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.