Iâve been meaning to see the Mad Max series of films for years now.
From the snippets of it Iâd previously seen, set in a pre- then post-apocalyptic world, with people punking and appropriating fashions in new ways to suit the new world â Iâd long thought it would be right up my street.
Then with the new film, âFury Roadâ , being announced, I felt like I wanted to see the original trio before the new one. I only managed to start watching through them a couple of days ago. Iâve just âBeyond Thunderdomeâ to watch before âFury Roadâ. I canât wait!
So much so that Iâve been checking IMDb for non-spoiler trivia related to the film.
My favourite piece was this: âWriter and feminist Eve Ensler (The Vagina Monologues) was consulted to enhance the portrayal of female characters.â
I thought two things of this: firstly, that this was great! Secondly that this was awful!
Great, because itâs good that the film is trying to make sure their female roles are well-written and well-portrayed.
Bad because do these film-makers really need to hire someone to specifically make sure they arenât offensive, boorish, gits whilst making the film?! Isnât this just overdoing it a bit? Or is this just a token nod to feminism to try to get some hype and praise for being progressive, and to get more female bums on seats whilst making the same film they would anyway.
I would start by saying I have a passing interest in this as a subject and it is quite well documented that female roles, particularly in action films, are often to be the damsel in distress that the hero can rescue to show his greatness. She may also/either be the trophy that the hero acquires at the end of the end of the movie. They are more often than not, written simply to reflect the heroâs greatness. Theyâre under-written as victims or sexual conquests and hardly aspirational.
Women receive heavier censorship in films too. When films mention a womanâs sexuality, if it is framed as an episode of their own sexual pleasure, the film tends to get a higher rating than when a womanâs sexuality is framed as granting a manâs sexual pleasure. To that end, it seems they should be significantly younger than the male leads.
Part of the problem could be the inequalities behind the cameras, but whatever the reason, itâs clear there are discrepancies between the sexes onscreen and so when a film production crew recognise this disparity, recognise that they may have a weakness in this area, and take steps to avoid succumbing to it, I think this is a good thing. After all, if a non-African film crew want to set a film in Africa, I donât think anyone would bat an eyelid to there being an âAfrican Cultural Advisorâ on the credits to make sure the African culture was represented respectfully an truthfully. If the film crew is largely male, with a male scriptwriter, a male director, and with Hollywood having a long precedent of poorly representing women, surely an acknowledgement that their portrayal of women in this film might benefit from some tweaking is good?
Iâve long thought the film âDreddâ is a great example of a film bucking the trend, and this from a comic book movie with a male lead!
Obviously, Dredd is the main character, as he came to be in the 2000AD mags, and in his eponymous magazines. Judge Anderson, the young woman he is trialling as a judge, is very much the sidekick in the âDreddâ film. Thatâs fine. I wasnât expecting her to be the savior of the day. I was expecting her to be played as eye candy, for smouldering looks, possibly a gratuitous stripping out of her uniform scene, and to end up getting in too deep and having to be rescued by Dredd who would probably end up snogging her.
*SPOILER ALERT* - She keeps all her clothes on. The one character who tries to sexualise her inappropriately very quickly comes a-cropper for trying, she does get captured at which point I groaned and rolled my eyes but I was very pleasantly surprised when she rescues herself, and arrives to a now injured and helpless Dredd just in time to save his life!
Iâd like to see more films that show their female characters as more than tokens. However, what Iâve found out, is that there has been a backlash against these ideas being incorporated, and women being given more empowered roles in âFury Roadâ, with the Return of Kings website spearheading a campaign to boycott the âfeminist piece of propaganda posing as a guy flickâ because if men make this film successful by giving it good box office returns, lured by the promise of âfire tornadoes and explosionsâ then they âwill never be able to see a real action movie ever again that doesnât contain some damn political lecture or moray about feminismâ.
Personally, I think this knee-jerk reaction (based, by the article's own account, merely on the trailer for the film) that women are invading precious action films is ridiculous! Why shouldnât women be written into action films as more than eye-candy and a hinderance to be dealt with? Why shouldnât they be active protagonists? And if theyâre dishing out the action, and the action is good, what difference does it make what fleshy bits they have between their legs?
The author of this Return of Kings post says, âCharlize Theron kept showing up a lot in the trailers, while Tom Hardy (Mad Max) seemed to have cameo appearances. Charlize Theron sure talked a lot during the trailers, while I donât think Iâve heard one line from Tom Hardy. And finally, Charlize Theronâs character barked orders to Mad Max. Nobody barks orders to Mad Max.â
He seems to rather conveniently not take offense at the fact that Max rarely spoke in the first two Mad Max films either (I have yet to see the third). This paragraph, while not outright saying it, seems offended not by the fact that Max isnât talking much while someone else is, or that someone barked orders at Max, but that the someone was a woman.
The thing is though, if the director/writer of this film, who is the same creator, director, and writer of every film in the franchise from back in 1979 writes that someone barks orders at Max, then we have it on pretty good authority that, yes someone does bark orders at Max and that on this occasion, it was in fact a woman.
Finally, I should disclose that I don't know if having someone on-board to enhance the portrayal of female characters is actually a common practice nowadays. It could be that it is, and that this is only mentioned as a piece of trivia for this film because Eve Ensler is famous in her own right. Kind of like if Michael Crichton had been the dog-handler for the film "I Am Legend". The trivia wouldn't have been that there was a dog-handler, the trivia would have been that it was Michael Crichton. It could be argued that Ensler isn't really the most appropriate person for this role. Then again she puts across good points for why she is, but that's not what I'm discussing here.
I shall say no more on this until I have seen the film. While I am interested to see how noticably Ensler's influence affects the finished film, Iâd hate to undermine anything I said by making criticisms of something I hadnât yet seenâ¦
Here's that trailer:
Is There Any Place for Feminism in Mad Max? I'd say there definitely is.