Really enjoyed this post from Freddie de Boer about his frustration with the common misinterpretation of Mad Max: Fury Road as “Furiosa replaces Max in a Mad Max movie”—a take that’s entirely false:
It’s important to understand that Furiosa doesn’t replace Max because the entire movie demonstrates the failure of dictatorship and the superiority of communal leadership. It’s not about men being erased in deference to women; it would be totally bizarre for a movie with that intent to place so much agency in its male characters. (Nux’s sacrifice saves the lives of the remaining characters, to pick an obvious example.) It’s about the superiority of democracy and shared governance and diversity over the the whims of an individual autocrat.
He then links this framework to how a “new masculinity”, embodied by Max, can be “unthreatened by the strengths and abilities of others” while joining with the ideal version of feminism:
Feminism is not about women replacing men in an equally stratified and undemocratic structure as the patriarchy that preceded it; that’s a parody of feminism. Feminism is about equality, diversity, communalism, and radical democracy. Indeed, the movie models consensus and communal deliberation for us. When they stop and discuss whether to continue on the salt flats or turn back for the Citadel, Max and Furiosa do most of the talking, but everyone weighs in and is heard. Furiosa doesn’t lead by fiat. She listens and becomes convinced, as do the rest, and they all make a plan together. Max isn’t erased; he’s a valued and essential part of the whole, just as white men will be in the new world of democracy and equality we are building.
In that group discussion on the salt flats—one of the few quiet moments of the movie—Max concludes his case to Furiosa thusly:
Look, it’ll be a hard day. But I guarantee you that 160 days riding that way, there’s nothing but salt. At least that way, we might be able to, together, come across some kind of redemption.
What a great metaphor! The path towards a better world is hard and painful, but retreating away from it is worse in the long run. “The obstacle is the way,” as Ryan Holiday would say.
Might be time for a Fury Road rewatch.