What’s really incredible about Mad Max: Fury Road is that our titular, brooding White Male Lead in an Action Movie™ is given no opportunities to appear badass or heroic unless he’s working as a team or directly helping the women.
We see Max alone in the desert, all brooding and action-hero-y, clearly haunted by a tragic past… and he’s immediately captured, chained, humiliated and spends the next half hour tied up and useless while Furiosa is off getting shit done.
Then he gets free and he comes in waving a gun around and embarrassing himself. It’s not until Furiosa calms him down, wins him over, and he starts following her orders that he’s allowed to appear properly badass - in an action sequence that begins with him handing her a gun, and which progresses with the two of them working as the ultimate teamwhile the girls help him as much as he defends them.
Then they’re in the Night Bog. Max fails to hit the Bullet Farmer and instead becomes a prop to steady Furiosa’s shot. Then he runs off on a solo mission and it doesn’t even merit screen time. Some dude lone wolfing it to kill a scary bad guy? Who cares. Let’s watch Nux running in front of the rig and the girls cooling down the engines instead.
Then comes the final chase. Max is undeniably awesome, but he is only allowed to be awesome because all of his efforts are dedicated to helping and protecting his weird new family. And the instant he hears Furiosa is hurt, all of his badass moments are pivoted around reaching her. He fights a hundred war boys, jumps over trucks, swings off poles, sets of explosions, beats someone with a flamethrower guitar, just so he can be there to catch Furiosa once she has killed the big bad Immortan Joe.
And, of course, his biggest heroic moment in the film isn’t even a cool action sequence or taking out a villain - it’s saving someone’s life. It’s being selfless and compassionate. It’s expressing love and humanity. It’s acting as a nurse and donating his blood. Max’s triumph is fixing something that’s broken.
Then, at the end, instead of being rewarded with a sexy girl and something else cool like most action heroes, Max gets nothing.He gives everything to Furiosa - his love, his loyalty, his fighting skills, his blood, his name - and he takes nothing in return, nor does he feel he is owed anything. He is content simply to help her, and thanks to this love and selflessness he was able to achieve some kind of redemption.
In Fury Road, a man’s heroism is not determined by how strong or tough he is - it is defined by how willing he is to love, help, support and protect others, particularly women, while demanding nothing in return.
Gather around my children and you shall hear of the most terrible, most implacable, most improbable friends ever met by our people. They came from the third planet of a tiny system, surrounded by desolate space. Not one sentient species for hundreds of lightyears, and they managed to propel themselves into space.
We watched from afar as they developed slowly. We watched as they warred among themselves, brutal and savage. We watched as they rendered regions of their planet uninhabitable to themselves, a hardy species able to adapt to even the most hostile of environments. We watched as suddenly and without warning they united under four banners, the rest falling by the wayside. We watched as they expanded into what we had begun to use as a buffer zone, to allow these humans to burn themselves out in.
But they did not burn themselves out. Despite their warring among themselves. Harsh people. Humankind is a race of warriors, do not be fooled by the eloquence of their diplomats. In their own words, “All diplomacy is a continuation of war by other means”. Their greatest artists and philosophers were born from blood and conflict. I had the privilege once to view a painting by one Pablo Picasso, entitled Guernica. It was a savage piece, with not a drop of color. It showed the horrors of war, and the irony of it all was that the painting hung in the office of one of humankind’s generals.
It was sudden, when they burst from the containment zone. When they realized they were not alone. And we, with heavy hearts, prepared to fight them bitterly and to the last. Imagine then, our surprise when humanity embraced us among the stars as long lost brothers. They were overjoyed to discover they were not alone in the darkness. Despite their brutal and warlike culture, despite their glorification of death and violence, their people do not seek out combat. An ancient general of theirs once put it thusly “Although a soldier by profession, I have never felt any sort of fondness for war, and I have never advocated it, except as a means of peace”.
For centuries humanity worked to better itself. They unified under a single Interstellar Empire, the Empire of Man, the Human Empire, however you called it. They enjoyed art and music. They became leisurely at home, exploratory in the field. Their weapons of war were long gone, beaten into plowshares as they say. Humanity was finally at peace. There was no conflict among them, a few border skirmishes for certain, and they kept a small standing military, but nothing more than that. We considered them domesticated.
At first we were surprised at their transformation, then overjoyed. We welcomed them into the fold of the cosmos, embraced them as they would embrace us. We thought we knew humanity then, that we had seen them at their best and their worst. We were wrong, so very wrong. We did not truly understand humanity until the Texar-Hakara came into the void between the stars.
Seemingly more brutal, more bloodthirsty than even the humans, they swept into our region of space like conquerors. They smashed whatever feeble resistance the Yungling managed to put up, took their planets, enslaved the survivors, and pressed on. The Junti were next, utterly destroyed. The four great races left, ourselves, the Itaxa, the Kukrama, and the Illnaa, banded together to try and stop them. In our arrogance, we did not include the humans in our pact. Too few in number, too weak in frame, too backwards in technology we thought.
The Texar-Hakara hit our borders like the great wave that sweeps life from the beach. We hardened our hearts and prepared for the worst. Seeming without pause they crushed our border defenses. They obliterated the first fleets we sent to them. The Itaxa fell to the Texar-Hakara, enslaved, killed, scattered to the corners of the galaxy. Then the humans sent us an offer, a request really. They asked to fight alongside us.
Bemused, we accepted. What else could we do? Deny them the right to fight with us for their very survival? We thought to assign them as rearguards, to ferry our people to safety after our fleets fell. We thought wrong.
Humanity swept into the stars with a fury unmatched by any other. Their fleets were not the heaviest. Their guns not the most accurate. Their soldiers however. Their sailors. Their warriors were unmatched by any others in the cosmos. I remember the first battle in which the humans fought the Texar-Hakara like it was but a single solar cycle ago. Our forces were on the brink of breaking and fleeing. Our ships were gutted ruins. Our fighters exhausted and out of missiles. Then humanity fell upon the flank of the enemy, and the full force of the Human Empire was unleashed in a single moment of utter fury. Landing craft spat across the distance in an instant, slamming into enemy hulls and disgorging humanity’s greatest weapon, their Marines. In close combat humanity is unstoppable, and so they took the vast distances of space combat out of the equation.
Their ships belched fire and plasma. Lasers crossed the vast distances in the blink of an eye. Half the Texar-Hakaran fleet was obliterated in minutes. The other half turned to face this new enemy, only to be wracked by internal explosions as the Marines did their work. Their greatest ships turned on the rest of the fleet, a handful of humans holding the bridge against waves of enemy attackers to turn the tide of battle.
The Interstellar War came to a screeching turnaround. The advance of the Texar-Hakara halted, like it had hit an immovable wall. In many ways that is what humanity is, an immovable, implacable wall. Then, with the ferocity humanity is alone capable of, they routed the Texar-Hakara. Not from that lone battle. They pushed them out of Itaxa space, liberating the slaves. The space of the Junti and the Yungling was swept clear of invaders. Then the Texar-Hakara committed the gravest of sins in humanity’s eyes. They warped a fleet to Earth, jewel of humanity’s empire. They burned that blue and green world. They destroyed it, and the trillion people it housed.
Humanity is a forgiving race my children. Even their most terrible of wars have resulted in lasting friendships between nations. When they left millions dead and broken on the muddly fields of their world, they rebuilt the aggressors. They raised them from the mud, dusted them off, and welcomed them back into the fold. But there is one thing that humanity cannot, will not, tolerate. It is abhorrent to them my children. To strike at their home, to strike where they raise their young ones. Where they leave their mates and non combatants. To strike there is to raise the ire of the human race, truly.
Humanity raged. Their attempts at obtaining the surrender of the Texar-Hakara halted. The war turned from a righteous war of liberation to a furious and hateful war of retribution. We begged the humans to stop, to leave what few planets the Texar-Hakara had alone. Our pleas went unanswered for months, until a single human ambassador came to us. His face was cold and emotionless. He told us, in no uncertain terms, that the Texar-Hakara had doomed themselves and that any trying to aid them would suffer the same fate. Quietly we watched then, as humanity wiped the Texar-Hakara from the stars. The Texar-Hakara pleaded for mercy. They offered their unconditional surrender. They came to us and begged on bent knee for us to reign in the mad dogs we had unwittingly unleashed into the universe. Humanity had for so long repressed their warrior culture. Tried to become better. Then we had given them back into the fires of war, and humanity had awakened it’s warrior past.
The Texar-Hakara ambassadors were taken from our halls by grim human Marines and thrust out airlocks. Finally there was but one planet left, and we came to the humans, we pointed to our own losses, our own dead friends some of whom had lived for longer than humanity had been among the stars, and we begged the humans not to take the last of the Texar-Hakara’s lives.
I watched, children, I watched as the Texar-Hakara’s world burned. As humanity left but one of their planets alive, a simple backwater colony of no more than ten million. Ten million, out of the trillions. Then the leader of the human military turned to me, and with no emotion in his voice, told me that humanity accepted the unconditional surrender of the Texar-Hakara, and walked off the bridge of my ship.
My children, the lesson here is that a warrior past is never truly gone. Only buried, mayhaps even wiped from living memory. But gone? Never. Humanity showed us that.
House Baratheon was born in the Wars of Conquest, when Aegon the Dragon invaded Westeros. Aegon sent his commander, Orys Baratheon to take Storm’s End. Argilac the Arrogant, the last of the Storm Kings, foolishly left the safety of his stronghold and met the Baratheon warlord in open battle. Argilac was soundly defeated, and Orys took his lands, holdings and daughter. Orys was said to be a half-brother of Aegon’s, so Robert muses that if that were to be true a little of the “blood of the dragon” mingled with that of the stag in those days.
Context: Leyla, a Muslim British-Indian woman, is coming out to her mother, telling her “I’m gay.” Her mother reacts with horror and disgust, telling her “You’re up to your neck in sin” and going so far as to ask “Who did this to you?”
But it’s this scene that sums up the reality of LGBTQ+ desi youth. Our parents may very well love us and want the best for us, but the absolute bottom line is: our parents do not want us to be happy. They want us to be appropriate, to be respectful, to have children and well-earning careers, to fit into the mold of heteronormativity and gender roles, to be religious and pious. But no, they do not want us to be happy. Happiness doesn’t fit into it.
To them, happiness is indistinguishable as a separate characteristic because according to them, doing all of these things should already be making us happy.
The ideal created for desi children is that they shouldn’t strive to do what makes them happy, but what makes them “good.” Unfortunately, under this context, good is defined as anything that isn’t seen as immoral or out of the norm.
A woman who is not straight is rejecting her role as a wife, and to a lesser extent, her role as a mother. She is rejecting the notion of subservience to men, of obedience and inferiority. Under our current system that is hugely patriarchal, a woman who does not submit is a threat.
Now, I’m not saying desi parents are bad parents or hate their children because it’s pretty clear this happens in nearly every other culture in the world. But I am saying that desi parents do not make their children’s happiness a priority, they make their children’s success a priority: successful careers and marriages and children = successful lives. So if you ask a desi parent “do you want your kid to be happy?” they’ll immediately say “yes, of course.” But if you add on “do you want your kid to be gay if that makes them happy?” the answer will be a lot less positive.
This movie tackled Leyla’s sexuality and coming out to her parents absolutely head-on with no coyness about it. She goes straight up to her mother and admits that she’s a lesbian. But her mother’s reaction is really the thing that most “coming out” stories try to gloss over, or sugarcoat, or just in general avoid. Her mother admits with frank and brutal honesty the truth that all LGBTQ+ desi kids know: our parents would rather see us miserable and straight than queer and happy.