Just saw “Mad Max: Fury Road” and it was utterly fantastic in so many different ways. Is it a perfect movie? No, of course not. But one thing I noticed was how many of the marginalized characters had agency, made their own decisions, controlled their own lives. There’s spoilers in this, so I’m going to tuck the text behind a fold.
The Wives are initially abducted by Immortan Joe but we aren’t shown them as slaves. The first time we see them they’re in the act of escaping, popping up and stating that they need air. When next we see them they’re cleaning themselves and snipping away the cruel metal chastity belts they were bolted into. When Max comes upon them, they fight him. They are active in the resistance, active in the fight, against Immortan Joe and his War Boys.
Mad Max is a crazy person. He sees things that aren’t there. He moves like he isn’t sure where the ground is. He isn’t always certain what’s real and what isn’t. And he directs his own life. He and his decisions aren’t discounted because he’s crazy.
Imperator Furiosa has one arm and a prosthetic arm. She and her mother were abducted from their matriarchal clan. Why wasn’t she made a Wife? I’m assuming because she was born with only one arm and they place a premium on “perfect” bodies. She is capable and skilled at what she does. She is a leader. She makes decisions. She gives directions, including to Max.
Nux is not a slave the same way the Wives are enslaved, but he is still a slave, expected to fight and die. He exists only on the whim of his father, and will be discarded as soon as he is no longer useful. Over the course of the movie he comes to see the humanity of the Wives and Max (his Bloodbag) and chooses another way of living. He is given space to make his own choices, his own decisions.
The Many Mothers of the Green Space are old women, and old women rarely show up in dystopian explosion movies. When they do they are generally Sage Old Crones dispensing pacifist wisdom. These women set traps, have guns, kill. They guard seeds, hope for the future, but they are still deadly. They take an active role in their own lives and they fight hard.
The Milk Mothers are first shown cradling deformed infants or dolls, hooked up to milk machines, seated and reclining. They appear passive. But at the end of the movie, they are standing and taking action, they are opening the water gates and providing water for everyone to drink, to bathe, to refresh themselves.
The Children, the young War Boys, already painted white and black, are the ones who lower the entrance to Furiosa. They make the decision to allow a new leader into the Citadel. These children who are being raised to live and die and live again, to know the glory of Valhalla (all shiny and chrome), who have had a road paved for them already, take a step off that road and head in a new direction.
The Green Place has failed (probably due to toxic salts as a result of over watering crops that have been over fertilized) and the women have a choice: They can go forward into the unknown and hope to find a peaceful place (and that Immortan Joe won’t keep pursuing them), or they can go back to the Citadel. Max suggests going back to The Citadel. He does not insist. The women make their own decision to return. At the end he fades away. “Fury Road” was never really his story, he was just there.
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