Sunday, July 19, 2015

Fuck Yeah Furiosa

If there's one good thing MRAs have done, it's that they've inspired a lot of people to see "Mad Max: Fury Road."

Personally, I had very little interest in seeing the movie in theaters. I love a good action flick, but I assumed that Max Mad would just be more of the same old uber machismo, ridiculous fight scenes, cheesiness, and explosions I've come to expect of the genre.

And then I saw this:

I knew anything that upset those knuckledraggers so much would have to be worth seeing on the big screen. So I did. Twice. And that wasn't nearly enough.

On top of all of the ridiculous fight scenes, cheesiness, and explosions I expected (and love!), there was so much more to that movie than I could have hoped for. I know there's been a lot written about how significant this film is, about it's feminist themes, about the cast chock-full of strong, capable female characters who exist in their own right, independent of male relationships. I know that there's been a lot written about Furiosa herself. But I am compelled to say my own thing, for one reason alone: Furiosa is the character I've been waiting my entire life to see.

Sure, there have been plenty of awesome female characters before her that I've admired (like Tasha Yar or Zoƫ Washburne), but Imperator Furiosa takes the motherfuckin' cake. What makes Furiosa so amazing? Let me count the ways....

(If it isn't obvious by now, I should first mention that there are some spoilers ahead. Or as many spoilers a movie that is 95% explosions and fight scenes can have.)

On top of being the protagonist, Furiosa is not a romantic interest, and she isn't sexualized. At all. For all three of those things to exist at once is pretty damn amazing. As the movie approached the last scene, I found that I kept expecting Furiosa and Max to confess an attraction or share a romantic moment of some kind. I wasn't expecting this because it was something I wanted to see, or because I thought it was in keeping with the characters' demeanor or their dynamic. The only reason I was expecting a glimmer of romance was because that's what always happens. Too often in action films, Strong Female Character, no matter how tough and independent she is portrayed as, becomes the romantic interest for Action Dude. I'm not saying that romance has no place in an action film, only that this particular scenario is probably the tropiest trope that ever troped. This is a problem too, because continually pairing Strong Female Character with Action Dude essentially whittles her worth down to being just his prize. That the writers tried to make Strong Female Character tough and independent is just a tactic to try to mask this fact. So long story short, I love that Furiosa's worth isn't measured in how sexually or romantically desirable she is. Rather, her worth is measured in much the way I've always wanted my own worth to be measured; on her abilities and strength of character.

And she sure as hell is capable. Furiosa isn't once damseled. She is a better shot than Max, and is easily his equal in a brawl. Many times I've seen Strong Female Character presented as a badass who can, like, totally fight and stuff, only to have her taken out in a fight in no time at all. By contrast, her male counterparts beat on each other in minutes-long fight sequences taking and dishing out pain in near-equal measure. But that's not so with Strong Female Character. Sure, she may show off some flashy martial arts moves, but her confrontation is usually depressingly lackluster in comparison. The message there is, "Strong Female Character is tough, but don't worry dudebros, because Action Dudes are still tougher!" Furiosa on the other hand is a genuine badass who fights just as well as (if not better than) any of the men in the movie. She doesn't hold back, and there's no concern for making her look cool with flashy moves. Her fights are brutal in a way that makes you believe she is fighting for her life.

Most important, I think, is Furiosa's characterization. While she does have that stoic action hero thing going on, her character isn't treated as though she is somehow above emotion. She is moved to tears by the death of Angharad, and her reaction after learning of the demise of The Green Place is heartbreakingly raw and powerful. She has strong emotional reactions, and her character is allowed to show and fully experience them. More to the point, she is allowed to do so without being portrayed as weak or hysterical, or being rendered helpless. Her emotions are something that are genuine, something that drive her to succeed. They are a strength, not a weakness. Seeing that was a refreshing, beautiful thing in its own right, but is made more significant to me after seeing too many action film damsels rendered helpless by their fear or sorrow, some to the point that they have to be physically removed from immediate danger by their action film dudes (I'm looking at you, "The Darkest Hour").

"We Can Do It (Furiously)" by Hugo Hugo

So there you have it. The reasons I love Furiosa. Now excuse me while I build a monument in her honor....

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