This post is about the film Mad Max: Fury Road, and it will contain spoilers. I will be digging into the text and subtext of the film so, please, if you have not seen it, don’t read this post.
I do strongly recommend the film, so if you haven’t seen it, go out and catch it in the theaters and then come back and we’ll talk, okay?
Everybody clear on this? Here Abide Spoilers. You have been warned and When you have been warned, you must listen. (Extra special bonus Sensei Of Schlock points for identifying the source of that quotation.)
Now, let’s talk about who did what to whom and what I think it means. Oh, and that brings me to one last point–the opinions and speculations contained herein are entirely my own. I do not claim to speak for George Miller or anyone else associated with the film. I am not saying that how I interpret this film is The One Twuu Way or the absolute last word. These are my thoughts, and, as always, I could be dead wrong. It gets tiring to type “I think” or “in my opinion” as part of every single sentence and I’m sure it’s just as dull to keep reading qualifying phrases. So let’s just say it here and then globally apply it to all that follows.
This isn’t an “anti-male” film. It is, however, an “anti-male domination” film. I will not say if it has a “feminist agenda” since, as I have stated elsewhere, I am a man and as such I refuse to put myself into a position where I have to try to define what is or is not feminism. Women who choose to use the term are fully able to decide such things without my help.
I found a very definite message in this film and it is one that I support. Women and men are intended to act together and compliment each other, and they work best that way. Neither is more important, since neither can survive (in the long run) without the other. We are not identical, but we are identically important to the survival of the species.
I see three distinct storylines woven together on three different scales, all of which are variations on that theme.
First, we have Max and Furiosa. They are presented as equals, comrades, siblings in arms. Yes, there are some ups and downs in their relationship, and the balance of power shifts between them. However the overall theme is that on the level on which they interact gender doesn’t matter. They are mutually sexless–their chemistry is that of one warrior to another. As individuals they are both formidable because of their humanity–neither is inherently more worthy than the other.
Second is Immortan Joe and the Keeper Of The Seeds. This is the most complex and takes up most of the film. It is also the most allegorical and the source of the most arresting and surreal imagery. The Reader’s Digest takeaway is that they are both dying in their own way and their lands are dying with them in a very Arthurian Landking/Landqueen sort of way. There is so much symbolism here that I could write for days on it, but I won’t. Instead I want to move onto the third, and for me, the most important relationship in the film.
Nux and Capable. Nux is a warboy, one of Immortan Joe’s fanatic elite guard. Capable is one of Immortan Joe’s captive wives. They are the only characters that we see interacting as man and woman in a sensual sense. Capable in a very real sense “makes a man” out of the warboy and gives him a genuine purpose to replace the false sense of destiny inculcated by service to Joe.
Nux is dying–we see him on a primitive form of life support at the start of the film and, in fact, Max is only brought along on the mission to provide a blood supply for the warboy. Faced with his mortality he is driven to make his death have meaning. At first he believes that dying in the service of his master will give him that meaning, and he attempts suicide missions three times–“Three times the gates were opened!” he wails plaintively at one point.
He is denied the Valhalla he seeks, however, because he is not worthy. He is a boy, not a man, and he is fighting to recapture the brides of his lord without seeing them as people–only as precious things that have been stolen.
Nux finds himself betrayed by his lord and fighting on the side of the brides and it is then that he begins to see them as human, understanding for the first time his own humanity in the process. Capable treats Nux as a man, and this allows him to see her as a woman, not a slave or a possession, but as a person who deserves her own life.
It is then that the warboy becomes a man, and it is then that he is worthy of Valhalla. His death has meaning because he–however briefly–had something to live for. If I had to sum up this film in a single aphorism it would be that a slavegirl is not worth dying for, but a free woman is.
I like your last thought most of all.
I’m always interested by the symbolism people find in books and movies, as interested as I am when the writers behind them come out and confess they didn’t intend that symbolism.
Someone once said the best symbolism just happens, it isn’t plotted.
Do you think he meant for the movie to have the depth you perceived in it?
I don’t know. It’s clear that he intended for the film to have a deep structure, but I can’t say for certain that I have divined what he intended.
Reblogged this on Jen Ponce Author and commented:
Fantastic thoughts about Mad Max: Fury Road. I encourage you to read this post.
Reblogged this on MetallicWolff and commented:
I always find Misha’s posts to be well written and interesting…this does not disappoint. It does contain spoilers though, so consider yourself warned.
Reblogged this on s a gibson and commented:
Post about Mad Max from Mishaburbett, with spoilers:
Glad you liked it. Thanks.
Good movie although the drone of a straight road with continual high speed battles got pretty monotonous. I disagree with your feminist assessment. First, none of the bad ‘guys’ were women. Two, the stark images of Mad Max strapped as a hood ornament vs. Furiosa driving a big rig with her bionic arm makes the I am Woman statement (and your are a helpless man). Third, the movie ends with Furiosa up on a pedestal accepting the crowd’s adulation while Mad Max slinks away through the crowd. Lastly, with the exception of Max, all the men in this movie were beasts. The young women were portrayed as Beauties. Like you Misha, I am a man but do have sensitivies of sexism, and this was clearly a sexist movie.
Yes, the main villain was a man, as were his henchmen. The same can be said of nearly all James Bond movies, which most feminists will tell you are anti-female. More telling, the female led group that Furiosa is seeking does not turn out to be utopia, they are a dying tribe in the wasteland reduced to using their own people as bait to try to lure travelers to rob. While not exactly villains, they are hardly heroic. Furthermore, their response to Furiosa’s arrival with the brides is try to run even further into the wasteland, and it’s Max who gets them to turn around and make a stand.
Max was strapped to the car, yes, but it wasn’t Furiosa who put him and there nor did she rescue him from there. In fact he faced her and the other women after being in a serious accident and while chained to an unconscious man, and still managed to come out on top. After that scene Furiosa treated him as a fellow warrior.
Max drifting away into the crowd anonymously rather than staying to become part of the new regime at the citadel is, I believe perfectly in character and not a sign of weakness. Max is a drifter, in the tradition of decades of cowboy heroes. He’s too wild for even the modicum of civilization available in this world.
I don’t think all the men were beasts–as I said in my article I felt that Nux was, if not the hero, then certainly a hero. Nor were all the women beauties. In the misnamed “Green Land” only the bait-girl was particularly attractive and in the citadel there were certainly some beastly looking women.
As I said above, I feel that the message of this film wasn’t that either gender is more important or more righteous than the other, it was that men and women need each other.
I loved Nux’s arc so much! Traitors are so fascinating — not when they’re going after the bigger prize, but when they’re presented with choices and they CHOOSE to adapt, learn, change, and grow. Furiosa was great, I loved her subtlety and nuance — and I liked First Wife and the Seed Mother and all the other women that were there, asking questions, standing up, running off to come to power in their own way. Nux stood out the most for me. I loved that he was terrified, but still acted. I loved that he made really bad decisions and should have died. He was a great avatar into this movie, to be the one human among so many gods.
Even when he gave Capable that tiny kiss. I found myself wondering how he learned what a kiss is. That vulnerability became his path to Valhalla — a path that Immortan Joe was incapable of leading him to. As for Capable, I loved that she showed strength, and courage, and maybe even discipline after Nux saves them. It would have been so easy for the director to have her reaching for him in a grand “nooo!” gesture. It was so much more powerful the way they did it.
There was a lot of very powerful emotion in nearly all of the characters. I think I’m going to see it again this weekend, in fact.
Well i watched it twice on pirate sites (small luxury of third world country wastelands, no cinema in 100 miles around) and can say that’s been awhile since i was disturbed by one action movie so much that it has been years. I second you on most of your thoughts but if you don’t mind would like to shed some light on few other very (for me) important moments:
– The moment Furiosa is wounded it was cause she was busy saving Max (couldn’t focus on herself, cause he was more important to her – shows much more that camaraderie) , who came into that situation for saving her. Their story, though brief, is so powerful and intertwined i wouldn’t just say it was solely based on warrior respect. Considering she said at beginning to captured girls life was hard, seemed to me that she was several chapters in front of them in both pain and experience. Max on the other hand lost his family he “failed” to protect, a situation he ran away from. By coming back for her at the other part of movie and being with her, and her with him through return to Citadel, i’m not wrong when i say that together they lived, even for just one day, life full both of loyalty, suffering and true love. You don’t need naked scenes for that to clarify what i mean about love. Of course they respect each other (a thing which comes first in relationships to others) but when she is dying in the end, we see true care and comfort which he didn’t had in him since he lost his family. I don’t know, seemed perfect in every way. Even if he died it would be logical in way, since he found himself after he was lost (she reminded him of other “instincts”) and the fact he had life before made him the No.1 person in pursuit of redemption. She on the other hand, even though she was through so much, didn’t looked really for redemption (autosuggestion) but hope, as did other woman there. It was imperative that she survives so she would find some kind of meaningful life. Strange that action movie opens so much core questions in reality we mostly don’t want to see. In my eyes, maybe the reason these 2 hours came so close to my heart is cause deep down i also want to hope…
It is interesting use of chrome spray (false shine – glory) to “travel” to Valhalla and that is sprayed on mouth. Later after 3rd attempt his lips are dried and hurt, and after it he kisses a person who for first time treated him as fellow being. In the last scene with him, we see his mouth clean and healing. Very powerful symbolic in this imo… Also on last scene he sees Rictus pulling entire engine, roaring in flames. I think that is one of the moments which depicts best deepness of his change as character.
I’m sure i’ll be watching it many more times if i live in future, cause i enjoyed such fantasy world where both genders are so much more then flesh, true real souls, broken but not dead, in story which both makes you sad and inspired…
I agree that there is a huge amount of very deep symbolism throughout the film. I suspect that I will spend a lot of time talking about this film over the years.
Now, about Max and Furiosa. Yes, I would agree that what they shared is love at the end of the film. However, my point is that it is a love that is not based on sexuality, it is the love of people who have been through combat together. I don’t believe that sexuality is necessarily the highest or most powerful kind of love.
Her sacrifice for him wasn’t the act of a woman for her lover, it was the act of one soldier for another. And the same is true for his giving his blood for her–an act that was thick with the symbolism of him voluntarily putting the collar and chain back on for her.
Personally, and I’d like your thoughts on this, I think that the relationship between Max and Furiosa would have been diminished if they had kissed or made some other expression of romantic love.
“However, my point is that it is a love that is not based on sexuality, it is the love of people who have been through combat together. I don’t believe that sexuality is necessarily the highest or most powerful kind of love.”
Couldn’t agree more! 🙂
I wanna write so many things about text up, but…i just thank you- for open mind and the way which you look at the world 🙂