“Dearest Antoinette, it is clear that the heart of your problems in your new home is your inability to inspire sexual passion in your husband. There is no reason a girl with so many charms as you should be in this situation. Remember, you represent the future and nothing is certain about your place there until the final physical act to crown the Franco-Austrian alliance is performed.”
I’ve been seeing posts talking about how Max is useless in Fury Road and going “yeah feminism, Max is nothing compared to the women!” And the reason I admire the feminism in Mad Max almost follows counter to that thesis.
1) Max is not useless. In fact, he has much the same skill set as the average action hero: survivalist, skilled fighter, tragic backstory, decent tactician (he lays the bombs out in the swamp and holds off some of the war party long enough for the war rig to get to safety and manages to come back with a collection of ammo). He clearly knows what he’s doing. But importantly, and most tellingly,
2) Max is a sample of feminist masculinity that serves as a foil to the oppressive patriarchy represented in Immortan Joe. (This review offers some brilliant comments on the portrayal of masculinity in Mad Max.) The goals of both the female party and Max boil down to “escape, survive, and find redemption,” and so they join in a partnership. Note that Max doesn’t take or attempt to take any sort of lead in this partnership. They are all acting within their own agency to make their own decisions and choose their own path, but they each have the requisite skills to make partnership worthwhile, which then bleeds into
3) They don’t make a big deal about the women being utterly kickass. Max isn’t surprised by it and he doesn’t belittle it or think for a second he’s superior. He recognizes the weaknesses in his skills and how Furiosa and the Vuvalini can cover his blind spots. Where Immortan Joe seeks ownership of everything and instills a disgustingly self-righteous and patriarchal superiority in his construction of society, all of our protagonists seek independence. They see each other as the humans they are (even the War Boy who defects develops this mindset as he becomes disillusioned with his culture), with all the hopes and losses a soul can contain.
The feminism of Fury Road, to me, is not in “these women are so superior,” but in the ability to compare two radically different philosophies: one in which a fucked up society led by a disaster of a man treats everybody as dirt and women as objects, and one in which men and women can support each other, find hope and redemption, and treat each other as equals while maintaining independence. This is carried through to the end of the film, where Max slips off into the crowd rather than get on the lift with Furiosa and the other survivors. Their path is tied to redeeming their culture and society, but Max is a loner and vagrant whose path leads elsewhere. He doesn’t need any credit because he has also achieved his goal of independence and recognizes the value of what Furiosa and the Vuvalini can achieve. So their paths diverge with mutual respect, and that is what I see as the essence of feminism in Mad Max.
Joss Whedon described teasing out the structure for the first Avengers as “brutal”, because of how many characters he had to cram in. By Age Of Ultron, the number of superpowered people alone jumped from the original seven to 12 characters blasting about the screen like cocaine-powered cats. Whedon called it the hardest work he’d ever done, and the resulting film burst at the seams, like Hulk in the fuchsia Members Only jacket that Bruce Banner wears all the time (to remind himself that he alone must carry his burden).
It might sound soul-crushingly mathematical, but most films out there are structured in the same basic way to make them accessible to audiences. This usually involves three acts with eight different plot points. … This structure can be seen in everything from Disney to David Lynch because of how aptly it avoids pissing off the audience. And in Age Of Ultron, you start to see that structure groan under the weight of all the subplots setting up future Civil and Infinity Wars while simultaneously attempting to tell a complete story arc with 12 main and secondary characters. And now that Captain America: Civil War will apparently have 16 fucking characters, it’s impossible to imagine a scenario in which the movie won’t continue for the rest of your life and Don Cheadle is your new dad.
And we haven’t even begun to talk about the TV shows …