Friday, May 22, 2015

Mad Max, Feminism, and Being A Man

This post was contributed by Ronald Short, a connoisseur of the cinema living and working in Austin, TX. He eats, sleeps, and breathes film and filmmaking. He also happens to be my partner. When I read his post on Tumblr about Mad Max, and his words for his fellow men, I was excited to share it here. I loved the film myself and  was really excited to talk about it a ton with him. 

You can follow Ronald on Twitter or check out his production company, Short Pictures Independent on Facebook.

Mad Max: Fury Road is an action masterpiece. The practical stunts, effects, and story (the whole movie is a chase, an army of bad guys…er, War Boys relentlessly pursuing a small group of women, including their leader Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and our titular hero Max (Tom Hardy). Our protagonists are trying to escape the grasp of the nefarious Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) who will stop at nothing to get his “property” back) will often leave you gazing at the screen with your mouth agape in disbelief. Like I said on my social media after seeing it a second time, this movie is a masterclass in editing and structure. It’s one I will be watching a lot over the next however many years I have left on this rock to not only relive that enjoyment, but to study George Miller’s brushstrokes as a filmmaker and artist. It’s that damn good.

If this movie was purely its special effects and action sequences, it would still be pretty great, one that would stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the best action films out there. However, as I’m sure many of you probably know by now even if you haven’t seen the flick, it isn’t your run of the mill action film. This is a FEMINIST action film. And it’s time for the world to fuckin’ accept it and ENJOY it.


Let’s get this out of the way first: this is NOT “feminist propaganda.” The movie does not beat its feminist themes over your head in any way, shape, or form. The movie presents this silly idea that men and women should be equals and that everything functions better when we’re working together. Now, humor me for a moment as we look at the definition of “feminism.”

fem*i*nism - noun - “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” (via Google)

There’s so much more to the movement than that, but boiling it down to simple terms, women just want (and wholly deserve) equality. Honestly, at this point, we should all be well versed with the word and the ideas behind it. How is it then that I’m seeing a handful of non-M.R.A. (I assume) white dudes on my social media who are trying to deny its feminism? That’s right, ladies! There are some dudes out there who seem to understand the feminist movement better than you do and they say, “MAX SAVES THE WOMENS SOMETIMES AND WOMENS DIE THAT MEANS IT’S NOT FEMINIST.”

Holy balls.

If you didn’t like Mad Max: Fury Road (FREAK!), fine, but for men (again, to my knowledge, not M.R.A.’s) to come out and deny the film’s feminism is silly. Be it they feel they have a better understanding of feminist ideals or that they’re uncomfortable with the label for idiot reasons, I’ve seen this discussion pop up a few times since the film’s release. So, as ANOTHER WHITE MAN who believes these dudes are wrong, I’m taking it upon myself to possibly provide a little more evidence and talk about how my fellow men need to get comfortable with the word and theories of “feminism.”

(I must note that these ideas stem from numerous talks I’ve had with my partner anerdyfeminist and this is more a blending of the different things we’ve discussed together. She deserves as much credit as I for some of these thoughts.)


“The poster says MAD MAX,” you whine. “How is he not the hero?!” Yeah, we get it. Max’s name is in the title and he does play a key role in everything that happens, but this is Furiosa’s/Theron’s movie. Besides the opening, the whole story is about her arc. This is a woman who worked her way through the ranks of men, within a society built by men, and hopes to save other women to take them to a supposed promise land ran by women. She’s the ultimate feminist badass. Max, much like the purpose he serves in The Road Warrior, is simply here to help get her to her goal and that’s okay. Furiosa doesn’t need saving. She simply, no pun intended, needs a hand (much like Max often also needs a hand).

She gets as many badass moments as Max. She is a strong leader and fighter, proving to be an expert sniper (which Max must reluctantly acknowledges by passing her a rifle at one point in the film). She has no interest in romance and is never forced to take her clothes off. On top of all that, she gets the ultimate hero moment when she rips that mask off of Joe’s face, killing and defeating him for good.
She is Max’s equal.

That’s feminism.

There’s a running theme of compassion throughout this movie, something you don’t often see in the action genre. Under Immortan Joe’s rule, Nux (Nicholas Hoult) is taught to worship Joe and to fight for him with hopes of reaching Valhalla. He fails and Joe abandons him. When Capable (Riley Keough) finds Nux stowed away in their rig, hiding in a fetal position and crying, she simply talks to him as an equal, eventually laying down and comforting him. She shows him compassion.

The comfort she provides changes Nux. By the end of the film, he has sworn off the patriarchy built under Joe and is fighting for/with the women. His arc ends with him sacrificing himself, not because of promises of living again in Valhalla, but for these people he has just met. Feminism is about empathy, thinking about others and knowing their feelings and desires are just as important as your own. Nux doesn’t save the women by crashing into the oncoming traffic. He helps them, just like they helped him. It’s because of that compassion Nux sees the truth.

Under Joe’s rule, the men fight and the women have the babies (or have their bodies used for sustenance through breast milk, both against their will. Furiosa appears to be the exception). At the end, when it’s clear Furiosa is in charge of the Citadel, you can immediately feel a new found hope in its people. Seeing her character throughout the course of the film, you know she’s the leader they all deserve.

She’s compassionate and is going to help everyone, not just herself.


While watching the film, you’ll see the main characters mess up A LOT. Not just the men, but also the women. They’re human. You’ll see each of them try and fail to reach the goals they have set out for themselves towards the beginning.

Max is a loner who just wants to escape Joe’s prison and trek the wasteland on his lonesome. He fails.

Furiosa wants to take a truck full of sex slaves (”wives”) to a promise land full of lush green plants, food, and water. She (kind of) fails. (She helps them escape, but there’s no promise land).

Nux wants to “live, die, and live again” by stopping Furiosa and her war rig from escaping. He fails.
It isn’t until all three of these people, along with Joe’s escaped brides and the tough as nails women of The Vuvalini, start working together that they even get close to completing their goals. They need each other, everyone serving an important purpose by the end. They focus on one goal together that will benefit many and that helps them reach their individual goals. FEMINISM, YO!

The men save the women and the women save the men. People helping people. It’s, like, the real world or something (but, you know, with the Doof Warrior shredding his electric guitar in the background).

By the end of the film, the Citadel is under the rule of a woman and its people are celebrating. The mothers who were forced to provide milk for Joe’s babies via mechanical milking devices free themselves from their constraints and turn the water on…for everyone. Once again, these women provide, but not against their will. This visual speaks volumes and it’s a really powerful moment.
There’s a new hope in the Citadel and that’s because Imperator Furiosa and Max Rockatansky came together as equals and worked together.

So, we’ve covered how the film’s a feminist action film, correct? Then, why can’t we admit it? Why are we so afraid of calling it exactly that? Why am I seeing so many people trying to dance around it or refusing to acknowledge it? I can’t help but feel it’s the word feminism itself. Let’s break it down.
Do you believe that men and women are equal and should be treated as such? Yes? That’s feminism!. Do you have a mom or a sister or an aunt or a grandmother or a cousin or a close friend who you think shouldn’t be treated any differently than a man? Are you a just plain good person who believes that women should have the exact same opportunities that men have had and continue to have? Oh, yeah?

This. Is. Feminism. And I know many people (Aziz Ansari recently) have said similar things and I don’t want to retread, but let’s call it what it is.

What’s that? You consider yourself more a “humanist” because feminism sounds like you’re excluding men? Do you think calling people as a whole “man” and not “woman” is any different? Isn’t the fact that some people are so uncomfortable with the idea that the word feminism sounds feminine or “girly” the reason why feminism is even a thing in the first place?!

Women aren’t weak. Women are powerful. Feminism should be seen as a fucking positive and powerful word. I am a FEMINIST. I am a FEMINIST ally. We should be proud to say these sentences.

Mad Max: Fury Road is not afraid to say these things. As a feminist/feminist ally and a fan of action films, Fury Road has skyrocketed to the top of my “best of the year” list and I can see it holding on through December. Hollywood, take note. Not just of the amazing practical effects, but of the progressive symbolism this film embodies.

More feminist action films, please!

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