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.