Mad Max: Fury Road is many things. It’s an action movie masterpiece with the look and feel of a European comic book (think Alejandro Jodorowsky and Moebius). It’s a post-apocalyptic descendent of Buster Keaton’s The General and the cartoons of Chuck Jones, with careful attention to spatial relationships, cause and effect, and the art of set-ups and punchlines. It’s a reminder of the power that visual language can command over mere words. It’s a celebration of practical effects, daring stuntwork, and visceral filmmaking that we haven’t seen in blockbusters for many years.
Mad Max: Fury Road is also a feminist movie. Or at least it’s been hailed a feminist film, and that’s made a lot of people uncomfortable.
I’m not just talking about tantrum-prone Men’s Rights Activists, who’ve called for a boycott of the film because it’s really feminist propaganda masquerading as a masculine ass-kicker. As is the nature of our weekly thinkpiece-culture calendar, what was lauded (or decried) as “x” a few days ago is now criticized for not really being “x.”
Earlier in the week, politically conservative commentators began to throw cold water on the feminist credentials of Mad Max: Fury Road. Just yesterday, Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency tweeted that she didn’t think Mad Max: Fury Road was a feminist film at all.
The word “feminist” is loaded, its associations so varied, and its ideological identity so personal. The mere idea of a “feminist” action movie is the source of scrutiny and anxiety, and it opens up a larger conversation of what feminism is and isn’t, and also what people think it can be and should be, and even what is and isn’t off limits when it comes to gender, genre, and the application of feminist ideas.
It’s like ideological Thunderdome, but way more crowded, not as brutal, and without the bungee cords.