I did love the movie, it’s left many coming out of the theatre feeling powerful, bubbling with joyful exclamations of all the things we felt the film represented and attacked, overtly and subtly. There have been many praising the movie’s glaring take on where our values are taking us as a society, and of the refreshing, and strong representation of females in action movies and, movies in general.
So, as a vegan and animal-human rights advocate with a passion for ethical consumption (in a society where ethical consumption is either ‘radical’ or a ‘white privilege trend’) what else did Mad Max: Fury Road leave me thinking about?
Animal absence – what does this mean for human value?
There are next to no animals in this movie except some ominous crows. And this raised questions in me -why are there no animals shown? Has the world – or future Australia – tumbled into such disarray that humans feasted upon animals so greedily and unsustainably that now there are only other humans to use and consume?
Is this an image of a ‘twisted future dystopian’ horror, something that awaits us if we carry on in the way we are. Or, is it actually an unsubtle representation of a world we already inhabit?
In our current society…
Animals are things.
We remove ourselves from animal suffering by disassociating ourselves from their pain. we disassociate the violence (if slaughterhouses had glass walls) or, in close encounters (hunting) we remove ourselves emotionally because animals are not the same as us – “we’re different, we feel things differently. Humans possess rationality.”
Therefore animals cease to be us, animals become them. Their suffering becomes abstract and unreal against our need for carrying on habit and shopping comfortably. Animals sit in our ovens, animal heads adorn our walls, and animal skins are twisted into shapes in order for them to carry our animal-tested lipsticks. Animals are very clearly things for us.
People who are the ‘other’, and those in far-away lands are already things.
We remove the violence that is not on our doorsteps. It is far. It is not our problem, or responsibility. We remove ourselves from those who do not look like us, do not act like us – because they are different, by choice or by nature. Again, people are not us, they become them. These people become disposable. Murder in war is rationalized by the media and as a justification for our own safety.
Or, those who are suffering on our doorstep – the homeless finding spikes placed in the drier spots they used to sleep – we find any rationale to associate ourselves with them. People are things.
In our modern world, animals are definitely seen as things, products to consume, literally, to the point that we gnaw upon the unnaturally cooked flesh of an animal that was bred and tortured to be slaughtered.
People are already seen as things, factory workers sewing help messages into big brand clothing labels as suicide nets are put up as an answer to a despicable problem, whole communities are starved out, poisoned and murdered for land. Genocide swept under the rug in the name of patriotism.
Already, we witness a basic lack of empathy and sense of responsibility for suffering within ourselves, our caring friends, and loving families.
Mad Max: human skulls are used for decoration, human blood and milk are extracted from the unwilling to fuel the wants of the few. Milk taken from nursing mothers, and blood from captives literally keep Immortan Joe’s cannon fodder able to fight.
Today, in England, the US, almost everywhere: Milk is forcibly taken from mothers who are constantly impregnated, as their calves, their babies, are sold as veal, just for profit, as they’re not actually allowed to tell you dairy is good for you anymore, because it’s not.
So, I ask you, what is the difference between the microcosm society that horrifies us so in Mad Max, and the lives we live right now?
The golden three, controllers of life, industry and death.
Here we have our Warlord, Immortan Joe, controller of water, and his two cohorts, controllers of oil ‘guzzoline’, and firearms. Are these not presenting the main controlling powers of corrupt governments?
Immediately we are shown Immorrtan Joe’s diseased body, riddled with corruption, badly hidden under a shiny plastic armor – a false veneer of strength.
An old, weak, man.
What is his actual power? Control. He controls the water. Therefore he controls the masses who are kicked off of the raising platform as they attempt to get off of the ground. But what stops him being overthrown?
And we, an audience in the movie theatre, can see this very clearly, very clearly indeed. So what stops us from seeing it in our own society when water is being shut off in poverty stricken neighbourhoods who are in debt, but not for the gushing water fountains in front of comfortable corporations that are in millions of dollars of debt.
The control of oil and water isn’t even a ‘futuristic, dystopian’ thing, it’s a thing that is happening right now but instead of shiny plastic armor and dilapidated mountain ‘communities’ its men in suits and Bentleys.
Hey everybody, global warming is real and it’s really frikkin’ scary
What absolutely beautiful imagery we see in this movie. Now, this may have been just for awe inspiring cinematography reasons to leave viewers entranced in between and throughout action sequences. But, to me, it spoke to me on an entirely different level:
The world is extraordinarily beautiful. As we come ever closer to our dystopian future with mass extinctions, we are changing the world, it’s weather patterns and natural beauty. But… If all humans eventually die, eventually succumb to their own idiocy, then guess what? The earth won’t lose its beauty.
Saying this, don’t think that means we shouldn’t protect the earth’s natural beauty as much as we can.
Mad Max does not begin as our knight in shining armour
He doesn’t start off as the ‘woman rescuing good guy’. So for any meninists out there, and any people claiming that they don’t agree with what this film stands for – or what equality is – there is still room for growth and change within you. Why feel threatened by a movie with strong female characters, a movie that rightly represents and challenges the issues we have with a patriarchal individualistic society? Why is this threatening to you? Why would you want to be associated with the side of the warlord when you could be associated with the side of growth and equality?
Did you get the same messages? Of the slow, spiraling horror our world is becoming? Whose side were you on throughout the movie?
Were you on the side of Immortan Joe, did you feel his entitlement to everything as his, including living beings?
Or, were you on the side of Furiosa? Did you feel a surge of hope for her independence and survival?
If it’s the latter (I should hope so), I really hope that those feelings of empathy and hope within you, ones directed at fictional characters in a scarily real portrayal of a near future, I hope that those feelings can be redirected towards real people, and real animals.
As much as you can, try to buy local. Clothes, toys, appliances, everything. Try to buy small scale, love hand-me-downs, explore charity shops, if you have time get handy with old items (I’ve recently started renovating and upcycling my worn-out shoes).
Value other beings and understand their capacity for suffering. Experiment with new recipes, both extravagant and money-saving – veggie curries
You are only person. But one person can post, can share, can have insightful conversations with others, can vote with their time and their wallet to affect changes on the atrocities inflicted on humans, animals, and the environment.
And, I would like to end with addressing highlighted issues, and a challenge for other viewers who feel this is the best a movie can do in regard to representation and social progression:
White feminism does not have the same hurdles, the same obstacles, nor the same struggle as intersectional feminism. That is something that is clear and that is obvious to us all. Therefore it would make sense to say that a success for white feminism may not be the same for intersectional feminism.
Given all the excuses, the reasoning, the stats behind Mad Max’s racially uniform cast, the whole issue isn’t about an isolated movie with a lack of diversity, it’s about Mad Max being part of a bigger problem in media representation.
I mean, how wonderful could it have been if the Many Mothers had been all obviously indigenous? This could have been a clear representation of an earlier Australian culture presenting a fierce resistance to the patriarchal exploitative Immortan Joe society – highlighting the current social inequalities and racism within modern Australian society.
Sci-fi, fantasy and dystopian/utopian futures need not be carbon copies of our current societal values! Why would they be? Perhaps some similar ideologies may be in place for particular narrative and plot advancement. But to just have them be, without reason, now that’s just lazy word building.
Take off your defensive coats, try and view the movie from a viewpoint not entirely your own, and take in some interesting reads on Mad Max: Fury Road. x.