Everyone’s going nuts over the feminist attributes of MAD MAX. Some people are making hysterical accusations of feminist propaganda and others are saying it’s a legitimate statement of feminism. Regarding the former: LOL. Since when have ‘feminist’ and ‘propaganda’ belonged in the same sentence except maybe “…anti-feminist propaganda…”? I don’t think society has ever been in danger of “the woman” taking over.
It’s really the latter interpretation I take issue with. I don’t think the film has a feminist message. I think it would like to think it does, but the execution isn’t there. For example, the only women who are portrayed as sexually desirable in the story are young, waify, model-like wives. Their worth is their beauty–they are valuable because of their genes. They have desirable traits that the patriarch wants passed down, so he uses them as breeders. Furthermore, the first time we see them, they are literally hosing themselves down while wearing cheesecloth. It’s a glorified wet t-shirt contest. And they’re also characterized as weak, helpless and lacking in resourcefulness. They aren’t capable of getting themselves out of a bad situation and require saving.
Which is where the badass women come in. Which is great, except that to have smarts, they have to sacrifice physical beauty and sexual attractiveness. In other words, nobody is going to bang them–nobody wants to–they’re just here to get a job done; to accomplish a mission. They’re dirty, old, and deformed–but they’re strong, capable and smart. You can’t be both, after all.
And I get that the whole idea is that there’s this grotesque patriarchy happening and it’s being dismantled. But if the movie simultaneously promotes patriarchy while promoting its demise, does it succeed at feminism? If the only way the patriarchy can be dismantled is by sexually undesirable women, and the only women who remain bang-able are the pre-pubescent, hungry models, doesn’t that just promote the message that looks are of paramount value in a male’s assessment of a woman’s worth, and if she’s going to be ugly or old or anything but a supermodel, she isn’t of value to men and has to live a solitary, isolated life?
Just because Eve Ensler came on to the film as a ‘consultant’ does not a feminist movie make. Furthermore, I take great offense at Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, the ‘model/actress’ who played the pregnant wife, Splendid, saying, “We did extensive research with [Eve]… She’s spent time in the Congo working with rape victims and women who have had unthinkable things happen to them through the power of men’s hands. We were able to pick her brain for a week. She told us the most tragic stories I’ve ever heard in my life, which gave us so much background to our characters. We really wanted to kind of showcase that.“
Ok, first of all–her character does not REMOTELY compare to a rape victim in the Congo. For starters, Splendid is white and, while being in an abusive relationship, still occupies a space in the highest class that exists in the society of the film–she is a queen who lives in the palace with the king while the majority of society literally suffers and starves below her. That’s not to justify her sexual exploitation, but just to put it in perspective.
And taking ourselves out of the film for a minute, lord knows that actress knows nothing like the suffering of a rape victim in the Congo. Exhibit A: her name is Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. For her to speak about a reality like rape in the Congo as if it’s just an aid in her ‘actor’s toolbox’ and exists for her to use in honing her craft is, frankly, insulting. On top of that, for her to say that from such a place of removed privilege, and to presume to be able to relate in the slightest, is like me saying, “you know, I really feel like I understand the experience firsthand of the black male in U.S. society. I’m confident that I have a firm grasp on it,” or a man saying, “I mean I know my wife actually birthed the baby, but I think I felt just as much pain.”
Let’s face it–a movie that features a woman who is larger, older, less white, physically disabled, and the list goes on–as anything other than a mockery or sexually undesirable, will never be as commercially viable as those that feature women like the wives in MAD MAX. Which is just funny, considering that Seth Rogen gets to bang Rose Byrne, Will Ferrell can marry Christina Applegate, and Jack Black is allowed to fuck Kate Winslet.
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