Sax von Stroheim writes:
I thought Mad Max: Fury Road was a well-made action movie, but that it was wildly overpraised by critics and movie geeks. A wise friend said: “Give nerds an opportunity to think their tastes are sophisticated and look out!” I would add: “This is what happens when a bunch of egg-head movie fans (i.e. cinephiles) finally have a movie with a lot of explosions that they can like without feeling ashamed about it afterwards.”
And I think Kevin Courrier’s take in Critics at Large, here, makes a convincing case for the way the marketers of the movie primed critics to see Mad Max as something really special, and not just another crass action movie, like those Fast & Furious things or the junk that (my hero) Michael Bay makes.
(Tangentially: Michael Bay’s movies are hated by movie nerds for political reasons, by which I mean, they’re hated because Michael Bay seems to be a huge asshole. If Michael Bay were a fat geeky beardo who went to Comic Con and confessed his love for Blake’s 7 and old Iron Fist comics he would be a nerd hero and his Transformers movies would be praised as if they heralded the second coming of Joe Dante.)
But I don’t think Courrier goes far enough in pointing out the biggest marketing con job of them all: that the people selling this movie got a bunch of college graduates to write about its “feminist” message. Courrier notes that the movie’s feminism doesn’t have any “dramatic consequence”, but, I would argue, the film’s feminism isn’t merely superficial: it’s non-existent. Rather than a feminist message, the film aggressively expresses a sexist perspective of the world. That is: throughout Mad Max: Fury Road, Dr. George Miller keeps us very aware that there are biological differences between men and women, and the entire story points towards these being meaningful differences; that it’s the biological differences between men and women that shape society and not the other way around, where men and women’s role are shaped primarily by society. From the very beginning Miller shows us a world where the women exist for milk and breeding and the men exist for war and bleeding. The plot is driven by bride-stealing (just like the Iliad‘s) and at no point does the movie undercut the idea that women’s primary power, and primary value, comes from their ability to give birth.
Also, there’s a very blatant attack on the idea of a matriarchal society. When Our Heroes finally reach what they hoped would be a paradise ruled by wise old women instead of gross mean men, they find only a handful of the wise old women struggling to survive. And instead of going off to found some new community of their own, they decide to turn around and go back to try to take over the only viable society in this world: one that had been built and maintained (albeit in a nightmarish form) by men. The movie’s thesis might be: a society run by men might be horrible, but a society run by women would lead to the end of the human race.
Hey — I’m not sure if this is just a coincidence or if George Miller is the Master of All Trolls, because what he’s describing here, allegorically, mirrors the relationship between internet activist “feminists” and a lot of the traditionally dude-centric geek culture, like computer gaming and comic book conventions. Instead of going off to create their own thing, these social justice warriors have tried to use social media bullying to impose their politically correct standards on nerd sub-cultures that were doing fine without them.
As far as I can tell, the film’s “feminist” cred seems to rely entirely on the character of Furiosa, who is, admittedly, a butt-kicking, badass woman. But she’s also an archetypal maimed woman warrior, that is, a woman who’s explicitly taking on a man’s role. More importantly, the current vogue for butt-kicking babes has more to do with appealing to the dudes in the audience than anything else: the last thing a guy wants to go to the movies to see is a girl doing girly stuff, so how about you make the heroine someone who likes to blow shit up and beat the crap out of people?