Son, we need to talk. We need to talk about Mad Max.
And I’m kinda disgusted I have to have this conversation at all.
Actually, we need to talk about the women in the new Mad Max movie. Seriously. There is actual outrage because the woman are strong in Fury Road’s post-apocalyptic dystopia where food, fuel and water are scarce and civilization has devolved into leather-dressed, awfully tanned men with face tattoos and scantily-clad woman doing deadly car chases in mutant death-machines across the Australian desert. Okay, it might be about more than that but the original Mad Max came out in 1979 (along with Superman: The Movie and Alien) and featured Mel Gibson before anybody knew who he was. I was 6. My memory is fuzzy. The only other thing I remember is the Tina Turner video for Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome and Tina with that snatch-back hairline.
Regardless of what I remember, there can’t be a whole lot listed in the above synopsis for outrage, can there? Really? But there is and the issues are coming from men having a problem with women in action movies.
See, here’s what happened:
I peruse a movies site called Screenrant because…well…because—don’t judge me. They have stuff I like. Today, I came across an article about the new Mad Max movie. The article talks about how George Miller, the creator of Mad Max and the writer/director of all the movies, consulted with Eve Ensler (writer of the Vagina Monologues) to make sure he created female characters that were more nuanced and well-developed than the stereotypical tropes of abuse victims we generally see. Better characters generally equal a better story. George Miller was trying to create a better story. Ensler called the resulting film (which has a 98% Fresh rating on RottenTomatoes.com) a “feminist action flick.” That went over incredibly well. Here’s a smattering of the comments that received:
There’s more. ScreenCrush and WeHuntedTheMammoth are also tracking this outrage from men needing to boycott the movie because Charlize Theron “barks orders at Mad Max” and she’s in front of him on the poster. For real.
This is a real thing.
I thought about dismantling these arguments, about refuting the inherent ignorance in the idea of boycotting a movie because the women play a stronger role than what you expected on the poster. I thought about attacking the ridiculous notion that women can’t be leads in action movies or that some incredible injustice has been done to everyone with a penis because Charlize Theron is a badass. I thought about—dude, it’s Mad Max, not Citizen Kane. This isn’t a cinematic jewel, man, it’s Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron and sand and death. I thought about saying all kinds of things but it really isn’t worth my time and talent.
These are arguments without merit, foolish exhalations into ether. They are the cowardly diatribes of the fearful. You and I know there can be no bad end to treating everyone as equals. There can be no adverse affect to my daughter growing up to believe she is as worthy as any of her male counterparts. I cannot see the how encouraging my child to believe the she change the world or save it is a bad thing.
But these trolls do.
And they are trolls, certainly, but they’re trolls with platforms. See, that’s the problem: they’ve found a platform. Someone is listening to the commentary, feeding the trolls, perpetuating the nonsense. I read these arguments and assertions on Huffington Post and Yahoo News and ScreenRant and ScreenCrush. Law & Order did an episode highlighting the whole GamerGate thing where female gamers, game designers, and critics are being targeted with violence, death threats, privacy invasions, and threats of rape.
This is real. These are grown men—someone’s son or brother or uncle. This is someone’s father. A friend. A co-worker. A roommate. While this particular issue is about a movie, it’s part of a larger culture that makes boys threaten my 12-year-old on a schoolbus or call her all kinds of names in the classroom. It’s part of a larger problem that turns Usher’s I Don’t Mind into a top ten hit and makes boys believe it’s okay to execute a gang rape on a drunk girl on a public beach in broad daylight AND RECORD IT.
These aren’t men. These are boys. Boys scared of the dark and their shadows and girls. Scared of the very thing they berate. Remember in second grade and you’d hit the girl you liked and then run away? This is that, but much older, much more sinister, much more pervasive. These are boys desperately in need of ass whippings. These are boys in need of men to show them how to be men.
We gotta do better, you and I. Us and them. We gotta do better. We gotta be better.