Note: This blog contains MM1, MM2, MM:BT spoilers. Reader discretion advised.
Amongst the rave critic reviews for George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road, a bizarre and agitated whinging can distantly be heard.
Certain Men's Rights Activists like Aaron Clarey from website Return of the Kings have wriggled out of the undergrowth of "this wasted land", and are waving virtual placards in a rebellious boycott against Fury Road. Why? Because it's apparently "feminist propaganda". *Cough*
Let's hear them out. In what way do they insist it's "feminist propaganda"? Well, not only does Fury Road feature more screen-time and dialogue for the female lead, Imperator Furiosa (played by Charlize Theron), than the male lead, Max (Tom Hardy), but it also shows an independent and strong female character both mentally and physically. But most shockingly, this Furiosa character actually has the nerve to bark orders at Mad Max! Apparently that's grounds for the film to be considered feminist propaganda as it doesn't uphold the values of masculinity that all action films should uphold. You know, because women certainly cannot lead people and of course women have never been known to use physical strength and military prowess, not once, not one time. We all know this to be true, right? Right?
Jesting aside, the strangest angle that certain Mens Activists are purporting is that with Fury Road, the Mad Max series has become 'feminized', that the previous installments were true ultra-masculinsed representations of what cinema should be. Now, to me (and I hope most MM fans), this statement is not only ridiculous, but laughably inaccurate. Any Mad Max fan that labels Miller's recent film as "feminist propaganda" containing too many strong-willed womenfolk, quite simply is no Mad Max fan.
Warrior Women who have subverted the idea of the male warrior have always been an integral part of the Mad Max series. In MM, during Toecutter's kidnapping of Max's infant, the gun-toting, hard-as-nails elderly farmer, May Swaisey (Sheila Florance) threatens the relentless gang of men with shotgun shells to the face. She also has no qualms about firing at them as they later approach on bikes. In MM2, one of the physically strongest and cautiously wise characters in the film is the aptly titled Warrior Woman (Virginia Hey). A military general within Pappagallo's oil refinery, she's handy with a variety of weapons (flamethrowers, bows) and musters on - a woman with true grit who (far before Charlize Theron) "barks orders at Mad Max" (and many other men in the compound). Finally, we come to MM:BT. First we have Aunty Entity (Tina Turner), a true visionary woman who was capable of not only building, but also leading and maintaining a large trading town in an unforgiving apocalyptic desert! Sure, she's the movie's villain, but her "madness" is not far off Max's anti-heroism. In the end, she heel-face-turns and lets Max go. The second prominent warrior woman in MM:BT is alpha-female Savannah Nix, one of two leaders of the Lost Tribe (the other being the alpha-male Slake). Armed with both a sharp spear and a sharp storytelling tongue, she has the power to unite the tribe under a common identity and purpose.
To put it simply: when an apocalypse has destroyed civilization, it doesn't matter whether you have a penis or not - all that matters is survival. The Mad Max series strips gender roles from our cushy civilisation, and sets them out in the glaring sun to roast. There's no masculinity or femininity in a post-apocalyptic wasteland - just mankind and its madness. Humanity stripped to its core doesn't have gender roles. You hunt and you scavenge - whether man or woman.
As for the menimists (or whatever they like to be called), I certainly don't mean no ill will to them. After all, perhaps these "ultra-masculinised" representations they're missing from Mad Max films of yore are to be found only in previous films? Perhaps they have a fervent hankering for Lord Humungus' homo-erotic gang of "gayboy-berserkers" and "smegma-crazies" from MM2? Maybe Fury Road doesn't have enough masculinised pseudo-homoeroticism in it for Aaron Clarey and his fellow gents to salivate over? Perhaps something to think about next time, Mr. Miller.