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Culture/Reviews > Movies
Movie reviews from Proletarian Internationalist Notes—news, reviews and analysis from a global perspective
Anonymous heroes, and pregnancy in a post-information age: “Mad Max: Fury Road” and political and reproductive possibilities
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
Dir. George Miller
Starring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron
Warner Bros. Pictures and Roadshow Films
R, 120 minutes, 2015
Reviewed April 2016
This is a visually and acoustically impressive post-apocalyptic movie with the awards recognition, rave reviews, wide appeal, intellectual interest, strong female characters who aren’t primarily love interests, and themes of individual versus social/collective effort and liberation. It reminded me of the first “Matrix” movie (1999) also in the sense that many different people (Christians, Marxists, non-Marxist feminists, post-modernists, white nationalists or fascists) will find something to like about the movie or see their own ideas in it. If the movie is received in certain ways, it could be a bad film politically. This reviewer’s inclination was to be very critical of a movie so popular in the bourgeois and pseudo-feminist First World, but I can’t help wanting to claim this movie for the oppressed.
“What’s your name? What do I call you?” “Does it matter?” The “man with no name” is back at it again. The idea of an anonymous unknown helper who can suddenly appear in a struggle, make an important, tangible contribution other than talking and leading a large number of people as a public figure (Max doesn’t say much and may be perceived as inarticulate or slow), be found useful regardless of background, keep eir name a secret (tells it to an unconscious would-be hearer only), say things that often stand on their own or are quickly proved, not need to be prodded or coddled for months or years, prove eir worth through demonstrated thought and action without knowing observers’ intentions, unite with others out of necessity without considering emself to belong to an oppressed group, and then vanish into the crowd without being celebrated so as to not get in the way of progress, is precisely the model needed for anti-imperialists in the West and is relevant to groups, not just individuals. The West has a huge narcissism problem, which causes security errors even among non-communists and combined with other things leads to building things around individuals who then need to be defended and idolized in ways that end up adversely affecting others in their learning and struggle and hurting activism. In addition, in First World countries (which are each generally rich and socially privileged globally), there are many notions of “privilege” and guilt, or false ideas about unity, that lead to perpetuating militarism and imperialism. This makes “Fury Road’s” depiction of unity through proof of action and necessity attractive. Labeled “O-negative, high-octane,” Max (Tom Hardy) seems oppressed because of eir blood type and potency, but ey is haunted by guilt, and without knowing anything about Max’s past main character Furiosa (Charlize Theron), the escaping wives and the motorcycle mothers initially treat Max as an enemy or view em suspiciously. Circumstances of individuals cause Furiosa to distrust Max for various reasons at first, and both worry about their own survival and life before cooperating and then taking huge risks to liberate a whole population or start a new society.
Individual survival doesn’t drive anti-imperialism or anti-Amerikanism in the First World for the most part, and benefits of imperialism and patriarchy for oppressors influence the whole First World population including white females who are like the white males. Females in the First World are generally privileged economically and socially in the global systems of imperialism and patriarchy. Also, there is too often a rush to “do something” without doing patient studying, investigation, planning and building that may be necessary. Regardless, the “Fury Road” idea of needing to leave behind people (who can come back) if they don’t quickly demonstrate unity in a palpable way is metaphorically useful at various levels. Quickly acting on instinct, habit, and feeling, Max doesn’t sound intellectual in eir speaking with other characters, but then nobody in the movie does. Ey is a persyn of few words who allows others to utter what ey might have said, tends to say the truth or nothing at all, and allows others to reach conclusions on their own. The occasional dullness or whatever some may perceive accentuates that Max’s persynality doesn’t matter as much as what ey does.
Anybody who waited to hear Max’s story (which ey tells to the viewer vaguely, but not to any character) before Max acted could have ended up dead. With a few exceptions involving leadership on certain tortuous paths and countries with semi-feudalism, unity and work don’t require ever knowing about somebody’s biography or building a public reputation. “Mad Max: Fury Road” illustrates this again and again. “Fury Road” is arguably a sci-fi movie, but computers and networks don’t appear in it and that is notable in this day and age. The most advanced piece of technology in “Fury Road” movie may be Furiosa’s prosthetic arm or an electrical sound system, which water king/cult leader Immortan Joe’s army somehow has but not radios. Anyone who watches “Fury Road” and still thinks doing something useful requires taking credit for it on the Internet, and that such information results in progress, may be laboring under a delusion. Many mistakenly think people with a known biography who say some of the right words are more worthy of some nebulous unity than anonymous people who make a significant contribution in a specific struggle.
Some of this is so obvious as to not be worth mentioning except that what makes a series character like Max Rockatansky different from somebody like Batman is worth talking about. (Batman has a persistent identity despite having some anonymity.) It is worth discussing in the context of technology few used when the last “Mad Max” movie came out (1985). Max is iconic for other reasons, which make em less useful for discussion as a potential political model in a movie, but those who watched “Beyond Thunderdome” thirty years ago may be able to see there has been continuity over the years. Aspects of the character do not cease to be relevant just because many people find it difficult to imagine life before, or separate from, various technologies and spaces and have a hard time imagining how things can work without publicity and can benefit from anonymity whether those spaces and technologies lend themselves to anonymity or not.
It is in mentioned in “Fury Road” there are still satellites in the sky, a relic of the past. “They used to bounce messages across the earth.” It will take the removal of Internet access or the deterioration of networks for some Westerners (still newly enamored with using the Internet for politics) to realize something so obvious: that not everything worth doing politically has to show up on apps, blogs, social media, etc., or in connection to a widely known identity.
People have to see Max’s face because of the particular struggles ey chooses to be in or finds emself in, but Max is as anonymous as ey can be.
“Fury Road” has a concept of needing others to “witness” one’s heroism for the purpose of persynal salvation. Obviously, viewers of the movie in a sense witness all of the characters’ actions whether they want others to observe or not, but think about this. Only the “War Boys” from the Citadel talk about “witness,” and it could just be one individual or one’s “blood bag” (involuntary blood donor) who does the witnessing, nobody else. The last call for another to witness is ironic given that the known path to “Valhalla” has been exposed as a lie that Immortan Joe uses to get soldiers to obey em. The desire for another to observe or know of one’s action could be because one doesn’t believe any god (or spy) is watching, or due to a religious notion of individual salvation.
A different character prays reflexively. To whom are you praying, another Wife asks incredulously. Anyone who’s listening. Ey observes the praying, but the prayer is not for em. One theme in the movie is “hope.” Various characters have some hope of a kind, but one shouldn’t rely too much on hope, and “hope is a mistake.” Preferable to hope (for some elusive ready-made environmental and social oasis, or a chance to try to build something new elsewhere) is trying to fix what’s broken, Max suggests.
“Fury Road” doesn’t reject leadership in general and suggests difficult action without identity and observation. The ending of the movie unfortunately involves a deception involving Citadel trust for Furiosa, but what Furiosa had to do to free Immortan Joe’s wives from the Citadel in the first place (after obviously having served Joe for so long) is simply not shown or discussed. That may actually be a good thing. Action doesn’t have to be seen, and by the time Furiosa is being chased by the war parties through the desert various issues of trust or reliability have become moot or resolved to some extent. What “Fury Road” does show is Furiosa acting with others, and neither Furiosa nor Max stands out as the most important savior particularly after the Many Mothers appear. (Realistically, not everyone survives or dies gracefully, including characters viewers might think have interesting backstories and hope will live.)
From Furiosa’s viewpoint, Max could be anybody, a serial killer even. Anyone who has survived into their late thirties, in this fictional world that really doesn’t have enough for everyone to eat, could be a murderer in a way if they aren’t part of a self-sufficient community. “Thought somehow you girls were above that.” The Many Mothers are unsentimental about doing what they have to do, including using female nudity to deceive stupid males and females. (Max is aware of such traps and shows no interest in sex throughout the movie, which might make em seem crazier to some viewers. It could just be that “shell of a man” Max is “broken” as a “man” sexually as some would imagine, that there isn’t time for love, or that sex is too obviously related to exploitation, survival or violence in this world. Whether there is desire or not, there seems to be little interest in having sex in this post-apocalyptic world.) Even if Max were an impenitent persyn with a bad history relative to others, Max has evidently helped bring the next generation of females to the Many Mothers generally intact with the exception of an injured leg.
Furiosa was taken when ey was young and is escaping emself so Furiosa’s own initial motivation isn’t actually clear. Conceivably ey could have been using the Wives to ensure eir own survival. Joe doesn’t want to damage what a Wife calls the “goods.” The bean-counter doesn’t want to damage the “assets.” After Furiosa goes beyond a certain point with the Wives, though, it doesn’t matter. Furiosa actually could be motivated by eir own survival to the very end of the movie, but the result is the same. Similarly, a belief that Max is seeking retaliation turns out to be false though it doesn’t matter because Max still would have come back with the much-needed items.
Max does ask Furiosa about what eir story is, and Furiosa tells some of it, but the purpose could just be to make Furiosa’s pain later, upon discovering something, more clear to the viewer.
If this reviewer remembers correctly, one of the Wives has a music box that may be the one Max gave the feral child in the second “Mad Max” movie, “The Road Warrior.” This reviewer’s memory could be wrong, but if Max doesn’t give the music box to the Wife what the music box could symbolize is Max’s anonymous influence or the effect of eir anonymous actions across the years. The Wife would have the music box and not know it belonged to the persyn beside em. Max’s actions in the previous “Mad Max” movies became legendary, but nobody recognizes em in “Fury Road.” Ey is just a “smeg.” The reappearance of the same music box would also mean the feral child’s society ended up in a bad way and that, realistically, Max didn’t save the world and keeps needing to play a role in new developments.
Max continues eir individualist or loner streak in this installment of the series, but after initially contenting emself with advising others what to do and watching them not do it, ey turns back and races toward danger to improve society where a large number of people already are. If Max is still trying to save emself, it is connection with other people. Eir guilt is about not having done enough to help others survive when ey could have made a difference more than others could, not stuff like putting a glass bottle in the paper recycling bin.
“Fury Road” has obvious Christian themes with visions, spiritual whisperings, apparent miracles, and language such as “redemption,” running from both the “living and the dead” in the “wasteland.” Nothing against Mormonism in particular, but “Fury Road” is an Amerikan (and Australian) movie outwardly about survival and rebuilding society and features a character who is a religious figure with multiple wives. Mormonism comes to mind though the mainstream Mormon church hasn’t had polygamy for decades. Like Christianity or monotheism more generally, Mormonism has a concept of a transient or unthanked anonymous helper that the average First World activist doesn’t seem to have apart from maybe making death threats and trolling on the Internet etc., because of bourgeois influence. The difference is that Mormonism doesn’t claim to be other than bourgeois and has been openly counterrevolutionary.
In reality, it is not one or even a dozen or so individuals who can appear dramatically to restore society. The vast majority of people in and around the citadels of imperialism and Amerika in particular are enemies of the oppressed. Thankfully, “Fury Road” has more environmental content and less of a theme of achieving economic equality. Projects for economic equality in the First World are generally bound up with international exploitation, war, and repressing migrants. Narration at the beginning of “Fury Road” relates there was a war for gasoline, water war, and thermonuclear war. Various conflicts under imperialism are about resources regardless of how they may have been presented. In the real world, there is and will be enough water for everyone contrary to some overpopulation ideas, but economic water scarcity particularly affects people in the Third World. This condition is produced and perpetuated by imperialism, which has resulted in whole populations in the First World becoming bourgeois.
Amerikans follow their leaders into wars they rarely fight in themselves (but benefit from), but when Amerikans become more ideological and more active politically, they generally become even more useless to the oppressed or reactionary. Even a certain approach to charity, which one might think of Max as doing, could be f*cked up if it results in benefiting u$ imperialism in international spying. There are many paths to fascism or war, or imperialist exploitation and repression as usual, including “socialist” and “communist” ones and others that claim to seek systemic or societal transformation while denying the majority of the average First World persyn’s privilege. It is mainly for this reason that “Fury Road,” which seems to exhort Amerikans to action allegorically, is probably bad overall in the First World context all things considered.
“Fury Road” seemingly depicts a world that has been flattened economically by disaster, but actually it doesn’t show people in the Third World. Even if long-distance trade, electricity delivery etc. stopped, there would still be a concentration of infrastructure and technology in the First World. As for how the world could arrive at such a disaster, it could involve that too few people understood that First World workers’ use of technology didn’t produce the wealth of the First World, didn’t understand that First World nations were nations of exploiters. If people don’t understand the exploitive basis of First World wealth now when it is so clear with a little research or investigation and math, they won’t understand it later. Joe’s cult has a couple things that it extracts and barters with, which makes it better than a bandit outfit one might suppose, but even if one were to do something other than “living off the corpse of the old world” (“Mad Max 2”) and scarfing down old cans of dog food, building an economy on top of scavenged equipment or surviving infrastructure—which may be unavoidable to some extent—could lead to restoring capitalism and unequal exchange. It could be argued such a regeneration would be inevitable following a global disaster, necessitating a repeat of struggles against imperialism, so avoiding such a disaster will be a priority.
The Mothers and fleeing wives in “Fury Road” are mostly white, but physically diverse. Their enemies are mostly demonic white males who also speak English, no more punk hair and assless leather clothing. There is something particularly Amerikan and Democratic Party, or Australian, about this with false suggestions of white and non-white female unity against males in Amerika or Australia (Amerikan and Australian females and males are both generally class, gender and nation oppressors), but the movie could have been more racist had the enemy been non-whites. The “Mad Max” story was originally set in Australia, but most Amerikan viewers wouldn’t know that from watching “Fury Road” alone.
Survival or reproduction?
The theme of “Fury Road” is supposedly survival. This reviewer would say a central theme is reproduction, another important concept in the context of biology and humyn society. At the Citadel, females are used as lactators for adult consumption, or “breeders,” if they are used at all. An exception is Furiosa, who is curiously a soldier and like the War Boys with war paint. There is some physical contact, but nobody has sex in the movie. For all of their masculinity, the War Boys don’t seem to have sex with anyone or make sexual comments except maybe “bring home the booty,” and Furiosa doesn’t either. There appears to be inbreeding with a concentration of congenital conditions and probably a few males in Immortan Joe’s family impregnating some number of females. What’s going on reproductively with all of the females and males desperate for water outside the castle is unclear. Joe’s “prize breeders” seem to be rare in terms of health and development. They can produce “healthy babies,” a seeming rarity. The babies were to be “warlords.”
There is pregnancy and the Wives have a sexual appearance in other ways, but there is no sex in the whole movie or anti-gay content like in previous “Mad Max” movies. Previous “Mad Max” movie had overtones reminiscent of science fiction featuring homosexuality as an oppressive feature of post-apocalyptic or antinatalist society.
“Fury Road” will be interesting to various people calling themselves feminist, but the movie reminded this reviewer of several feminist and non-feminist sci-fi stories in that “Fury Road” raises the idea of a female-only society with a slight suggestion of lesbianism reminiscent of some sixties and seventies thinking. In science fiction, the population comes or is replenished from a mixed society or through aliens, use of males forced or incentivized to provide sperm, parthenogenesis, artificial uteruses, cloning, or some other technology.
“Fury Road” is a fiction movie and doesn’t dwell on the society of the Many Mothers. The surviving Many Mothers are the remnants of a seed-planting society that remains undescribed or barely described (Furiosa had an “initiate mother,” is a “daughter” of a different female, and had a “clan”). The society fell or the population diminished when its water became “poisoned” and “sour.” However, since in reality females in the First World generally no longer need males for anything individually except certain lifestyles or children (which they don’t need as people historically and in other countries have needed them), the reader should consider the terms on which females engage with males. For what reasons do females, in a sense, leave the place of females metaphorically to interact with males, and what do they do? And how does this interaction, which privileged females benefit from or support together with the males, result in violence and trauma for some females, and abuse and sexual assault victims who go back to the perpetrators? Platitudes about individual male responsibility are useful in some contexts, but in other contexts reinforce a system in which sexual desire and relationships are currently based on, and entangled with, power in far-reaching and often difficult-to-discern ways.
This reviewer will just raise these questions for the most part here and leave the reader to think about them. However, at the time of this writing the Catholic Church has just appeared in the news as supposedly opposing celibacy or minimal desire as an ideal and saying sexual desire—which is highly variable, has a social basis, and exhibits trends and differences cross-culturally—is here to stay and should be connected to sexual pleasure, which should be welcomed as a “gift” from God. (There seem to be few details on exactly what is acceptable sexually for welcoming “intense enjoyment.” The effect on many Catholics who don’t read more than a few pages of the post-Synodal document, which emphasizes “individual conscience,” may be to validate common Western sexual thinking in various areas.) This is interesting as a universal teaching that millions may apply even after a disaster less serious than what happens to Earth in the “Mad Max” backstory. Condoms and modern contraceptives may be very hard to get, and there may be greater disease and infertility risks. In some cases following a disaster, people will want to have fewer children, but will have unwanted pregnancies (sex while stuck in a dark place and so forth). The obscurantist exhortation on love says sexuality or sexual desire is God-created, necessary, and shouldn’t be “looked down upon,” but needs to be “cultivated,” “directed” and “trained” and is “an impersonal language wherein the other is taken seriously.”(1) “As a passion sublimated by a love respectful of the dignity of the other, [the erotic dimension of love] becomes a ‘pure, unadulterated affirmation’ revealing the marvels of which the human heart is capable. In this way, even momentarily, we can feel that ‘life has turned out good and happy’.” As if there were no other way for people to endure in situations of poverty and decay, for example.
Historically, sex tolerated for reproduction in Catholicism has been both conjugal and coitus-centered. As even some of the better pseudo-feminists in the West have noted, a coitus-centered, pleasure-oriented attitude toward sex can lead to the spread of disease and infertility even in the married, particularly among the poor and colonized people, and to unwanted sex for females. That is in addition to general concerns about pleasure masking or being bound up with power and domination at this time, which it is even if both females and males in the First World are privileged with respect to this and greatly enjoy sex. “Mad Max: Fury Road” doesn’t depict any enjoyment of sex by anyone despite having beautiful females (apparently too small and thin to be enslaved as milk-providers in this fiction movie where the actual facts about breast milk production are less relevant), but the movie does depict unwanted or coerced pregnancies. The idea that sex should be for pleasure—not for money or food, for example, to please one’s husband, or primarily for children—can contribute to less prostitution, less slavery, and fewer unwanted pregnancies, in some contexts. Yet, the idea that sex can be pleasurable, should be for pleasure, and that sexual pleasure is needed to be healthy or normal, can result in more of those things as well inside and outside formal structures.
Promoting sex on a pleasure basis is a way to continue having the humyn species around if that is one’s goal, not just eliminating oppression. It is a way to perpetuate the species’ existence without religious, nationalist, fecundist or government pronatalism or requiring females to consciously make calculations about trading pregnancy and childbirth for money, or for food, water, etc. The key word there is “consciously” because, even with sex that is promoted and experienced as pleasurable or in combination with “choice” to have potentially pleasureless sex for reproduction only, such calculations may still be made. Much discussion of females’ “sexual power,” through which males can “express” themselves or obtain needed pleasure, masks—or embraces—a set of transactions that don’t necessarily involve equal sexual desire and pleasure of females and males. One could argue that exchanges and contracts, if they exist, should be formalized so the agreement and terms—if not also desire and wishes—are clear. Any change or unfairness would be easier to see. It is the oppressor who has the most to gain from not putting things in writing or spelling out what the relationship is. “Fury Road” has “towns” or settlements (a farm, a place) with specialties. These places can send signals to each other and make trade arrangements. If there were a female town or land and a male land where only people crossed the desert, to have sex just outside the other town (and not in a brothel), and nothing was exported except any male babies to the male land, it would be crystal clear to everyone what the situation was. Much sex involving some type of prostitution or power, or an exchange of undesired or unpleasurable sex for another leisure-time activity, would be gone. There may be no such towns, lands or islands in reality, but some of the principles involved in that hypothetical world actually exist in the real world. They are just hidden in a mess of individual relationships with varying levels of formality and enforcement.
It is critical to understand that with abortion, various contraceptives, sex education, absence of interest in having children (for various reasons) at the population replacement level, increased ability of First World females to be independent financially, and today’s reproductive technology including in-vitro fertilization, some of the issues one might have considered to be science fiction only, forty or fifty years ago, are very real now. If more females want fewer children and can avoid having them while having sex for pleasure, females need males less economically, the fertility rate is already at or below replacement level in numerous imperialist countries, and females can just find some sperm donor on the Internet when they do want to be pregnant, questions arise about how to ensure reproduction. “Fury Road” suggests keeping females as property with their vaginas literally under lock and key inside a vault, with a surrounding religious edifice. If such a thing is necessary, perhaps the humyn species does not need to exist, but there are alternatives that involve power or ideology in less obvious ways that many would prefer without making the relationships and terms involved transparent. One possibility, appearing in the West, is to encourage females to have a lot of sex for pleasure with multiple males (and vice versa) so there are a lot of pregnancies, including some unwanted ones carried to term because of religious or parental edict or spousal/boyfriend pressure.
Sub-replacement fertility together with males’ lack of a uterus may be enough to make some males “mad” (contrary to Westerners’ highly selective acceptance and rejection of Freudian thinking). Males would just be along for a ride with no power individually (not even physical power) to avert what seems like a demographic disaster. Some might compensate with exaggerated masculinity that ends up being used more for war, bullying, and harassment, than for production. Most amusing are male white-collar office workers clinging to some physical manhood that females don’t really need except to experience pleasure and the erotic through the display and exercise of power. As a group, males seem good for nothing really even though they aren’t destined genetically to f*ck things up. Insistence that each sex still has something unique to offer in today’s world is religious in origin or pro- (heterosexual) sex or natalist ideology. Even though most females have uteruses and most males have semen to offer, in contexts of sub-replacement fertility without net migration one has admit there is no point if the population will eventually disappear anyway. Simply mentioning this is enough to irritate a few males (or females clinging to some notion of feminine or sexual power involving reproduction, as opposed to males’ supposed continuing “physical power” in the modern world), some of whom might respond with the usual Western male-friendly pseudo-feminist rhetoric and poetry about love, sex, and beauty, and banalities about average physique differences. But it is necessary to note in order to have clarification about modern female and male relations.
In a matter of decades in the non-movie world, with technological advances it will be possible to have a female-only city that sustains its population size without immigration or a single sperm or DNA from a male. But actually, such a thing is possible even now, without dispensing with males entirely, with sperm donations from a few exceptionally healthy males. Through some arrangement, a different stud can just show up every few years to impregnate females or donate sperm. Pregnancies with a male embryo don’t have to be carried to term, or they can be precluded through sex selection using technology that is available currently. Female group reproduction with very minimal male involvement is possible, but it doesn’t exist except maybe in lesbian, celibate or infertile forms integrated with the rest of mixed (female and male) society, or through multiple heterosexual females having sex with the hottest male on Tinder without contraception and abortion. It doesn’t exist partly because everyone from openly patriarchal hardcore Christians causing unwanted pregnancy to liberal “sex-positive” pro-intercourse people (causing unwanted pregnancy in a different way) both oppose giving females as a group more control over pregnancy in relation to sex. (See what Francis’ “Joy of Love” says about technology on page 45.) Among these are females themselves. The specific “science fiction” possibility is not as important as the fact that various real alternative arrangements are possible though rejected because of ideology or privilege. First World females may or may not be in a unique position to ask themselves why it is, with no real revolutionary struggle to unite with males in (from their own viewpoint) except maybe a fascist one, they don’t do more to separate themselves from males, particularly in sex, when they can. Why don’t they limit contact with males they have so many issues with instead of engaging in various kinds of prostitution or investing in some false notion of general sex equality in sexual desire and pleasure. At this time, it would be a good thing for opposing militarism and war if First World people were more supportive of family forms and culture common in the Third World, Muslim countries in particular, but they aren’t. They oppose, or want less, certain things such as marriage or early marriage, but seek other interactions that are supposedly enjoyable for females, but sometimes not or often more enjoyable for males.
“Fury Road” doesn’t have an attractive female enemy like the previous “Mad Max” movie does, and it portrays the most beautiful females as victims of patriarchy. The greatest enemies are hideous males only. “Mad Max 3” was misogynistic among other things, but there seems to be no female enemy at all in “Fury Road” apart from high-ranking soldier Furiosa who was emself kidnapped and runs away with the Wives, who seemingly are so oppressed because of eir beauty and health they have more reason to flee than anyone else. This is misleading in reality with modern patriarchy. Attractive and able-bodied people who are privileged with respect to the state and the economy are able to use their looks and able-bodiedness to their advantage. The idea that unattractive females have it better than the attractive isn’t true generally. “He gave us the high life,” a Wife argues as ey tries to go back to Joe. “What’s wrong with that?” (The Wives help themselves at several points in the movie, but serve as a contrast to Furiosa, and they struggle with what they are doing mentally.) Amerikan female adults generally do live “the high life” in international comparison and do exchange sex and sexuality for various things, but they do so as people highly privileged in a global patriarchy. They support it largely as it is. They aren’t complicit in their own oppression—for the reason they are themselves oppressors as Amerikan male adults are oppressors (experiencing abuse, assault and intimate partner violence, in their more egregious forms, to a lesser extent as adults) despite sometimes experiencing some violent and distressing effects of the structures and cultures they themselves support. Real forced pregnancy of various kinds belongs to a system that First World males and First World females support despite the occurrence of things in gender analogous to unemployment, theft, false advertising, financial crimes, and low wages for females and males in the Third World. “Fury Road” in the context of the real world suggests supermodel-beautiful females leaving a situation of less privilege for “liberation” after which they will be oppressors of children, other females, people in other countries. One has to wonder if Furiosa would have still left the lactators behind if ey could have fit in rig. Is the idea that the lactators in “Fury Road” are just too overweight to leave through their own fault?
Reproductive futures and reproductive-sexual dynamics aside, “Fury Road” suggests a reconceptualization of asexuality, celibacy, and lesbianism, in the context of political work. In the past, withdrawing from sexuality involving males was viewed as a way to have fewer distractions, fewer family commitments, and more time for study and politics. (It was also viewed as a way to change oneself internally, a therapeutic or ideological goal that is less relevant here because there is no indication in “Fury Road” that a change in sexual behavior led to anyone thinking or acting a certain way.) Concepts of sexuality and politics became distorted so that sexuality itself (whether it was part of a larger practice or not) became political, or sexual liberation an end in itself. In some cases, a female who isn’t a traditional heterosexual could do almost anything and be defended and celebrated for doing so while males are oddly expected to do more political work or fighting if their own sexual and other leisure-time behavior isn’t viewed as psychologically necessary. This is common in contexts where there is too much emphasis on identity, language and lifestyle, or an appearance of defiance, and not enough on concrete action effective from a larger perspective. Or if f*cking a male for pleasure and liking it is normal and political, and is just healthy sexual “self-expression” for males who have always liked it, it may end up being left up to males to do more actual political work. While it contains no indication of heterosexual contact beyond a caress, a peck or a muted gaze and in other ways sexuality is present only by its absence, “Fury Road” represents a return to an idea that asexuality, celibacy and lesbianism aren’t enough; one must be willing to take a bullet or engage in extraordinarily stressful or difficult heavy-lifting and uphill struggle. Be “crazy.” It’s not just about your distress, your feelings, your pain, your trauma. Not having sex with a male doesn’t change society though participating in a high level of struggle may at times require that one (female or male) does not.
Too bad that when most Amerikans of any sex are politically energetic, the result is anything but progressive. It is appropriate the Many Mothers are so old. Even the best forms of political lesbianism have been useless, or worse, in Amerika for the most part because of the class and social situation in the united $nakes. The same goes for Australia. Lesbian separatists who were born in the 1920s or 1930s saw more possibilities in their young adulthood, but times have changed. My reaction to the Many Mothers a.k.a. “the Vuvalini” (with mothers and then “initiate mothers”) was not so much “hell yes” as it was nostalgic—nostalgia for a movement that never had a chance in the West. Instead of somehow building a non-patriarchal bubble in patriarchal society (as impossible as making a non-capitalist bubble in imperialism) or making revolution instead of babies etc., most First World females who stopped having sex with males still remained, or ended up being, reactionary oppressors like other First World females and the males. They ended up invading Arab or Muslim countries, justifying their country’s or Amerika’s involvement there in one way or another, or supporting the imperialist state in its other roles. This did that because of the lack of radical feminist movement in the First World, which became a reason to externalize (pseudo-) feminism instead of acting in ways appropriate to living with only oppressors or privileged people around them.
So-called Amazon feminism, evoked by the deadly Vuvalini, also ended up being appropriated by oppressors, and by people who think females would be good at shooting or assassinating people in the Third World accused of gender slavery, such as Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi. While celebrating female power used to serve imperialism, Westerners alleged Muammar Qadhafi’s female protectors and others were sex slaves. Instead of contemplating asexual or celibate female-only units in a context that is actually progressive or thinking of Qadhafi’s “Amazonian Guard” positively, First World viewers will tend to watch “Fury Road” and think females should have careers in repression. Alternatively, the movie functions as pornography of females as warriors or as physically powerful, similar to pornography of males as warriors when in reality most males will never carry a gun or need to be in fighting shape as part of any job. ◊
“Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) movie script.” http://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/movie_script.php?movie=mad-max-fury-road
1. https://w2.vatican.va/content/dam/francesco/pdf/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20160319_amoris-laetitia_en.pdf The Catholic Church still opposes contraceptive use and even masturbation. It could be argued the Catholic Church still opposes non-reproductive sex and just wants there to be less of a hang-up about reproductive sex that could be experienced as pleasurable. Yet, use of the pull-out method means sex for pleasure is still happening and resulting in unwanted pregnancies, and the Catholic Church for decades has openly supported non-reproductive sex in marriages with an infertile or post-menopausal spouse and does so in the “Joy of Love” document.