Feminist Max

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I have conflicted feels on the conversation around Mad Max’s feminism. We do not need to rank everything by how compatible it is with feminism, and while culture does define our attitudes it is not totalitarian. We’ll live if some movies fail to be as feminist as we want.

On the other coin, it’s led to some excellent writing and analysis, and hopefully clarified what feminism is to a greater audience. And in a delicious irony it was all started by an MRA.

Because full-time misogynists demanded a boycott, Fury Road prompted unexpected discussions about women in film. It’s since won praise for all kinds of reasons, many of which seem compelling.

Alex Gabriel has an excellent summary of both sides, and I recommend starting there if you have the time (but beware the spoilers).

I do have one bone of contention, though:

Fury Road‘s feminism feels like the kind to which well-meaning men are prone to lay hamfisted claim – if its plot epitomises one gender politic, it should be called a masterpiece of male feminism, exploitative and deeply self-unaware. (I realise, for my part, the irony of saying this as a man – equally, it seems just appropriate.) A feminist masterpiece, as King notes, ‘would be directed by a woman.’

I’m sympathetic to the inductive form of the argument; on average, a minority has a better understanding of their oppression and the issues surrounding it than the majority. But ideas are ideas, no matter the sex or gender of the presenter, so the deductive form fails completely.

As feminist ideas percolate through our culture, even the inductive form is becoming less valid. Witness Arthur Chu:

And the most interesting thing about Fury Road is how it reveals that, contra the wailing of Return of Kings’ “resident economist” Aaron Clarey, the Mad Max franchise has always on some level been a feminist franchise. It’s a franchise about toxic masculinity, and how all of us—including the “good guys”—are infected by it, and how there’s no hope unless we can someday build a world without it, which might mean building a world without ourselves

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See what I mean? This conversation is quite worthwhile, even if I disagree with some of it.

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