Fury Road and some thoughts on meaningful narrative!
I had a really interesting discussion with justinoaksford earlier today regarding narrative messages and creative intent - and while I usually keep this blog to art stuff, I think we both had enough aha moments that some of it might be worth sharing. Bear with me, as I’m sure most of this will be painfully obvious to anyone who is a writer, even if it felt revelatory to me at the time :B
This conversation came up, of course, because of the incredible and much-discussed feminist storytelling in Mad Max: Fury Road. There are about 8 million articles on that already which are all fantastic, so I won’t go into that specifically. What had piqued Justin’s and my interest was the question of how and why. Movies and stories like Fury Road are super powerful and can be a real force for good in the world. As people who are in the film/games biz, who want to tell stories ourselves, we want to know how to make things like that!
There are people out there with the opinion that entertainment is just entertainment, and social agendas should be left out - it’d be too preachy, it’d constrain something that’s supposed to be fun and escapist. There’s a grain of truth in this, in the sense that if a specific lesson is shoehorned into a story, instead of being an organic part of it, that lesson will feel, well… like a lesson. It’ll be obvious, pasted-on, and can detract from the fun of being entertained. However, that initial assumption - that social justice has no place in entertainment - also assumes that entertainmentwithouta “social agenda” has no kind of impact on the people consuming it. I would confidently say that media affects people very deeply, regardless of whether or not the creator had any kind of agenda or intention, and regardless of whether or not the person consuming the media realizes it. In fact, it’s when the messages come in a super entertaining form that our barriers are lowest, and we accept as emotional truth some pretty deep, unconscious lessons about ourselves, others, and how the world works - at least according to that story.
Which brings me back around to Fury Road. It’s unquestionably full of the fieriest kind of social justice around, wrecking the patriarchy like nobody’s business, giving us amazing examples of men and women hurt by it and trying reclaim themselves from it. It’s been analyzed almost to death already, and it’s hard to imagine that a message so resonant could be in any way accidental. But George Miller himself has said that there wasn’t a feminist agenda in the beginning:
The meaningful nature of the story grew really organically out of a scenario involving these wives escaping. And I think the entire reason it became the furious beautiful feminist thing it became, instead of sliding into a cheap “Max helps a bunch of sexy women” story (as it easily might have in the hands of a lazier creator), is because Miller cared about those characters as people. The exact manifesto in the movie - “WE ARE NOT THINGS” - is why his story doesn’t cheapen or fall flat, and why it resonated and provided so much meaning. He didn’t set out to tell a feminist story, but he had empathy for literally everyone he put on screen, and clearly did his best to imagine and construct how they would feel and respond to a situation like the one in Fury Road. And as he picked his way forward through the decade of development this went through, he cared enough to research, and to get experts like Eve Ensler to add their experience and knowledge. And none of this was to paste anything on, to preach, or to shoehorn anything in - it was to make sure the story and the characters that drove it were simply better, truer, more interesting, more entertaining.
Basically, it’s good writing.
Meaningful stories that deconstruct our world are things that happen naturally when, as a writer/storyteller, you care about your characters as real people affected by the world they live in. And when your characters act like humans, not things, you can achieve films like Fury Road, where the excellence of the fire tornadoes and Doof Warrior-backed car melees is enhanced a hundredfold by the fact that you, as an audience member, care about everyone on screen.
…are not in any way opposed, but are facets of a cohesive whole that would be way less excellent for the loss of either.
This isn’t to say that having a conscious point to your stories should be in any way avoided. Rather, there’s a lot to be said for discovering the meaning and power in a story - by writing with empathy and honesty within a story or world that you as a creator feel kid-at-Christmas gleefully excited about, and staying open to expanding into the territory your characters lead you to when you let them.
More often than not I suspect that effort and openness will lead to other Fury Roads.
“‘Look at me! You don’t understand, do you? I fucking love you!’ He screams as he pulls her hair back like it’s catching fire.
She looks at him, watching the sweat drip from his lips as he put all of his energy into those words.
‘But I do understand.’ She stares blankly back at him, ‘You can say that you love me all day long. You can scream it so loud that you wake up the sun at 3 am. But I will never believe you. You destroyed every atom I own. It feels like you poured gasoline all over my body and then went and lit the match; setting me on fire. As if that is your idea of what love is. But let me tell you something. You may have burned me to the ground, but my pride is still standing—taller than it’s ever been. I will never give you the satisfaction of loving you back. Because you never loved me. You only called me when you were drunk at the bar or when you were so high that you swore your head was touching the rings of Saturn. You only came over when you craved someone’s touch. You never loved me, don’t you understand that? You’re just fucking terrified of being alone.’
And as she leaves him, her hands slipping through his fingertips, he looks up at he sky and sees the sun peaking through the stars. He takes a deep breath and heads back to his car.
‘I guess it’s true. The sun really does get lonely too.’”
“I have made up thousands of stories; I have filled innumerable notebooks with phrases to be used when I have found the true story, the one story to which all these phrases refer. But I have never yet found that story. And I begin to ask, Are there stories?”
“Consider this my warning label:
There are plenty of things I’m not able
To do, my life may sound like a fable
But the first steps in that stable
Were on the body of Abel
Because his corpse would be a brother
To me, no other
Would understand me, that fear
That those who appear dear
To you, those who you revere
And respect by faith and family
Are the ones who kill you eventually,
The thought that my soul could have sovereignty
Is my only heresy,
I’m bound to serve everyone but me,
My and heart and soul pour out an empty
Symphony, I don’t know anything of me with certainty,
I could go pick up a biography,
Or, two, or three,
But none of them would be written by me,
These are just an account of my deeds,
And he who reads them sees what he needs,
Never looks between the lines
Where His Word undermines
My Wine, redefines
What humanity is,
Reminds you that you’re all His,
I didn’t die just to have you forget
God and Oz were just a threat,
Empty Word and scary silhouette,
There never was a debt,
He’s trickier than Loki
And now I probably look crazy,
It’s a travesty the son of majesty
Could succumb to such a fantasy,
But here’s the real tragedy,
You think its sanity
To love someone capable of such brutality
To callously send his only progeny
To die, and have the audacity
To say he suffered too?
Where the fuck were you
When they withdrew
The first flail from my back?
Did you shudder at the crack,
Wince as it peeled my skin?
I can’t begin
To say how disappointed in
You I am. Give me an excuse,
Say you didn’t accuse
Me, the envy of men is easy to seduce
When a miracle is shown
To them, say you didn’t condone
Their actions, I want to hear you lie,
To see if you try to deny
Yourself that sick smile
You held while I was on trial,
Don’t worry though, I’ll
Make sure you get yours in the end,
Even as I descend
To Hell, know you lost
Your people, and I’ll gladly pay that cost,
I’d rather be a dead man
A living God.”
“Everyone views the narrator of the story as the victim. There’s this notion to believe that everything they do is for some greater purpose. Every of their wrongdoings can be justified by something in their past, or an effect of their present. Someone will always empathize, no matter the circumstance.
That’s why I don’t want to be a victim, not anymore. My wrongdoings can’t always be justified, sometimes I just fuck up.”
Hello, I recently started reading your blog and I must say I am very impressed! Your blog is like a heaven to me,so since I have yet to read all of your metas and etc. I wanted to ask you since I saw you have predictions about further seasons and episodes. I'm sorry if you probably covered this question already somewhere and I haven't seen it but how sure are you that those predictions could become true?Anyway, sorry for the dumb question. :)
LOL I guess that’s for you guys to decide? I mean, I suppose I wouldn’t bother to write it down unless I think it’s more likely than not, meaning at least 51%. But that’s just my opinion, obviously. I really don’t have any psychic powers. You guys only get the end version of my thoughts, but I do actually think about them a lot LOL. I don’t just whip these things out at random.
People always say this show is unpredictable and how S3 just proved that because no one saw S3 coming, but I don’t think the show is unpredictable. Not once you have TJLC. S3 was unexpected because we thought we were watching a different show than what we were actually watching. Now we know what show we’re watching.
I suppose hindsight is twenty-twenty, but if we had had TJLC post S2, then I don’t think the main points of S3 would’ve been hard to predict:
would’ve been almost certain that Sherlock would’ve realized he
loves John at John’s wedding to someone else. It’s angsty, it gives a reason why Sherlock
suddenly realizes how he feels about John, and it
keeps Sherlock and John apart even after Sherlock realizes he’s in love
with John. Nothing else would’ve worked.
realizes he loves John at John’s wedding, then John is now married to
someone else. Since Johnlock has to happen (remember, we just know this
somehow after S2), the story has to get rid of John’s new wife. To make
it so that Sherlock is not John’s second choice after his real true love died,
the wife has to either divorce John or be a villain (AKA: she can’t die
of an illness, etc.). In a show theoretically about crime-solving, it’s
much, much more likely that she’s a villain.
If she’s a villain, it’s very, very likely she works for Jim - because everyone does.
If Mary’s a villain, the villain in the season finale is either a) Mary; or b) someone who reveals that Mary is a villain.
With TJLC, it makes the most sense for John to get engaged/marry someone else while he thinks Sherlock is dead, so that puts it in S3.
Not once in TRF did I think Jim was dead. I thought we’d see
him at the very end of S3 - though I freely admit I thought we’d see him
in person, not as a video. Main villains always fake their death, then
come back later; it’s not a difficult guess that Jim would, too.
I did think we’d get a real explanation of Sherlock’s fake-death (which we didn’t), but I did not think that it would be very important.
You’re just going to have to trust my intellectual integrity, here, but basically, if we had had TJLC post-S2, I would’ve predicted:
3x1: John marries Mary; Sherlock comes back in the middle of the wedding to realize he’s in love with John but John’s already committed to Mary. The whole wedding is eclipsed by John and Sherlock reuniting, and John being angry at Sherlock, and Sherlock realizing he’s in love with John.
3x2: Threesome crime-solving team with Sherlock jealous and sad, John unhappy in his marriage already, and hints that Mary is a villain.
3x3: Main villain is either Mary or Seb Moran. If Mary is defeated as a villain (Mary is the villain), then John leaves Sherlock temporarily (over something else). If Mary is revealed as a villain but not defeated (Seb Moran is the villain), then Mary escapes to turn up again in S4. Just when you think all is well or just when you think everything can’t get any worse, Jim shows up.
Which is obviously not what happened … but TBH I don’t think it’s that thematically different.
By the time Sherlock makes the Mary Deductions in TEH, I predicted
that Mary was an ex-assassin and would shoot Sherlock. Here was my
She likes Sherlock
So she’s different from John’s other girlfriends
She’ll stick around
So she has to be involved in the plot
The plot is about crime
So Mary is involved in crime
Options for being involved in crime: a) spy b) assassin c) crime family d) cat burglar
family isn’t sexy enough for this show; TV assassins are basically
just spies that can shoot; she doesn’t look rich enough for a cat
So assassin is the best choice (could be something else, but balance of probability is assassin)
John can’t already know or that would be boring
So John must find out
John must find out in a dramatic way because it’s a TV show
So Mary must shoot someone the audience cares about
The audience really only cares about John and Sherlock
She’s not going to shoot John because her redemption must be that it was for John’s sake
She’s going to shoot Sherlock
So you can definitely make some accurate predictions. I was not surprised when she turned out to be the woman in CAM’s office.
I freely admit that I thought Mary would be a good guy ex-assassin and
shoot Sherlock in the arm or something when it was actually necessary.
Basically, I was right until I assumed Mary would be redeemed for shooting Sherlock. However, if I had had TJLC, I would’ve thought she’d shoot to
kill. I would’ve thought she was a villain. Because with TJLC, the
narrative needs to get rid of John’s wife, and in a story, it needs to
get rid of her dramatically.
In my opinion, if you think you can’t predict things, then you think the show is badly written. I wrote more about how I predict things here.
The times in which we’re living impose on us certain game rules, whether we want it or not. One of such rules is “the narrative” and the time imposing it on us is postmodernity. Theoretically, it claims that any perspective on the facts that took place, and on the chronology in which they took place, is viable. At first glance, that seems to be a perfectly legitimate observation. However, practically, it too often means for too many that notions such as facts and chronology become outdated and inconsequential altogether. Not the perspective on the facts changes, but rather facts change to fit one’s perspective. Questions like - Who’s the aggressor? Who attacked who first? Who started the war? Why was it started? What is the actual chronological order of events? What is the cause and consequence? Who’s a terrorist and who’s a freedom fighter? - All lose significance.
If any point of view is acceptable, then no one is a liar. If everyone has their own truth, then there’s no truth altogether. No facts, no truth - no right or wrong. Let’s keep that on the conscience of the people responsible for killing Truth as a concept, by introducing postmodernity into our lives - the academia.
The Nakba, the “Palestinian” mourning day, commemorated on the Gregorian calendar day of the proclamation of the establishment of Israel, is the ultimate example of a “narrative” gone wild. “The catastrophe”, “the disaster” of the “Palestinian” people has all the main characteristics of the typical postmodern moral and historical “relativism”; ignoring history, flipping cause and consequence, blowing events out of every proportion, throwing any context out of the window, applying replacement theory and, of course, singling out and using double standards.
What have become of the Nakba farce today in a nutshell is the following:
Evil Zionist Jews came from Europe in 1948 to a completely foreign to them Palestine, escaping the Holocaust (which is usually denied as well), occupied it, starting a brutal genocide on the innocent, civilian indigenous Palestinian population (that continues to this day!), and establishing the Zionist Israel on the ruins of Palestine. Those who weren’t slaughtered, were brutally kicked out of their homes and are refugees to this day (along with all their descendants!) in an evil act of ethnic cleansing. This is to be regarded as the greatest crime in human history, Israel should be perceived as the last colonial project, Zionism should be seen as racism and as an unprecedented evil.
Terrible, isn’t it?
From the point of view of the progressive-liberal-postmodern-relativist all that is as legitimate and as tangible as any other telling. If it was indeed so, then Israel would be an incarnation of Satan and all the boycotts, bias and disproportionate obsession would have been justified.
From the point of view of a normal person? Not quite so.
With the Nakba Day “celebrated” just last week, on May 15th, it’s crucial to set the record straight and make a decisive stand: lies are no narrative.
Let’s debunk the Nakba farce for the lies it’s built of:
Myth #1: “Jews came to Israel in 1948! / Israel was only established because of the Holocaust!”
Putting aside ancient history, religion, the Bible AND the Quran, this lie ignores the building of Israel by European Jews for some fifty years before WWII. It ignores the first and the second "Aliyahs" - waves of Jewish repatriation to Israel in 1882-1902 and 1904-1914 respectively, way before WWII or the Holocaust. It ignores the establishment of the Zionist movement - the national movement of the Jewish people - in the 19th century. It further ignores the original repatriation of Yemenite Jews to Israel in the 19th century at the same time of and unrelated to the First Aliyah.
Myth #2: “Jews occupied "Palestine”!“
Never at any given time in history was there an independent state called "Palestine”, the Jews could occupy. “Palestine” was only a name given to a geographic area by foreign occupiers; Romans, Turks, Brits. The name comes from a Hebrew word “Plishtim”, that means… “invaders” (oopsie!), and was given to a foreign, ancient Greek tribe that invaded the land from the sea. There never was a political entity called “Palestine”. There never was any unique “Palestinian” people, separate from the rest of the Middle Eastern Arabs.
Myth #3: “"Palestinians” are an indigenous people to Israel!“
Why was this unique criteria needed? Clearly because the universal standard didn’t apply to the Arabs from British Palestine. While the exact numbers are disputed among scholars, obviously a significant enough chunk of what’s referred to today as "Palestinians” are in no way indigenous to Israel. Children of foreign workers brought in by the Ottomans, result of migrating tribes, gangs moved in during the Arab revolt. Their claim is in no way more primal, than that of the first and second Aliyahs. Not to mention the historical claim on Israel, unique to the Jews.
Now, if we look at UNRWA's original number of 711,000 refugees (even though today they brazenly claim “about 750,000” on their official website!), we’ll discover a surprise as well. Prof. Karsh’s meticulous research proved the max. estimation of “Palestinian” Arab refugees can only stand at 609,000. That means some 100,000 neighboring, non-“Palestinian” Arabs jumped on to suck on the global community’s generous tit.
Myth #4: “Zionists kicked "Palestinians” out! They started it! “Palestinian” terrorism is only a response to Zionist aggression!“
Here comes that pesky-little-insignificant-outdated nuisance called "chronology”.
Five Arab armies attacked the Jews on May, 1948 before they “kicked out” anybody. To what were they “responding” then? Arabs murdered some 300 Jews during the 1936-1939 Arab revolt. Before the Jews “kicked out” anybody or “occupied” anything. To what were they “responding” then? Arabs slaughtered 18 Jews in Safed and 67 in Hebron in 1929. To what were they “responding” then?
That list goes on.
Still feel like justifying and rationalizing Islamic terrorism?
Now without even getting into the numbers of the (rather substantial) question of how many Arabs were actually physically expelled by Jews, how many fled on their accord and how many left adhering to the plea from Arab generals to leave (ignoring Jewish leadership pleas to stay and build a life together), so that they could wipe out the Jews quickly and allow them to “come back in two weeks”, let’s remember a few basic facts:
#1: Arabs were the ones who attacked Jews; five foreign armies, as well as local gangs.
#2. Their directly expressed goal was Jewish extinction and genocide.
#3. They started the war. They planned genocide. They lost. Where’s the Nazi “Nakba Day”?
Myth #5: “Zionists have comitted genocide of "Palestinians”! / The Nakba is the “Palestinian” holocaust!“
The Holocaust is not a matter of perspective.
A genocide is not an issue of narrative.
You don’t get to call your defeat in 1949 a "Holocaust” just because it’s “a Holocaust for you”.
The lie of the Israeli perpetrated genocide is a lie of monstrous magnitude, bearing a metaphysical purpose. Its purposes are to prove “Jews are evil after all” - thus exempting Western guilt over the Holocaust, and that “what the Nazis have done to them, they’re now doing to the Palestinians”, turning Zionism into modern day Nazism and all of Israel into a sort of a Freudian complex. The only conceivable reason for this audacity to bear any succeess whatsoever is to assume Hitler’s Big Lie propaganda technique works: “tell a lie so colossal that no one would believe that someone could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously”.
Okay, let’s engage in intellectual self abuse: A genocide is the systematic destruction of all or a significant part of a racial, ethnic, religious or national group - courtesy of Wikipedia
Example #1: During the Armenian genocide, the Turks slaughtered some 1.5 million of the 2 million of Armenians living in the Ottoman empire. That’s some 75% of the Armenian population under the Ottoman empire. That’s a genocide.
Example #2: During the Holocaust some 6 million of the 9.5 million of European Jews were slaughtered. That’s some 63% of the Jewish population. That’s a genocide.
Example #3: During the Rwandan Genocide some 500,000 out of the 770,000 Tutsis were slaughtered. That’s some 65% of the Tutsi population. That’s a genocide.
That list goes on.
Now coming to Israel and the Arabs, out of the 711,000 (UN numbers) displaced “Palestinians” (not out of the entire Arab population of British Palestine, mind you), some 13,000 people were killed. That’s some 1.8% of the displaced Arab population. I deliberately used the numbers bearing the seal of the “Palestinian Narrative” approval, even though they’re disputed and inflated.
Even their own numbers prove beyond a reasonable doubt there never was a genocide.
Myth #6: “Okay, no genocide, but the Zionists ethnically cleansed Palestine! Secret Zionist documents prove that was their intention all along!”
No matter how much certain progressive-liberal-postmodern-relativist “scholars” will try to twist certain phrases or quotes, take them out of context and detach them from historic perspective, there was a wide consensus of opposition to an expulsion of Arabs across the Jewish political map, left and right.
With that being said, let’s also understand “ethnic cleansing” is the postmodern historian’s way of demonizing population exchange. In the years after WWII (i.e. the years in question) population exchange with the purpose of creating homogeneous nation states was the international norm, approved and encouraged by the global community in general and specifically in Israel (even by some Arab leaders!). Sure, leaving one’s home is always a tragedy, but this was, sadly, happening all over the world and in much (much) higher numbers. All of these exchanges were tragically accompanied by major loss of life as well.
Example #1: 14.5 million were exchanged between India and Pakistan. There was no war. On the contrary it was done to prevent one by uniting the Hindus with the Hindus and the Muslims with the Muslims. Yet both countries were unable at the time to take care of the mass population exchange, and massacres occured on both sides. The exact number of the people killed as a result of the transfer is still disputed, with some estimations going as high as a million dead. Most scholars cite around 500,000.
Example #2: Approximately 12 million of ethnic Germans from all over Europe were driven out of their homes after the Nazi defeat by furious local populations. Even though they were indigenous to their homes, and unrelated in any way to the Nazis. Around 550,000 were killed during the expulsions.
Example #3: The end of WWII has left some significant grudge between the Poles and the Ukrainians as well. 1.5 million were expelled from their homes. As many as 100,000 were killed.
That list goes on.
Population exchange cases worldwide compared.
In blue: the total amount of displaced in each case. In red: those killed during the process.
Some 850,000 Jews (that’s 100,000 more than even the current inflated numbers of UNRWA) driven out of Arab lands as a result of the establishment of Israel also come to mind. Those actually were indigenous citizens of their origin countries, living there for centuries. They weren’t at war with the Arab population of their countries. They didn’t invade the Arabs with five hostile Jewish states. They never swore to drive the Arabs into the sea.
You know, small, insignificant, pesky differences.
Out of all of the millions of refugees the world have seen since WWII only one group keeps its refugee status till today and passes it on to its descendants. Only one has turned their displacement to the core of their national identity. Only one whines and moans till this very day of their “great disaster”. Guess which.
By the same token, where’s the Indian Nakba Day? Where’s the Pakistani Nakba Day? Where’s the German?
That list goes on.
Myth #7: “Zionists are committing genocide of "Palestinians” today!“
Even if you know absolutely nothing about history, international law, politics, the Middle East, the Israeli-Arab conflict or anything else about anything, you still have to be brain-dead to take these accusations seriously.
The Jews didn’t come to Israel with the flag of Poland, Russia, Morocco or Yemen. They didn’t come to abuse the “riches” and “indigenous population” of Israel for some other homeland. They came to settle in Israel, a persecuted people, leaving everything behind to build a new, Jewish life in their new homeland. To work the land, to build the cities, to develop their own independent, Jewish culture. Zionism is not colonialism, nor is it racism. It’s the Civil Rights Movement of the Jewish people.
Coming back to the “narrative era”, sure, one man’s victory is another man’s tragedy. Granted. Even if it’s entirely self-inflicted. Granted every loss, every displacement is a tragic event for the people involved. Granted had there never been wars in the world, it’d have been a better place. No question about it. Now, say you’ve turned this loss into a defining moment in your history, into a cornerstone of your national identity (unprecedented, really). Say, you’ve turned misery into a career. Say, you’ve perpetuated the suffering of (the descendants) of your refugees. Say, your national idea is a strikingly negative one, in an absolutely unique way compared to the global practice.
Consider the following, Israel’s vice ambassador to Norway, George Deek (who happened to be an Israeli Arab), has brought up this question: Why is the Nakba commemorated on the date of Israel’s declaration of independence? Why not, say, this expulsion, or that massacre, or this defeat? What is the Palestinian “catastrophe” all about? Their loss? Their expulsion? Their diaspora? Or is it our victory that is their main cause of mourning?
This is what it’s all about. The very essence of the entire conflict. The Palestinians’ main problem is not a lack of a country, it’s the existence of ours. No other nation got the amount of opportunities the Palestinians did to establish their own state. It’s not a matter of territory. As long as a Jewish state exists anywhere within historic Israel, the Palestinian “Nakba” won’t end.