Sunday, May 24, 2015

To the Max

(Contains mild spoilers for the Mad Max movie.  Not that spoilers matter at all for enjoyment of the movie, but there you have it.)

A couple of people reported to me that there was a kerfuffle surrounding the new Mad Max movie.  Apparently Men's Rights Activists (MRAs) got all kinds of angry about the movie and tried to organize a boycott of the movie on the basis that it had overt feminist themes and a strong female lead, or somesuch.  The internet initially bore out those accusations as there were tons of articles out there yelling about how terrible MRAs are and how this boycott is disgusting.

The trick is that this story has not been perfectly reported.  First off, the person calling for the boycott is Roosh, the guy behind Return of Kings, in this post in particular. Roosh isn't an MRA - he specifically notes that he isn't an MRA and thinks they are a bunch of victims.  He even spent a bunch of time on twitter telling people he isn't an MRA, and the MRAs spent a bunch of time telling people that they aren't the ones calling for a boycott.

Roosh is a bigoted, homophobic, sexist, mysogynist asshole.  I still think it is useful to get the terms right though, as although there is definite crossover between PUAs, MRAs, and straight up male supremacists like Roosh it makes a lot of sense to know who exactly we are talking about.  This is especially true when it is really just this one guy the whole blowup is based on.

At any rate, I wanted to know what exactly it was that got a male supremacist all up in arms so on Friday night I went to see the movie.  Did the characters in Mad Max go on feminist rants, shouting "Down with patriarchy!" as they crushed men underneath their spiked boots?  Nope.  From that perspective Mad Max isn't a feminist film at all.  It portrays a post apocalyptic society where a few men rule over everyone with brutal tyranny.  They keep women as milk machines and as breeding vessels, but they also keep the men as raw slaves as well as cannon fodder for war.  The protagonists fight against these evil tyrants with a big part of the plot being the rescue of some of the women kept for breeding purposes.  The main duo who star in the film are Max, a man, and Furiosa, a woman.  Both of them drive, fight, stab people, blow stuff up, wrestle, and are generally badass in every way.  Neither is portrayed as the main hero though - they work together each bringing their own particular skills to the table.

So by the standard of chanting feminist slogans and crushing all men Mad Max was not a feminist film.  It just showed a terrible society run by a few awful men and the fight against that situation, while making it clear that both men and women could contribute to that cause.

Really though that makes it a shining example of feminism to me.  Furiosa even had a significant physical disability and while it sometimes made things hard for her it didn't stop her going out there and making it happen, at all.  You don't get to see women with disabilities being big damn heroes in action films... ever, really, and so that is fantastic.  The film didn't make it all about men being evil though, nor about how women are great, but just had people doing stuff and made it clear that their sex had no bearing on their capabilities.  As if they lived in a world where talent and capability were the defining factors rather than being male or female.  That is, after all, the feminist ideal.  The goal is equality, not female supremacy, and every feminist I know of looks forward to the day when yelling about feminism is no longer necessary.  (Theoretical, at best, but it would be nice!)

So Mad Max isn't a film that is ramming feminism down anyone's throat.  It is just a film that gives women the chance to have agency, do important things, and be marquee heroes just as much as the men.  As such I give it an enthusiastic thumbs up, as it is the sort of thing I want to see more of in future.

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