The Collective Diva
*trigger warning for some mention of rape and violence against women in context of the film*
Some vague spoilers ahead…
Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron star in George Miller’s 2015 installment piece to the dystopic Mad Maxfranchise, Mad Max: Fury Road, which opens in theatres across the US today. It’s been thirty years since the hit film and its sequels, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) were released, and yet the newest addition to canon is as exciting and groundbreaking as the original concept, and not just for the big blow up-y scenes.
So far, the film hype centers on the overt feminism at play in an action movie many thought was going to be just for the dudes. George Miller gives audiences women who are not secondary characters, as Theron’s Furiousa makes clear. In the film, Max Rockatansky and Furiousa are equals, working together to assist the sex slaves of a tyrannical warlord in obtaining agency and freedom. This is not a love story–the narrative twists and turns through a violent and dying world, with both Max and Furiousa kicking hardcore ass.
George Miller tells NPR, “I was very interested in a female road warrior, and here she is, a character exactly equivalent to Max. They are protagonist/antagonist. They’re the ones who go at it from the beginning. She is on this mission, and Max is a wild animal, trapped. And both of them are about their own survival. This is an uncompromising world. It’s kind of forward into the past. We regress to a neo-medieval dark age where there are no rules other than to survive.”
Not only did Miller want his female characters to exude strength, but he also asked that the actors understand some of the simple, more base struggles of sex trafficking, slavery and abuse in order to play the characters more authentically. Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues was asked to be a film consultant, informing the actors of her time working with women across the world who have been victims of violence.
In an interview with TIME Magazine, Ensler states, “George was looking to create empowered women, not victims, and I think he accomplished that. I don’t remember seeing so many women of all different ages in any movie before. I was really blown away by the older women in the film who were just as good fighters as the men. I’d never seen that before. They all have so much agency and independence. Charlize’s character is also really fierce. But at the same time, she’s compassionate. And that’s a hard thing to pull off. All the women felt full in terms of their backstory. Even something subtle like their clothes in the film: they’re stripped down and vulnerable and objectified in the beginning. By the end, they have their clothes on. They’ve taken their bodies back and themselves back in some essential way.”
Mad Max: Fury Road promises to be a new kind of action film, with women at the helm, capable not only of self-preservation but of obtaining essentially the freedom and capacity to live and act in a defined world.
Oh, what a lovely day!
C. Diva is writer/co-owner of The Collective Blog, where she writes about popular culture, feminism and fandom studies. Devoted to breaking down nerd hierarchy, Diva enjoys challenging gender and racial boundaries, shifting stereotypes and is an advocate for transformative works. Find her on Twitter at @collectivadiva.