Mad Maxine

Furiosa desert

Redemption of the Female Eunuch

“We are not things.”

George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road is a two hour chase movie. It is also, unwittingly, a bold portrait of biblical feminism.

Balls to the Wall1A term used by pilots. When accelerating quickly, the throttle is pushed all the way to the panel and the throttle lever (ball) actually touches the panel (wall).

Miller delivered the expected testosterone-fest but not a few men felt like they had been had. The central character is not Max, the ex-cop of the previous films, but a woman called Imperator Furiosa. Even worse, Max spends most of the movie surrounded by women. The film has been called triumphantly feminist by some critics. In some ways it is, but I would argue that Miller’s gender politics, understood in a biblical light, bring feminism full circle. Womanhood ends up back where it began, but it will never be the same again.

Blood Bag

There are only two ways to achieve prosperity. The first is the promised abundance from the hand of God given after faithful obedience. The second is through slavery and robbery, which turn Eden into Egypt. Miller’s post-apocalyptic story begins in an Eden-gone-wrong, a tree-covered mountain in a desert which withholds its life giving springs as a means of control, releasing only occasional streams of water pumped up from the depths of the earth as a reminder of its power over life and death. An enormous carving above its ruler’s balcony tells us that this is the place of the skull.

The longevity of this city depends upon raids against other gangs of survivors by “war boys,” a brood of Cains, male children rendered sick by radiation but raised to murder and pillage. This is a world filled with violence, the bloodshed given divine sanction through a false religion welded together of relics from the old world, a fusion of scraps of men and machines, ferocious, glorious and hilarious, much like the cars and trucks which serve as extensions of the characters.

The ruler of the citadel is Immortan Joe, the Adamic everyman who has ascended to power—and extended his natural life—through unnatural means. Indeed, everything natural is farmed, exploited and hoarded, from human blood to breast milk. Max, who has told us that his only goal is survival, is himself strapped to a cross on the front of a war vehicle, silent as a lamb beneath a metal muzzle.2The two “war boys,” Nux and Slit, represent the two thieves at the cross. Both curse Max but Nux eventually comes to bless him, reaching paradise through a spectacular act of self-sacrifice. He is attached to its dying driver with an IV line, supplying the blood required to sustain the warrior while he takes part in the chase. Despite his claims, right from the beginning, where Max crushes under heel and devours a two-headed desert dragon, he is the truly great one, the Christ.

Hell Hath No Fury

The driver of the plot—and of the largest tanker, the War Rig—is Imperator Furiosa, a one-armed woman with a crew cut who is one of Joe’s best raiders. Furiosa was kidnapped as a small child and thrown into the breeding program, but now she is barren, unable to bear children or produce milk. Without her cunning as a raider, she would have remained a throwaway in the eyes of Joe. But now, she uses a convoy supply journey to rescue the young women of Joe’s harem, girls kept for the purpose of breeding healthy sons, so it is apt that the body of the stolen War Rig tanker is filled with human milk.

Here is a female action hero who is actually a woman. Sexuality after the apocalypse is back to the needs and wants of men—sex and offspring. This angry empress is a used-up supermodel, now devoid of everything that made her desirable, including her hair. She is what feminism has become: a womanhood which escaped exploitation by becoming the exploiter. Germaine Greer’s “female eunuch,” repressed sexually by the constraints of culture, sought to be free of the chains of nature but became something unnatural, something sexless. These things were stolen from Furiosa, but the barren has cause to rejoice. She is not a hero because she can kick and punch but because she has the motivation of a bereaved mother, the fury of a she-bear. Without children of her own she risks her life to rescue the daughters of men.

Mad World

Some view Max as Furiosa’s sidekick, but in reality he is her enabler. Indeed, he and one of the war boys come to be the only men whom the numerous women in the film learn to trust. It is the women who blame the men not only for their continued exploitation, but also for bringing about the end of the world. Land and womb are both made barren by Adam’s desire for godhood. The planet is poisoned, and even the promised land, the “green place of many mothers” is now a bog filled with scavenging crows, both human and animal.

The refreshing thing about all of Miller’s women is that they are real. Even the stolen supermodels are real people. When Joe discovers that his prized possessions are missing, he sees “We are not things” scrawled in large letters on the wall of the empty harem. Even better are the old women of the desert, grannies on motorbikes who live under the stars, with leathery faces but soft hearts. They are the biggest surprise of the film. They have become suspicious of all men since men view even the end of the world as an opportunity for gain and control. But they still maintain hope even though their own days are numbered. In Max and Furiosa, they see a reconciliation of man and woman and a new beginning, a world where Adam will not rule over Eve, and all her desires will be met by him. The two begin in fisticuffs but instead of romance there develops a deep, reciprocal sense of honor.

In the film’s one heartrending scene, after Furiosa’s hopes of reaching the green place are dashed, she falls to her knees, alone in the sand, and lets out a cry of despair. The only way this crew can survive is to return to Joe’s citadel. The movie is a there-and-back-again, which on one level makes the rescue and the chase seem pointless. But as in the Bible, the trip to Egypt and back to Canaan changed Israel forever. Feminism’s green pastures are not “out there.” They are back where women began, but in a home transformed. For Eve to be truly free, she must be empowered by Adam.

Worship the Vehicles

Joe loses his heir, his “mobile throne” (called the Gigahorse) and finally he loses his face, all important biblical symbols, in gasoline fuelled chariot battles that take the spectacle of live action to a new level. With sparse dialogue, the film is like the loudest silent movie ever made. As one reviewer noted:

Imagine if Cirque du Soleil reenacted a Hieronymus Bosch painting and someone set the theatre on fire. This is more or less what Miller has come up with.3Robbie Collin, Mad Max: Fury Road review: ‘a Krakatoan eruption of craziness,’ The Telegraph UK, May 20, 2015.

Joe has gained the whole world but loses his own life. Max and Furiosa have lost everything and yet choose to serve. Max donates his blood once again, but this time voluntarily—to save his counterpart. The final scene is a revelation of the ascension of the bride. Like the Church of Christ, she is beaten and bloodied, her face marred more than any woman. But she has her prize. Max watches as Furiosa is lifted to glory while he humbly disappears into the adoring crowd, a new kind of everyman, a real hero, a Christlike one. And the living waters are released as streams in the desert.

Biblical Feminism

“We’re seeing in the world in many places that women are emerging as a unifying or healing force…” says George Miller. “I think that’s in the zeitgeist.” Like the women in the wilderness, biblical womanhood is not a state. It is a process of redemption by Covenant. Eve was given to Adam as a gift but he treated her like a “thing” (Genesis 3:12). To protect himself, he depersonalized her. If he had been faithful and protected her, she would have been glorified at his side as a co-regent. We see the same process in the two givings of the Ten Commandments. In Exodus, the women are included with all the other chattels, but in Deuteronomy, they are now listed with their men. The book of Esther tells the same story. Esther, although married to the emperor, is merely a possession until the serpent is crushed and she is enthroned, judging beside her husband.4See Esther and the Ten Words. Women must be empowered, but women can only be empowered by faithful men.

This is an essay from Inquiétude: Essays for a People without Eyes.

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1. A term used by pilots. When accelerating quickly, the throttle is pushed all the way to the panel and the throttle lever (ball) actually touches the panel (wall).
2. The two “war boys,” Nux and Slit, represent the two thieves at the cross. Both curse Max but Nux eventually comes to bless him, reaching paradise through a spectacular act of self-sacrifice.
3. Robbie Collin, Mad Max: Fury Road review: ‘a Krakatoan eruption of craziness,’ The Telegraph UK, May 20, 2015.
4. See Esther and the Ten Words.

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