badass women on the big screen. And don’t get me wrong; this film doesn’t come without its sexist moments. There’s a risqué shot in which the women traveling with Furiosa douse themselves in water. Their clothes cling to their clad bodies like an ad for Victoria’s Secret and I could see my dad’s eyes light up in surprise while we watched it together.
Yet the film does a good job in its ability to show the need for demolishing patriarchies while having a woman serve as the movie’s main character. (Come on, Tom Hardy might be first on the credits but we all know this was Charlize Theron’s movie.) I left the theatre wanting to beat the shit out of some sexists and burn my bra. All right, maybe I did something a little less violent like tweet an optimistic cheer for women. You get my point. But the film isn’t just feminist because the women are equally violent as the men, but more so because we get a setting that revels in shedding light on sexism within our society. Mad Max blatantly slaps us in the face with the reality of it. And I think that’s what scares men the most about this film; the horror that in the end, when the world is burning to dust and our own patriarchies are crumbling, perhaps women won’t want the added protection of men. Maybe they’ll fight for themselves.