Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road Social Justice Masterpost

[TRIGGER WARNING: SEX SLAVERY, RAPE, CHILD RAPE, GUN VIOLENCE, GENERAL VIOLENCE, ABUSE]

Of course I saw this movie. I mean, after anti-feminist buttholes called for a meninist boycott because it's apparently feminist propaganda? Shut up and take my money.

To the soggy bathmats of Return of Kings and other highly misogynistic pits of the Internet, feminist propaganda is a movie with a female-male protagonist team (though the man is still the title character) in which their strength, complexity, and the movie's focus on them is generally equal, and with a majority female supporting cast. It's a movie about women escaping male-imposed sex slavery (a story that can be reflected in many real-life stories in this world) and declaring that they're not things to be used for male pleasure and power. It's a movie that involves a lot of women killing men because the entire post-apocalyptic gang army is composed of men brainwashed by men in power to believe that dying in battle for their overlord is the best thing ever, and so when the evil overlord's "property" is "stolen" from him, they're all giddily mobilized to capture them back and kill the woman who's trying to liberate them.

That's a pretty low bar for "propaganda." In reality, this is just an action movie which stands out from the ocean of other action movies simply by containing a lot of women and focusing on women and issues that disproportionately affect women. The only reason this movie is considered feminist by anyone is because the bar set for representation in Hollywood movies is so very, very low.


One thing that popped out at me that I haven't seen anyone mention yet is the survivor representation. The five "wives" rescued by Furiosa are all survivors of sex slavery--chosen presumably from a grossly young age for their seeming lack of any disease or deformity for breeding purposes because the main villain overlord guy wants an heir without any "imperfections." Though each in pretty much the same situation, they're all quite different.

The Splendid Angharad, described as the main villain's "favorite," is a strong leader who is willing to put herself in serious danger to protect others and help everyone escape. Toast the Knowing is depicted as more of a cold badass who has hardened herself to deal with her trauma (possibly problematic due to her being the only black character). Capable is also rather strong and also is depicted as nurturing and empathetic, bringing a former villain around to become part of the hero team. The Dag is portrayed as having some kind of mental illness - her trauma is apparent as she acts and talks strangely throughout the movie, while also being very aware and perceptive.

The character that really struck me, however, was Cheedo the Fragile. She is the one who doesn't want to escape, and in fact at one point attempts to run back to the evil overlord guy, hoping he'll forgive her and take her back. This identification with and affection for one's abuser is a very common reaction of abused persons, but one that is often used to cast doubt upon their stories. This brought me right back to my recent fights about Emma Sulkowicz over the fact that she remained friendly with her rapist after the rape occurred, up to and including asking for more sexual encounters with him. The representation created by Cheedo is important, but I wonder how many men who don't believe Emma will at the same time not question Cheedo's desire to return to a horrifically abusive life as a sex slave?

The point here is that all survivors react differently to abuse and trauma. Empathy, hyperawareness and perception are common as survivors of long-term abuse develop the ability to see the abuse coming in order to help them survive. Emotional hardness is common for obvious reasons - who wants to feel that kind of pain? Mental illness rates skyrocket for survivors, and reckless behavior is common due to high rates of self-loathing and suicidal ideation. Each of these responses is normal for the individual. Nobody, not even other survivors, should call behavior like this into question just because they haven't experienced the same thing.


Criticisms of a lack of representation for people of color are, of course, warranted. The two main characters are white, the vast majority of background actors are white. We white feminists should never, ever, ever overlook problems of racial representation in movies, no matter how much we might love them for containing strong women and focusing on women. And I don't want to hear any arguments about "accuracy" when we're talking about fiction. You can dream up a reason to have more people of color in your fictional post-apocalyptic Australia.

Ignoring or asking people to not talk about lack of racial representation in any context is racist. I very much enjoyed Fury Road and I can appreciate the good representation of women while being critical of the lack of representation of people of color. Many of which are women.

I want to bring my fellow white feminists' attention to this post and the subsequent response. Both bloggers are women of color. White feminists need to read and consider both of their arguments WITHOUT RESPONDING WITH THEIR OWN OPINIONS. Do not for any reason reblog this to add your own thoughts or opinions, unless it's to tell other white women to read both the responses and think about it while shutting up, etc.

Jeanne has had more to say on her blog about the issue in Fury Road and on colorism in general. Colorism, if you don't know, is the idea that lighter-skinned people of color are treated more favorably than darker-skinned people of color due to white supremacy. White people should not engage in conversations about colorism, but we need to be educated on it.

White people, do not take Jeanne's response as an excuse to defend the Fury Road from criticisms of a lack of racial diversity. We need to be extra critical of lack of racial diversity. And again, I don't give a fuck about "accuracy" in fiction. Especially since this excuse shuts actors of color out of jobs. Give people of color your money.


Fury Road also contains a lot of sickness and disability. Kat Overland, a Latina woman and expert in disability theory, has written an in-depth and intensely interesting piece on these themes in the movie. I've seen a lot of people herald Furiosa's prosthetic arm as an extremely refreshing bit of disabled representation, but Kat goes beyond this:

Disability in the Dystopian Future of Mad Max: Fury Road

Disability and chronic illness representation in Hollywood is also a general catastrophe. As Kat points out, only 1% of TV characters have any kind of disability - not at all representative of the 15% of the world population that has one or more. She also touches on Max's mental illness.


Last but not least, the issue of age has been brought up in discussions of the movie. Fury Road contains elderly women who participate as action heroes, actively fighting and killing in the final battle. They're depicted as strong survivors as well as being clever enough to use their wits where their physical strength might be lacking.

Melissa Jaffer, 78, plays one of these warrior women and has talked about how refreshing it was to play such a role when her options are so limited because of her age.

Jaffer says it was a box office risk for Miller to cast older women to play such ferocious characters. But she says she jumped at the opportunity. "The roles that one is offered at this age, quite frankly, you're either in a nursing home, you're in a hospital bed dying, you're suffering from dementia, or in fact, in two cases, I was offered two characters who'd actually died and come back to life," she says. "So when this role came along, I thought well, I won't get another chance like this before I die, and that's why I took it. It was absolutely wonderful. Wonderful role."

They also apparently did their own stunts. DAMN.

7 comments:

Senzu said...

Gender issues on movies and video games should not be taken seriously, just like art and such.....leave the artist alone. People like Anita Sarkeesian who's a feminist driven by video games are complete morons. If you don't like a video game then don't fucking play it, plain and simple. I don't like every video game but you don't see complaining.


Now I'll state why the gender issues are stupid in these media, it's plain and simple, if someone is oppose to issues here.....then they should be oppose issues everywhere. So fuck it, go rewrite every book ever made, because let's be real, that's where everything started. If they're not willing to go bring up books because they like reading, then why bring up anything else?


Also what about 50 shades of gray? Is it okay because a women wrote it? Be fucking real, that's what equality is about right? If it was a man that wrote that book, feminists would not stfu about it, but they barely talk about it because a women wrote it. Double standards like these are the reasons people have a problem today with the feminists movement, it started out well enough, but in the end they got greedy and are now fighting for more, and fighting only when it's convenient to them. I don't know how you anyone can take two sides in a battle, but feminists do it all the time and it's just overlooked. My two points before is just a small example of this.


I have no problem with equality, just like most in our society, but lies and playing along when it's convenient to your cause is where the problem lies, and many, both men and women, are starting to notice it with the feminists....

Lindsey Weedston said...

First and only warning to stop using ableist slurs on my blog. Read the commenting policy.

This entire "art can't be criticized" argument is hilarious in how wrong it is. First of all, do you want to tell me you've never complained about a video game? You've never criticized a single video game in any way? If you don't like it you just stop playing it and don't say a word? Do you realize how terrible video games would be if gamers didn't demand a certain level of quality? And don't say "just don't buy it" because 1) How are you supposed to know it's bad without video game reviewers whose actual job it is to analyze and criticize video games and 2) How are companies supposed to know what to change about their games unless we speak up?


Just because you don't agree with someone's criticism doesn't mean it's utterly invalid to the whole of humanity and all criticism therefore needs to stop forever. How self-centered are you?


Also, do you do this to everyone? Have you gone to every movie critic to say "movie are art, you can't criticize art! Leave the artist alone!" I'm guessing no.


Art is and always has been subject to discussion and criticism. That's literally what makes it art. To say that video games are not subject to analysis means you don't think video games are art, and in my book that makes you a fake gamer boy.


As for 50 Shades, are you fucking kidding me? Feminists HATE that book. And you think feminists don't criticize books? You clearly have absolutely no clue what goes on in the feminist community. Your ignorance is embarrassing. Go educate yourself and then maybe you'll have something meaningful to say.

bargal20 said...

The complaints about a lack of people of color in this film hint at unconscious provincialism of critics and ignorance of facts. When most American critics complain about a lack of p.o.c in this film, what they really mean is they expected to a representation of American demographics in an Australian film.



Due to a racist immigration policy (based America's own Chinese Exclusion Act) that existed until the late 1960s, Australia had zero non-white immigrants. The number of Asians and Africans is rising, but they currently makes up only 7% of the population. Currently indigenous Australians make up at most 3% of the Australian population, and that percentage will keep dropping as Australia's population grows. Australia is still overwhelmingly "white". I mean 90% "white". Change occurs slowly.

Critics ignore that George miller did a pretty good job of making his cast diverse. Did they not notice that two of the wives (Toast and Cheedo) are multiracial, or that one of the Vuvalini (The Valkyrie) is portrayed by Megan Gale, who is half-Maori? Did they not see black and Asian faces in the crowd scenes? Because I did.


I

bargal20 said...

The complaints about a lack of people of color in this film hint at
unconscious provincialism of critics and ignorance of facts. When most American critics complain about a lack of p.o.c in this film, what they really mean is they expected to a representation of American
demographics in an Australian film.

Due to a racist immigration policy (based on America's own Chinese Exclusion Act) that existed until the late 1960s,a lack of involvement in African slavery, and a lack of a border with Mexico, Australia had close to zero non-white immigration. The number of Asians and Africans is rising, but they currently makes up only 7% of the population. Currently indigenous Australians make up at most 3% of the Australian population, and that percentage will keep dropping as Australia's population grows. Australia is still overwhelmingly "white". I mean 90% "white". Change occurs slowly.



George Miller did a pretty good job in regard to diversity, considering. Two of the Wives were p.o.c (Cheedo and Toast), one of the Vuvalini (The Valkyrie) is played by Megan Gale, who is half-Maori, and there more quite a few other p.o.c faces in the crowd scenes and Max's hallucinations.

Lindsey Weedston said...

Did you reAD WHAT I WROTE OR.

bargal20 said...

Yes, and your suggestion that George Miller should have dreamed up an explanation for why his post-apocalyptic Australian fascist-run hellhole was more representative of Los Angeles demographics is, frankly, stupid.

Lindsey Weedston said...

Fuck you, asshole.