Mad Max: Fury Road – The Inverted New Order
Much furor has been raised over Imperator Furiosa, Charlize Theron’s “strong woman” figure in the latest Mad Max reboot: I expected some to retitle it Mad MaxiPad. Mad Max: Fury Road opened to a large box office success, and is undeniably a feat of technical and choreographic brilliance, setting a new standard for George Miller’s previous high-octane chase scene exuberance – this is George Miller on acid. While critics are lauding these (admittedly) spectacular feats of technical prowess, there are also deeper messages being conveyed that should be elucidated, especially the notions of the commodification and control of resources. Before investigating Fury Road, let’s consider the esoteric setting and context from the prequels.
Mad Max and The Road Warrior
Critics of the film’s feminist message have failed to recall that all the Mad Max installments include a “strong woman,” and in particular they function as commentaries on social structures and the very concept of “civilization” itself. In Miller’s first project, Max Rockatansky is a police officer in a near-distant post-collapse society where anarchic road gangs with occultic names like “Cundalini” terrorize the highways ritually enacting chaos and rape with religious ecstasy, led by the messianic madman, Toecutter. Even here, the “strong woman” is embodied in the trigger-happy granny, yet to no avail as Max loses all, including his sanity and faith in law and order.
In the 1981 sequel Road Warrior, nuclear war has enveloped the globe, leaving roving bands of BDSM maniacs to terrorize new attempts at rebuilding civilization on the ashes of the old. The dialectic of anarchic chaos versus the attempt at hierarchical order and social organization appears in all four films, but in the second the introduction of resource control becomes the focus. Energy is crucial from this point on, as the remnants of humanity battle for oil and gasoline. For Max, however, both civilization and the chaos of biker gangs and homoerotic road rage are unappealing, only interacting with the human sphere as need dictates.
Max’s own anarchism comes to the fore in the third installment, Beyond Thunderdome, where the series takes on a more philosophic and esoteric significance. The latest social order to rise from the chaos is Bartertown, the creation of a new Empress, Aunty (Tina Turner). Here, civilized order has taken on all the characteristics of the mistakes of the old world: economic gain is the locus of human energy, while Bartertown’s energy arises from pig shit – methane. Seeking a resolution to the energy embargos imposed by the ruler of the “Underworld,” Master Blaster, Aunty hires Max to assassinate Blaster in the gladiatorial Thunderdome. I commented previously on Beyond Thunderdome:
Aunty is the new elite class, a “nobody” who built a new world, towering above the peons of Bartertown. Aunty’s pragmatic realpolitik keeps the animal-like populace in line by providing food, sex, economic gain and entertainment. Underworld, however, is run by a retarded giant (Blaster) whose humonculous midget partner sits atop his back (Master). We have here the juxtaposition of baser bodily instincts embodied in Blaster, with reason, science and technology embodied in Master, the mastermind of Bartertown’s energy policy. Together they form a unit and represent technological power, which has survived the apocalypse. Aunty represents feminine machinations and scheming, wherein civilization is actually portrayed as a domesticating institution (contrary to many images of “civilization” wherein it is presented as a patriarchal, masculine logos structure).
Thus, immediately after the apocalypse, men fall back into their same tendencies of creating competing power structures of exploitation. This will be important because Thunderdome will present a cyclical view of history…Worth noting here is the emcee for the Thunderdome and the deadly game show: He is a Freemason