So obligatory spoiler warning if you haven't seen Mad Max Fury Road yet
but hey I've recently seen the film and I wanted to talk about more aspects of it especially surrounding the present 'controversy' surrounding it.
If you're here to find out if you should go and see it I'll give you the easy version. If you've seen and liked the previous films you'll like this one. If you like films like The Expendables or the Fast and Furious films chances are you'll love it. If you're someone who doesn't like said kind of films and want to know if you should see it to support a socio-political ideology you might be quite badly let down.
Firstly the claims that it's a feminist film and how this has exploded into claims that there's a full blown MRA boycott going on because of it. So let's start at the start and work from there. The 'MRA boycott' actually comes from a single blog post, this one infact if you want to read it.
Now as certain more extreme branches of feminism have labelled MRA as a bad thing. Because you know the fact Male Rights Activists have to exist to campaign against Male domestic abuse and campaign for more shelters etc for male domestic abuse victims (according to studies   this is 40% of all physical and 60% of all mental abuse victims, and about 50% in total) it shows feminism up as maybe not working entirely for that equality so many claim it to be. Hey that's not me saying all MRA guys are exactly nice people but then against certain feminist love to say how they want to #killallmen and MRA's kind of seemingly haven't got something as dumb as that going on quite yet. Not to say MRA's havent done equally dumb stuff I'm sure.
Either way feminists (or at least many prominent ones) have seen MRA's as a threat to feminism as showing that maybe feminism has developed a few flaws along the way in a number of the branches is unacceptable. Such questions are merely sea lions. So any chance to take a shot at MRA's has become a thing, the idea of literally sticking it to....... Mens rights in this case lol.
Look I'm no MRA but I can see there are problems not being dealt with for both genders and western feminism seems more concerned with fictional characters than real horrific acts being done to real women in other parts of the world or other cultures. But hey for Social Justice Warriors trying to save someone from harm due to a different cultural practice is racist colonialism and we white people should keep out and let the girl live a life of suffering rather than you know maybe help somehow.
Ok back to the film. Well the claim Mad Max is feminist comes from a number of factors.
First (and weirdly) foremost it having a strong female character. Most of it comes from a single point in the film where having missed twice with a sniper rifle (firing into fog and an object no-one can actually see fully) Max fires twice and misses then the female lead Furiosa uses Max's shoulder and a tripod and with the last bullet fires and hits it. It's quite a compelling set of scenes, undermined a little bit when Max then walks off into the fog and (off screen) kills three heavily armed bad guys and steals their weapons less than 5 minute later.
The second main aspect being the claims of representation, with Furiosa being from what some have described as an Amazonian styled Matriarchal society which is trying to fix the world. This is all well and good until you start toying with the plot threads and seeing where they go. You see the 20 something year old woman suggests that in this matriarchal society there were men around at least 20 years ago. At no point do they ever say they have always been only women. The only indication towards this is them being suspicious of the male characters initially, which considering the brutality of the world of Mad Max and that most raiding parties are largely male, it's not surprising. Also at one point one of the elderly women talks about how she learned to headshot men (who make up the majority of those in the wasteland raiding parties anyway). The idea being these elderly women are meant to act as a counterpoint for the audience to the three main villains and their symbolic representations of typically patriarchal things . The three main villains being: Immoten "Warfather" Joe, implied to be an ex military general at least partly responsible for the nuclear war that turned the planet into a wasteland; The Mayor of fuel town, whom is shown as a vastly overweight man who cares greatly about costs, he's dressed in a stereotypical bankers outfit with the minor change to his suit by having holes around his nipples to which nipple clamps e attached and the head of bulletfarm whom best resembles a regular foot soldier / gun nut. This claim about the representation being how the supposed matriarchal society wins out is, well it's kind of comedic considering all the women from the other society are killed off in the next battle. Yes even the 20 something year old one, all the old women end up dead one way or another leaving only Furiosa and warfather Joe's "Brides".
Next is the argument that it must be feminist because it shows a strong woman helping other women out of sexual slavery. Which it does and when that was done in Watchdogs with a male protagonist it was called sexist. Oh and it should also be pointed out it's only the beautiful ones that get rescued and they make up maybe 1/4 of the full harem with others being well let's just say older and less in keeping with conventional images of attractive women.
You know what, I'll make a better argument for it being a feminist film or having feminist symbolism in it. This is how easy it is to make that claim. At one point Max washes off blood using mothers milk, and no that's not a euphemism. Oh and at the close of the film it's the other brides in the harem which open up the pipes and give the civilians below water. See that's more of an case for it.
It's quite funny really as this is probably the first time ever I've agreed with Anita Sarkeesian in claiming the film isn't Feminist, obviously for very different sets of reasoning though. My argument being that Mad Max depicts a meritocratic vision of the future where people use their skills and abilities to gain standing the film literally says that in the future humanity is reduced to one instinct survive. It's pure Darwinism and survival of the best adapted and skilled to survive. Claiming it's a feminist film for having a single strong character is like claiming the Lara Croft films are feminist masterpieces.
For the most part the brides end up being little more than human shields most of the time. It's rare they fight and for the most part they reflect innocence. Innocence not used to the harshness of the wasteland outside of their comfy chambers (relative to the rest of the world). The brides for the most part don't do much or participate much in the film beyond some subplots. For example Capable is the kind one who may or may not have fallen for one of the warboy raiders (whom has his own far larger arc); Angharad the heavily pregnant one who uses herself as a human shield a few times before ending up under the wheels of a monster truck (no really); Dag the cynical one who learns there may be hope and something to carry on for; Cheedo, whose main thing is her wanting to go back in the hopes Warfather Joe wouldn't punish them and because the wateland is a nasty place compared to the relative luxury of the harem (except you know being a sex slave and all that) and finally Toast who honestly was just there and seemingly had nothing really to do beyond be there. The wives have very little actual part or character development beyond a tiny bit with Dag, which is all of 3 short scenes.
I would try and explain Anita's argument but most of it is kind of bonkers from what I gather involving the idea that violence is inherently male and women are never violent except as a result of the patriarchal influence on society causing repressed misogyny in women........ or something mad to that effect.
You know the best part of all this? It's genius marketing, there are a load of women talking about and celebrating Mad Max which in all honestly would have been called a guy/ dudebro film any other time. It's a film filled with everything stereotypically "guy film" material. You have: guns, big vehicles, monster trucks, large semi Trucks, Suped up cars, lots of violence and hand to hand fights, lots of explosions, a huge lot of car chases and a few bits of semi naked women and a good long scene with an actually naked 20 something women. I'm not even kidding, one of the scenes you could have told me was from the film "The Bikini Carwash Company" and I'd have believed you.
The even bigger bit of comedy being that rather than support Josh Whedon and his film Avengers Age of Ultron a film by someone who claims to strongly support feminism such that he still defended it, while leaving twitter as feminist sent death threats to him because they didn't like that he showed a female character as vulnerable in the new Avengers film. No instead they're supporting the hugely violent film that somehow picked up a feminist label along the way and the studio (smartly) chose not to try and dispel it, because hey you've just widened the films potential audience hugely by letting this, well this myth stay alive.
It's almost an amazing trick that a load of people will go and see this film they'd normally hate simply because some people said it aligns with their socio-political beliefs and as such they must see it to support it.
Oh and I know someone in the comments is likely to say "Oh you only went to see it to write about how it's not feminist" so to you I say, no. I went to see the film because I like the Mad Max franchise and have the box set.
I'm well over 1,500 words already so if you want me to talk about how Mad Max Fury Road stacks up compared to the rest of the films that's another thing for another blog. If you liked the previous Mad Max films it's worth seeing, if you're into films with lots of explosions , cars and gunfights chances are you'll like it, if not then go see something you want to not something you feel compelled to support. Nor really should people be celebrating a film based on personal politics, because if Mad Max were truly a Feminist film technically (as with all films deliberately presenting a strong overt political stance) it would be a propaganda film. That's not to say films or media should be A political but I'd rather not see entertainment media descend into being another socio-political battleground. Especially when we saw the starts of it with people condemning others for going to see American Sniper and not Selma (I saw neither because neither interested me hugely).