Rocked by Women: Apocalyptic Version

I’m on a panel at WisCon tomorrow afternoon where we’re supposed to come up with better metaphors for dealing with disaster than the zombie apocalypse. In preparation, I decided I should see Mad Max: Fury Road.

I had the following reactions:

  • Orcs!
  • Well, OK, war boys.
  • But still: Orcs.
  • Where do the evil warlords in movies get all those minions?
  • Why do the evil warlords build complicated and humongous industrial complexes?
  • Am I the only moviegoer in the country bored by non-stop battles?
  • I thought this movie was supposed to run 88 minutes. Isn’t it over yet?

On the other hand, the women characters – and the plot twists that went with them – were awesome. I don’t just mean Charlize Theron (though she was fantastic); I mean all the women characters and the actors who played them. The core of the story – the only part of the movie worth watching – was about them and they rocked it.

Before this post discourages you from seeing the movie, I should point out that a lot of people whose opinion I respect liked it a lot. And it was exactly what I expected it to be, except for the awesome women, who came as a wonderful surprise. So if you like that sort of thing, you will enjoy this movie and get the benefit of the fascinating bit of really good story that comes about three-quarters of the way through. (I won’t say more, because spoilers.)

I wasn’t taken by surprise by the movie or the fact that I didn’t like most of it. I saw and liked the original Mad Max, but I’ve lost my taste for non-stop violence since then. It might be because I’ve got a lot of achy joints from all those years in the martial arts, which gives me some understanding of pain. It might also be that having learned something about violence – including my own capacity for it – during all those years in the martial arts, I’ve developed a greater appreciation for less vicious ways of handling complicated situations.

I saw it, as I said, out of duty (see panel assignment above). It’s not the zombie apocalypse, but the Mad Max movies are probably even more iconic as a statement about the potential end of the world.

I also saw it because I heard the men who are afraid that the feminists are out to get them were furious about Charlize Theron as Furiosa.  (Check out Jezebel’s take on that.)  How dare someone get girl cooties on their action movie!

And you know what: the movie was full of girl cooties. Not the tea party and lace doily sort of girl cooties, but rather the tough broads who can take care of themselves even in the middle of the apocalypse type of cooties.

I guess the men who are upset about this movie are afraid that if women don’t need men to survive in horrible times, maybe they don’t need men at all. And it is true that Max is more of a supporting player in this movie. Not that he isn’t tough. And he even plays a nice role in the five or ten minutes of interesting story part of the movie.

Let me tell you frightened, angry men something: We feminists are just fine with guys like Max who can work with awesome women as equals.

By the way, this movie passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors, which is not something you can say about 95 percent of the action/adventure movie genre.

So if you don’t mind – or even like – hordes of minions and non-stop battles, I think you should see this movie. It gives you all of that, plus something more.

The apocalypse isn’t going to look like that, though. If we come up with some better ways to talk about disasters at our panel, I’ll report on them later.

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Rocked by Women: Apocalyptic Version — 9 Comments

  1. I have no tolerance for non-stop violent action at all. It makes my ears hurt and bores me insane, simultaneously.

    BTW, the review site, Asking the Wrong Questions, doesn’t buy into the fangirling oooo feminist flick thing, while also providing a well-structured argument for not doing so — it’s interesting to read, at least for someone who has zero interest in actually watching the thing. But then, I’m the sort of viewer who finds an Ex Machina more interesting — and useful too — when it comes to looking at gender via sf/f, and not everyone sees it this way. Which is why we have horse races. 🙂

    • I wouldn’t call this a feminist film exactly; in fact, I think the review site you mentioned has it right: it’s the baseline of what we should expect with women characters in movies. But little things — and I don’t mean the toughness of Furiosa, which is a given — done by the female characters alters the usual way these stories are told, which is what made it worth watching. I hope to see Ex Machina, too, though I’ve heard some harsh critiques of it. I likely wouldn’t have bothered with Fury Road (and don’t think I would have missed much by skipping it) except that I thought it might be useful for my panel.

  2. Speaking of brave feminists, did you know that yesterday marks the fifth anniversary of artist Molly Norris going into hiding because she drew a cartoon and a bunch of men swore they’d kill her?

    Just thought you oughta know.

  3. Yeah. Lot of blowing things up and stuff. About which, **shrug**. But along with all the silly world building (after all these years why do these folks still have gas for these insane chases?) there were lovely bits (I loved the brief glimpse of hydroponic farming) and a sense that in the far future we saw in Thunderdome (probably the only part of Thunderdome I liked) Max has become a mythic figure like Robin Hood, and that Fury Road is one more adventure.

    Loved all the women. Even the one who decides she wants to go back to the security of slavery (because there are always those). And I loved the unspoken growth of respect between Max and Furiosa.

    I really liked Nux’s character (although I’d love to read a brief monograph about the belief system of the Warboys–what on earth is with the silver spray paint?), who went from full-bore believer to rebel, with a very believable “dark night of the soul” in the middle of the transition.

    So maybe I saw more there than you did. It’s a little exhausting to watch, though. All that mayhem, all those bodies tossed into the sands.

    • I liked the little bits of story that managed to poke through, like the ones you mention. I was just bored by the rest of it. Which is probably why I would never get a job in the movie business.

  4. “I guess the men who are upset about this movie are afraid that if women don’t need men to survive in horrible times, maybe they don’t need men at all.”

    What these guys don’t want to acknowledge is that women always survived without men, when the men were off raiding and looting and lopping one-another’s heads off on the battle fields. What did all the women do when their men went off to fight in the world wars (or for that matter, to find work during times of depression)? They took care of business. Humanity would never have survived the various scourges of war and/or famine otherwise.

  5. Honestly, having seen a lot of superhero movies lately, the fact that this was 75 minutes of a car chase that was at once compelling and clearly followable, was awesome. I was really impressed by how quickly I was made to sympathize with all the characters, Max & Nox especially, and the brides. Oddly enough Furiosa was much more of a cipher to me – awesome to watch, but not a character I found interesting.

    I also felt like the first extended car-chase sequence was both exciting and yet not unpleasantly violent. Rather than physical violence and damage and destruction of the body, it was damage and destruction of cars. Which – in the middle of a desert where there are absolutely no bystanders – is much more palatable than, say, the car chase in Winter Soldier.

    And come on, didn’t you want to ride a pole cat?

    At the end I pitied the meninists who are boycotting this film. It’s awesome!

    • I’d just rather have more story and fewer car battles. But that’s a matter of taste, I think. The effects were awesome. I think it’s funny that guys who would love all of that won’t see it because the story involves women.