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maryann johanson | #BlackLivesMatter

Where Are the Women? Mad Max: Fury Road

Where Are the Women Mad Max Fury Road

This is how you make a movie about bad things that men do to women without being exploitive, or becoming another example of bad things that men do to women.


Is there a female protagonist? [why this matters]


Is there a female character (either a protagonist or a supporting character with significant screen time) in a position of authority (politics, law, medicine, etc.)? [why this matters]

Is there a woman whose role could easily have been played by a man? [why this matters]


Is there a female character with significant screen time who dresses less appropriately for the environment than her male counterparts do? [why this matters]
More than one? [why this matters]


Is there a female character who is primarily defined by her emotional and/or sexual relationship with a man or men? [why this matters]

Is a dead mother mentioned? [why this matters]

Does a man police or attempt to police a woman’s sexual agency? [why this matters]
Is he rebuked for it, either directly (by a character onscreen) or indirectly (by how it is depicted)? [why this matters]


Is there anything either positive or negative in the film’s representation of women not already accounted for here? (points will vary)

Almost everything about how this movie is set up appears to be designed to make the audience think it is going to be the usual sort of genre nonsense: women as male property that it is perfectly reasonable for men to fight over. And then that all gets turned upside down: not only are the women fighting back against a man who considers them his property, but the man who helps them (Max) is very much a sidekick to their female rescuer… and Max himself is very much a victim of their oppressor as well, and they also end up rescuing him.
The scene in which the women being rescued are introduced verges on the standard slo-mo near-porno (they are washing while wearing only the flimsiest of see-thru-when-wet fabric)… except it lasts for only the briefest moment, and they are never treated visually like that again. So although they remain in their harem wear for most of the rest of the movie, they are not objectified, and that first scene becomes a sort of teasing smackdown of the (straight male) audience’s expectations.
Hooray for the fact that it’s multiple women who are escaping, and that they are all very different as people, with different reactions to what is happening to them and around them (one is brave, one is selfless, one is cowardly, and so on). They are individuals, which is rather unexpected for the genre.


IS THE FILM’S DIRECTOR FEMALE? No (does not impact scoring)

IS THE FILM’S SCREENWRITER FEMALE? No (does not impact scoring)

BOTTOM LINE: A violent smackdown of the notion of women as the property — in this case literally — of men. The damsels in distress rescue themselves, and the film does not treat them like objects as they do so. This is how you make a movie about bad things that men do to women without being exploitive, or becoming another example of bad things that men do to women.

Click here for the ongoing ranking of 2015’s films for female representation.

Click here for the ranking of 2015’s Oscar-nominated films for female representation.

NOTE: This is not a “review” of Mad Max: Fury Road! It is simply an examination of how well or how poorly it represents women. (A movie that represents women well can still be a terrible film; a movie that represents women poorly can still be a great film.) Read my review of Mad Max: Fury Road.

See the full rating criteria. (Criteria that do not apply to this film have been deleted in this rating for maximum readability.)

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where are the women

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