There are so many excellent pieces out already about the feminism of Mad Max: Fury Road that it almost feels redundant to add another one here. Can I just say, though, how refreshing it was to go see a dark and dirty, violent and gruesome action film featuring a disabled female that made no fuss about the fact that she was female or disabled? Furiosa is equally capable and as celebrated as any other warrior in Immortan Joe’s cult. At no point is she scorned for stepping outside stereotypical gender roles; neither is she depicted as helpless without her prosthetic; nor is her missing limb used to gain sympathy or build back story. It, and she, just is. What a relief to see a woman defined by her character as opposed to her body.
Just as refreshing was the film’s depiction of the Wives. Considering the plot is about Immortan Joe chasing Furiosa in order to get his Wives back, these five women could easily have been treated as little more than luggage. And in almost any other film, they would have been interchangeable with inanimate objects (hello, sexy lamp test*).
Instead, these women are complex characters that help fend off their pursuers while working through individual character arcs. They aren’t your stereotypical action hero, either. All too often, women in action films seem to have the exact same characteristics and skills as the men — they can fight, they can drive, they can shoot, they can essentially be exchanged with someone of the opposite gender without anyone noticing until the usually-unnecessary sex scene. In Fury Road, the women each help in their own way, whether it’s sorting bullets or keeping watch or blocking a potential shot with her body. They all have their own desires and motivations, and when the movie ends you know how each of these women will use their newly won freedom to change their corner of the world.
In short, these women start out as the Wives, the property, of Immortan Joe; by the end, they are Queens in their own right, capable of leading their people into a new and hopeful future.
A couple other good reads on Mad Max: Fury Road:
* “So, there’s the Bechdel test. I’ve got another test that works just as well. The Sexy Lamp test. If you can take out a female character and replace her with a sexy lamp, YOU’RE A FUCKING HACK.” — Kelly Sue DeConnick, ECCC’s “From Victim to Hero” panel