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Video Presentation: One Man, One Bullet: Mad Max Feminist Road

With a film like Mad Max: Fury Road, there was so much to consider and discuss I found myself at a loss for how to begin. Not because I didn’t know what I wanted to say, but because there was so much to say. So many women on a screen and all of them doing things. Big roles, small roles, capable roles—one is even named “Capable” in case we didn’t get the picture.

This is noteworthy because we live in a world that hates women. I don’t think we gain anything by downplaying this. We are so inured to our misogyny and sexism that we reproduce destructive supremacist hierarchies with the very best of intentions. This power is obviously cross-sectioned with all other systemic power structures of society—race, class, etc—but for gender, specifically, we have tricked ourselves into believing that not thinking about patriarchy and how we reproduce it is the same thing as not participating in these acts which perpetuate it.

What is particularly interesting about Mad Max: Fury Road is that it takes the world’s hatred of women and reflects it, but the narrative never excuses nor naturalizes this hate. There is not a single moment when Immortan Joe is anything but wrong. Furthermore, Max is our primary marker of heroic masculinity, what the kids on the internet love to call “the Alpha,” and Max is the only character actively assaulted on screen. Fury Road takes all these tropes—oversexualized, infantilized, and sexually assaulted—and it says “these women are valid people.” “These women are real human beings.” Mad Max Fury Road offers verisimilitude to its female characters not in the service of myth, but rather as a remaking of it.

But any successes or failures of Mad Max Fury Road to burn down the patriarchy its streamlined plot so ably dismantles, pale in comparison to what it reveals about its viewers. Mad Max Fury Road is unapologetically, irrefutably, undeniably an action flick and action flicks are unapologetically, irrefutably, undeniably a guy genre. But Mad Max Fury Road—sweet, wonderful, disruptive Mad Max Fury Road is not for men. I don’t, necessarily, think it is specifically for women either. I think, rather, that it is for people and about people. It simply doesn’t hate women. And apparently not hating women is the same thing has hating men.

References: 

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About the Author: 

Jessica McCall is an Assistant Professor of English at Delaware Valley University. Her research focuses primarily on representations of gender and power and her other publications on popular culture include “What’s in a Kiss? Believable Femininity and Lois Lane in Richards’ Superman II” in On Being Lois Lane: Critical Essays on the Woman Behind Superman, edited by Nadine Farghaly, and “V for Vendetta: A Graphic Retelling of Macbeth” in the Popular Culture Review.

Issue 2, Volume 1

Features in this issue

Editorial: A Brief Recent History of the Mid-Atlantic Popular & American Culture Association (MAPACA) and its Digital Journal of Popular Culture Scholarship

Jordan McClain, Ph.D. and Colin Helb, Ph.D.
Drexel University and Elizabethtown College

Living Things (13:36, 2013)

Producer/Director: Jeremy Newman

IN REVIEW: The War Game Files

Kevin M. Flanagan, Ph.D.
University of Pittsburgh
From the Editors: June 2017

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