The Controversy of Mad Max: Fury Road

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By Ian Sullivan

Earlier this year, I wrote a criticism of the Fifty Shades of Grey film, one of countless online commentaries scrutinizing the movie for its perpetuation of aggressively sexist and demeaning behaviors. Almost exactly three months later, another film has hit the silver screen that’s stirring up some similar discussion to that evoked by Fifty Shades of Grey. The film is Mad Max: Fury Road, and while Fifty Shades of Grey was condemned for its antifeminist messages, Mad Max: Fury Road lies on the opposite end of the spectrum, and is being hailed for its empowerment of women.

Mad Max: Fury Road is another post-apocalyptic film (as if there haven’t been enough of those already). But what sets it apart from the rest is its strong female characters, most notably Charlize Teron starring as Imperator Furiosa. However, if movies from this past year like American Sniper (big and tough military man killing the enemy) and Interstellar (smart man saving mankind) weren’t enough to stroke the egos of self-proclaimed “meninists” and “men’s rights activists,” Mad Max: Fury Road is facing the usual tide of backlash for its feminist “propaganda” and, well, basically it just has a lot of irrational people irrationally upset.

The “meninist” movement has gained momentum within the last couple years, and has been used as a platform for (usually) white men to complain about the lack of equality they perceive themselves to victims to, as well as to express how difficult it is to be a man these days. What these men are really doing is making a mockery out of feminism as a meaningful and viable movement, all from within the comforts of their white male privilege, which they clearly don’t realize they have. And apparently, next on their list of patriarchal pilgrimages is to tear down Mad Max Fury Road, citing a bunch of insubstantial reasons that revolve around feeling emasculated by the presence of strong and capable female characters doing the same bada** action stuff that are simply par for the course for male characters.

To me, Mad Max: Fury Road seems like a movie that has the potential to please everybody. A good plot? Check. A solid cast? Check. Over-the-top and excessive action and stunts? Definitely a check. A decent and thought-provoking moral message? Yes, it’s got that, too. And yet, the criticism the film is facing is unfortunately just another example and reminder that there is still much work to be done with regard to educating society on the true essence of feminist action. While the antifeminist criticism of Mad Max: Fury Road is ignorant and misinformed, I suppose a small silver lining, if there is one, is that at least more discussion on feminism is being engaged. But let’s put an end to the ignorant diatribes. See Mad Max: Fury Road for yourself (or don’t—I’m here to blog, not to promote movies), and if you decide that you don’t like it, which is fine, let it be for its status as a movie, and not for the message of female empowerment that it conveys.

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