Maybe it’s a dentist appointment, or a badly-needed car repair, or just visiting a relative who’s pleasant enough but incredibly tedious to talk to. We’ve all been there – that Thing We Should Do BUT. Mine was seeing “Mad Max – Fury Road”.
I’ve been a fan of the MM franchise since I was a wee tot just learning the thrill of fire and watching things blow up in a Postapoc wasteland, although at that age I wasn’t really all that concerned with the moral and ethical implications of using AquaNet to destroy the ozone layer. To be perfectly honest, I was just a huge fan of the Battleporn (seriously, who wakes up one morning and says “ZOMG I’m going to weld a half ton of scrap-metal spikes to my car! HONEY, GET MY ANGRY PANTS!”). Mad Max was a ridiculously over-the-top hypermasculine fantasy that screams encouragement to the adolescent boy in all of us.
Until May 2015.
I heard awhile back that MM was getting a sequel, and my only thought at the time was “Man, I hope they don’t Crystal Skull* this.” Then I started seeing the articles, the “HA HA GRRLZ RULE!” articles from hardcore feminists and the “PUT THE BOY IN BOYCOTT!!!!!” articles from hardcore anti-feminists, and once again I lamented the fact that the entertainment industry has completely come off the rails. I felt like an old geezer, fondly reminiscing over a bygone era when movies just told stories and didn’t have to get all preachy about politics, or take sides. Back when movies didn’t have to be weapons in some ridiculous social holocaust. When you could like or dislike something, and it didn’t mean you’d just drawn battle lines between yourself and everyone else.
Until May 2015.
So I gave up on all the nonsense and just went to see the movie, determined to at least enjoy it and do my best to ignore whatever political theme was being pitched at me.
As it turned out, both sides of the “controversy” were wrong.
Fury Road was good. Really good. Yes, it was every inch the five-alarm Battleporn that I was expecting, but there was a major distinction between this movie and all the other Mad Max movies. In the original movies, Max would walk into a situation, make lots and lots of people dead, blow lots of things up, and stagger off into the sunset leaving the world just a little more beaten up than he’d found it that day. Both sides of the conflict took heavy losses, and the major victor was Death.
Fury Road was similar in the beginning, with a corrupt system in a dystopian Australia (or …. just Australia), and a plucky band of men and women who were tired of being enslaved for their biological functions, fighting to free themselves from oppression. Like in the originals, the Good Guys managed to free themselves and head for the hills. Unlike the originals, however, instead of destroying the Bad Guys and blowing their city up, they went back and reformed the system to be good for everyone. Max’s speech to the Wives said it all – “You know, hope is a mistake. If you can’t fix what’s broken, you’ll go insane.” And he was right.
This time, Death had to settle for second place behind Life.
Without going into exhaustive detail, I’ll just hit a few bullet points.
- This wasn’t a Boy Movie or a Girl Movie
- They saved each other’s lives at least half a dozen times
- Sometimes your wingman is a woman. Sometimes you’re hers. Roll with it.
- Oh my god that fucking arm
- To a lesser extent, oh my god that fucking guitar truck
- The bag of seeds
- The cars were much more dominant than either Max or Furiosa
- We Are Not THINGS
In summary, this wasn’t the Grrl Power movie all the Anti-Feminists were freaking out about, but it also wasn’t the Grrl Power movie all the Feminists were short-stroking over. The collapsing Patriachy of the Citadel they were escaping wasn’t any better than the Green Place they were heading for, a Matriarchal paradise that had already collapsed. This wasn’t a movie about whether men or women were better. It was just a movie about hope, and going back to do the right thing even when you’re really scared. It was a movie about heroes.
*there was a very real suspicion that Fury Road’s producers were just giving Max a token role in the movie in order to scrape the entire franchise off onto Furiosa, which could easily have tanked the entire thing the way it did with Indiana Jones. We’ll have to wait and see.