Tag Archives: Mad Max

Maybe Mad Max: Fury Road Is Not So Feminist After All

As I mentioned in the previous post, I’ve been absolutely blown away by the response to the new Mad Max: Fury Road film. The critics absolutely adore this film, and early on started claiming that the film is feminist. Social media has been blowing up with articles about the film. Mostly, I’ve been surprised and pleased that everyone else is noticing what, for a long time, felt like my own little secret.

Beyond that, I’ve been a little uncertain about the most pervasive argument. which is that the film is feminist. While there are many forms of feminism, and this film might encompass some of those interpretations, I’m not entirely convinced that this is a feminist film. In my view, simply adding female characters, and even a female lead, is not enough to make it feminist.

According to the Bechdel test, a movie has to have A) at least two women, who B) talk to each other, about C) something besides a man. Of course it’s shocking that so few films can pass the Bechdel test, but, in my opinion, just passing the Bechdel test is not enough to make it a feminist film. It’s just enough to make it not “problematic” and maybe not sexist. Sadly, however, with so few women represented in film, maybe this is all it takes to earn the “feminist” label. I, however, want a little more.

Yes, Fury Road has female characters, and yes they talked to each other, but did they ever talk about anything besides men—their captors who kept them in chains? Maybe a little bit. Not really. Their entire raison dêtre is a reaction to the men in power. The film is about reacting to a corrupt and toxic system of power, so maybe that could be construed as feminist, but a better reaction to the corrupt political system was never clearly defined (though perhaps implied here and there). We see women acting out of desperation. In my view, the film is mostly about a strong female lead with an action/reaction that may not be clearly feminist, but is (at least) not incredibly sexist.

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Mad Max: Fury Road directed by George Miller

I saw Mad Max: Fury Road on opening night. I don’t watch many action movies, but I had to see this one. I had all kinds of weird memories like fever dreams about watching Mad Max: Road Warrior and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome with my brother when I was probably too young to be watching them. Through I hadn’t seen the films in decades, life often reminds me of Mad Max films. Frequently, when driving over Point of the Mountain, Utah, I feel like I am in a Mad Max film. Everyone increases their speed to about 80 miles per hour, semis barrel past me, shaking my little car, and motorcyclists with no helmets (and sometimes no shoes!) race past me in the fast lane. Once I saw a guy smoking a bong while driving. It’s just nuts out there, and it always reminds me of the apocalyptic lawless motifs of old Mad Max films.

I frequently reference Mad Max films, but don’t get a huge response from people. It had felt like I’m the only one for whom those films where impactful. In the weeks leading up to the release of Mad Max: Fury Road I rewatched both Mad Max: Road Warrior and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome to  prepare. The opening scene to Road Warrior is pretty great, but after that I began to doubt my ability to watch the old films. It seemed too much had changed, that they didn’t hold up over time. But, I persevered and found that, with some patience, both films do hold up in doing what they do best, which is to create a really specific and unique theme and motif that is carried through all of the Mad Max movies—and it’s a really weird motif that I absolutely love.

So, I went to see Fury Road on opening night and was blown away. I couldn’t’ve anticipated what it would be like, but I was delighted at every step of the way. Every image and moment is dedicated to building that same weird and delightful motif that George Miller creates in his other films—but even better this time. It looks like he took the time to add every layer and element that he wanted to add to the story, and it was so fun to see all of the references and connecting work throughout the piece. So, yes, I was already going to like this movie because I had a lot of nostalgia and positive bias, but even so, I still think the film is genius. It surpassed my expectations by a mile.