Jordan Stein, “Silly Theory,” Avidly (blog), Los Angeles Review of Books, http://avidly.lareviewofbooks.org/2012/11/20/silly-theory/. “The Fun and the Fury” was the theme for the 2014 American Studies Association Conference in Los Angeles.
For an excellent analysis on the intersection of feminist theory and Anthropocene dystopia, see Joanna Zylinska, The End of Man: A Feminist Counterapocalypse (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2018). See also Alexis de Coning, “Recouping Masculinity: Men’s Rights Activists’ Responses to Mad Max: Fury Road,” Feminist Media Studies 16, no. 1 (2016): 174–76, doi:10.1080/14680777.2016.1120491.
For a similar analysis, see Darin Payne, “Shifting Gears and Paradigms at the Movies: Masculinity, Automobility, and the Rhetorical Dimensions of Mad Max: Fury Road,” Studies in Popular Culture 40, no. 1 (2017): 102–35, www.jstor.org/stable/44779945.
We are thinking here about the newest Star Wars film (2018) and the revelation that bots had created negative reviews. See https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/oct/02/star-wars-the-last-jedi-rian-johnson-abuse-politically-motivated-russian-trolls and https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2018/10/03/so-did-russian-bots-try-bring-down-star-wars-after-furor-man-who-authored-study-says-not-exactly/?utm_term=.26ab5a74b9fd.
See, for example, “Feminism and Art: Nine Views,” Artforum 42, no. 2 (October 2003). See Gesa E. Kirsch, “Multi-Vocal Texts and Interpretive Responsibility,” College English 59, no. 2 (1997): 191–202, for a discussion of the some of the challenges of these approaches.
The variety and number of Oscar nominations, from Makeup and Hairstyling to Sound Mixing, are a testament to the various partnerships at all levels of the film production. Miller’s collaboration with Doug Mitchell and P. J. Voeten received many accolades. Mitchell is a longtime collaborator with Miller.
Belinda Du Plooy, “‘Hope Is a Mistake, If You Can’t Fix What’s Broken You Go Insane’: A Reading of Gender, (S)heroism and Redemption in Mad Max: Fury Road,” Journal of Gender Studies 28, no. 4 (2019): 414–34, doi: 10.1080/09589236.2018.1491395.
Not all disability studies scholars agree. For example, Fletcher and Primack argue that Fury Road is full of crip potential challenging negative representations. See Brandon Fletcher and Alvin J. Primack, “Driving toward Disability Rhetorics: Narrative, Crip Theory, and Eco-Ability in Mad Max: Fury Road,” Critical Studies in Media Communication 34, no. 4 (2017): 344–57, doi: 10.1080/15295036.2017.1329540.
Sara Ahmed, Living a Feminist Life (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2017).
Welcome to the Wasteland: Some Terms
See “Box Office History for Mad Max Movies,” The Numbers, https://www.the-numbers.com/movies/franchise/Mad-Max#tab=summary.
Just a Warrior at the End of the World
R. W. Connell, “Growing up Masculine: Rethinking the Significance of Adolescence in the Making of Masculinities,” Irish Journal of Sociology 14. no. 2 (2005): 11.
See also C. J. Pascoe, Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007) and Michael Kimmel. Misframing Men: The Politics of Contemporary Masculinities (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2010).
See also Carolyn Cox, “Incredibly Peeved Men’s Rights Activists Call for Boycott of Mad Max, are Unintentionally Hilarious,” The Mary Sue, May 12, 2015, https://www.themarysue.com/mra-to-the-max/; de Coning, “Recouping Masculinity”; Sarah Mirk, “The Ecofeminism of Mad Max,” Bitch Media, May 22, 2015, https://www.bitchmedia.org/post/the-ecofeminism-of-mad-max; Sean O’Neal, “Mad Men Mad at Mad Max for Having Mad Women,” AV Club, May 13, 2015, https://news.avclub.com/mad-men-mad-at-madmax-for-having-mad-women-1798279569; Lorena O’Neil, “Men’s Rights Activists Call for Boycott of Mad Max: Fury Road, Citing Feminist Agenda,” CNN Entertainment, May 15, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/15/entertainment/mad-max-fury-road-boycott-mens-rightsthr-feat/.
Jean Bethke Elshtain, Women and War (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995).
Isiah Lavender, Race in American Science Fiction (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011).
Junot Díaz, “Apocalypse: What Disasters Reveal,” Boston Review 36, no. 3 (2011): 46.
Theodore Steinberg, Acts of God: The Unnatural History of Natural Disasters in America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).
Carol Adams, The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory (New York: Continuum International Publishing, 1990).
Barbara Gurr, “Masculinity, Race, and the (Re?)Imagined American Frontier,” in Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Post-Apocalyptic TV and Film, ed. Barbara Gurr (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2015), 31.
Mandalit Del Barco, “The Women Pull No Punches in Fiery, Feminist Mad Max,” NPR Morning Edition, May 15, 2015, https://www.npr.org/programs/morning-edition/2015/05/15/406893956.
See also Kristina Durocher, Raising Racists: The Socialization of White Children in the Jim Crow South (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2018), 31–44 and Danielle McGuire, “‘It Was Like All of Us Had Been Raped’: Sexual Violence, Community Mobilization, and the African American Freedom Struggle,” in The Best American History Essays 2006, ed. Joyce Appleby (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), 123–50.
David Attebery, Decoding Gender in Science Fiction (New York: Routledge, 2002).
Is the Future Disabled?
Brent Walter Cline, “Power and Disability in Mad Mad: Fury Road,” PopMatters, June 17, 2015, https://www.popmatters.com/194573-power-and-disability-in-mad-max-fury-road1-2495517489.html.
Nirmala Erevelles, “‘Becoming Disabled’: Towards the Political Anatomy of the Body,” in Disability, Human Rights and the Limits of Humanitarianism, ed. Michael Gill and Cathy J. Schlund-Vials (Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2014), 220.
Karl Quinn, “Mad Max: Fury Road Actor Quentin Kenihan Forced to Spend Night in Wheelchair,” The Sydney Morning Herald, November 12, 2015, http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/celebrity/ls-celebrity-news/mad-max-fury-road-actor-quentin-kenihan-forced-to-spend-night-in-wheelchair-20151112-gkwzvv.html.
See Robert McRuer, Crip Times: Disability, Globalization, and Resistance (New York: NYU Press, 2018) for a discussion of the links between austerity and disability resistance.
Mark Sherry, “The Promise of Human Rights for Disabled People and the Reality of Neoliberalism,” in Disability, Human Rights and the Limits of Humanitarianism ed. Michael Gill and Cathy J. Schlund-Vials (Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2014) and Armineh Soorenian, “Media, Disability, and Human Rights,” in Disability, Human Rights and the Limits of Humanitarianism ed. Michael Gill and Cathy J. Schlund-Vials (Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2014).
Eunjung Kim, Curative Violence: Rehabilitating Disability, Gender, and Sexuality in Modern Korea (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2016), 7.
Using disablement as a metaphor in film and literature is nothing new. Disabled bodyminds (and beings) are reduced to two-dimensional representations supposedly teaching viewers and readers moral lessons. From Captain Hook to Quasimodo to Hannibal, disablement is used in an ableist framework to signal “moral failing” or “evil.”
Lauren Berlant, “Slow Death (Sovereignty, Obesity, Lateral Agency)” Critical Inquiry 33, no. 4 (2007): 754.
Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2011), 3.
I am extremely grateful that Bazant and Sins Invalid gave permission to reprint this image here.
Disability justice is “a term coined by the Black, brown, queer, and trans members of the original Disability Justice Collective, founded in 2005 by Patty Berne, Mia Mingus, Stacey Milbern, Leroy Moore, Eli Clare, and Sebastian Margaret,” as stated in Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice (Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2018), 15. The ten principals of disability justice can be found at Patricia Berne et al., “Ten Principles of Disability Justice,” Women’s Studies Quarterly 46, no. 1 (2018): 227–30, Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/wsq.2018.0003.
Jasbir Puar, The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, and Disability (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2017), xxii–xxiii.
Alison Kafer, Feminist, Queer, Crip (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2013), 46.
I appreciate Anna Mae’s encouragement to think more critically about the ending of the film. I find our collective interpretation of the water and the meanings attached to the water a helpful entry in the possibilities of this type of collaborative project.
Kim, Curative Violence, 234.
We Are Not Things! Fury Road’s White Slavery Story
As Mike points out, disabled characters are everywhere in this film, but they are often on the margins, functioning as one more element of a broken landscape.
Framing this film as a meditation on “modern slavery” offers a provocative complication to the rape/revenge genre that Carol Clover and other film critics have identified within the B-movie/horror genre to which the Mad Max franchise owes a great deal. Carol Clover, Men, Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Movie, updated version (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2015); Jean Ma, “Circuitous Action: Revenge Cinema,” Criticism 57, no. 1 (2015): 47–70.
“Vagina Monologues Writer Eve Ensler: How Mad Max: Fury Road Became a ‘Feminist Action Film,’” Time, May 7, 2015, http://time.com/3850323/mad-max-fury-road-eve-ensler-feminist/. For critiques of equating sex work with sex trafficking with modern slavery, see Elizabeth Bernstein, “Militarized Humanitarianism Meets Carceral Feminism: The Politics of Sex, Rights, and Freedom in Contemporary Antitrafficking Campaigns,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 36, no. 1 (2010): 45–71; Elizabeth Bernstein and Elena Shih, “The Erotics of Authenticity: Sex Trafficking and ‘Reality Tourism’ in Thailand,” Social Politics 21, no. 3 (2014): 430–60; Janie A. Chuang, “Rescuing Trafficking from Ideological Capture: Prostitution Reform and Anti-Trafficking Law and Policy,” University of Pennsylvania Law Review 158 (2009): 1655.
Frederick Douglass, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, in The Portable Frederick Douglass ed. John Stauffer and Henry Louis Gates Jr. (New York: Penguin, 2016), 57.
Ed Baptist, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (New York: Basic, 2014).
Harriet Beecher Stowe. Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Boston: John P. Jewett, 1852), 36.
I put the term “fans” in scare quotes here because troll culture often pounces on feminist targets from the vantage point of longtime fans, even if they are largely indifferent about the product itself. For instance, many of the supposedly aggrieved participants in the gamergate controversy were not avid video gamers at all, but rather seized on an opportunity to attack what they saw as a feminist target. Zaid Jilani, “Gamergate’s Fickle Hero: The Dark Opportunism of Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos,” Salon, October 19, 2014.
Aaron Clarey, “Why You Should Not See Mad Max: Feminist Road,” Return of Kings, May 11, 2015, http://www.returnofkings.com/63036/why-you-should-not-go-see-mad-max-feminist-road.
One of the War Boys’ battle cries—“I am awaited in Vallhalla!”—is a reference to the hall of the Norse God Odin in Asgard. Those dead that are deemed worthy of his company are housed there.
The fact that the drug leaves a metallic residue on the user’s face is almost certainly a deliberate callout to the practice of “chroming,” which has emerged as a problem in Australia, among other regions. Drawn by the prospect of a cheap high, poor and disenfranchised youth inhale dangerous aerosol substances. For more on this, see Andrea Hamblin, “Deodorant Chroming Affordable Escapism for Melbourne’s Street Kids,” Herald Sun, June 18, 2015.
For more on separate spheres ideology, see Shelly Lundberg and Robert A. Pollak, “Separate Spheres Bargaining and the Marriage Market,” Journal of Political Economy 101, no. 6 (1993): 988–1010; Linda K. Kerber, “Separate Spheres, Female Worlds, Woman’s Place: The Rhetoric of Women’s History,” Journal of American History 75, no. 1 (1988): 9–39; Rosalind Rosenberg, Beyond Separate Spheres: Intellectual Roots of Modern Feminism (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1982); Lucinda Damon-Bach et al., Separate Spheres No More: Gender Convergence in American Literature, 1830–1930 (Birmingham: University of Alabama Press, 2014). For examples of contemporary rhetoric idealizing the separate spheres ideology, see Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, particularly chapter nine, and Universalist and Ladies Repository, April 19, 1834.
Amy Dru Stanley, From Bondage to Contract: Wage Labor, Marriage, and the Market in the Age of Slave Emancipation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998) 138–74.
Micki McElya. “The White Slave: American Girlhood, Race, and Memory at the Turn of the Century,” in Child Slavery before and after Emancipation: An Argument for Child-Centered Slavery Studies, ed. Anna Mae Duane (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 80–102.
Jean Allain, “White Slave Traffic in International Law,” Journal of Trafficking and Human Exploitation 1 (2017), 1–40.
Procès-Verbaux des Séances, Première Séance, Ministère des Affaires Étrangères, Conférence Internationale pour la Répression de la Traite des Blanches, Documents Diplomatiques (Paris: Ministère des Affaires Étrangères, 1902), 123. Translated Jean Allain, “White Slave Traffic in International Law.” Journal of Trafficking and Human Exploitation 1, no. 1 (2017), 1–40.
For more on the danger of fetishizing a “green” place set off from human interaction, see William Cronin, “What’s Wrong with the Wilderness?” in Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature, ed. William Cronon (New York: W. W. Norton, 1995), 69–90.
Post-Post-Post Beauty at the End of the World
Gwilym Mumford, “Mad Max: Fury Road—Black and Chrome Edition Review—a Gem Drained of Colour,” Guardian, April 28, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/apr/28/mad-max-fury-road-black-and-chrome-edition-review-george-miller.
Gavin J. Blair, “Steven Soderbergh on Refining his ‘Logan Lucky’ Experiment, Quieting the Ego,” Hollywood Reporter, November 9, 2017, https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/steven-soderbergh-refining-his-logan-lucky-experiment-quieting-ego-1056505.
One site culls together several other sites and features video samples. See H. Perry Horton, “Eye of the Sandstorm: The Ultimate Video Essay Guide to Mad Max: Fury Road,” Film School Rejects, https://filmschoolrejects.com/eye-sandstorm-ultimate-video-essay-guide-mad-max-fury-road/. See also Robert Hardy, “An In-Depth Look at the Cinematography of Mad Max: Fury Road,” No Film School, https://nofilmschool.com/2015/11/in-depth-look-cinematography-mad-max-fury-road-john-seale.
Adam Sternbergh, “Fire, Blood, and Oscar,” New York Magazine, February 8–21, 2016, 131.
For a smart consideration of heroism and the Western as it pertains to Fury Road, see Belinda Du Plooy, “‘Hope Is a Mistake, if You Can’t Fix What’s Broken You Go Insane’: A Reading of Gender, (S)heroism, and Redemption in Mad Max: Fury Road,” Journal of Gender Studies 28, no. 4 (2019): 414–34.
Christopher Nolan has also played this game with Hardy’s face, most notably in The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and Dunkirk (2017), where Hardy’s face is partially or fully obscured by a mask. Likewise, Theron has played with her body and beauty for the film she won an Oscar for, Monster (2003), and more recently Tully (2018).
For an interesting read of the Wives and the gaze in Mad Max: Fury Road, see Kameron Hurley, The Geek Feminist Revolution (New York: Tom Doherty, 2016), 86–92.
The reference here is to Laura Mulvey’s fundamental article about the cinema, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” Screen 16, no. 3 (October 1975): 6–18, and particularly her ending, which suggests potential for cinema that would not simply reinscribe gender categories in film.
For a typical example of this dialogue, see Veronica Webb, “Real Beauty: Is Truth in Advertising Really Here?” The Glow Up, February 9, 2018, https://theglowup.theroot.com/real-beauty-is-truth-in-advertising-really-here-1822869004.
Wendy Steiner, The Trouble with Beauty (London: William Heinemann, 2001), xv.
Popular of these treatises would be David Hickey, The Invisible Dragon: Essays on Beauty Revised and Expanded (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009). See also Wendy Steiner, The Trouble with Beauty (London: William Heinemann, 2001), and for more traditional art historical engagements with beauty, see Arthur C. Danto, The Abuse of Beauty: Aesthetics and the Concept of Art (Peru, Ill.: Carus, 2003) and Alexander Nehamas, Only a Promise of Happiness: The Place of Beauty in a World of Art (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2007).
Two collections provide a nice cross-section of these dialogues and what is at stake when beauty is evoked. See Peg Zeglin Brand, ed., Beauty Unlimited (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013) and Dave Beech, ed., Beauty (Cambridge, Mass. and London: MIT Press and Whitechapel Gallery, 2009).
The contributions crucial to my thinking on these alternatives to beauty are: Judith Brown, Glamour in Six Dimensions: Modernism and the Radiance of Form (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2009); Rosalind Galt, Pretty (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011); Mia Mingus, “Moving toward the Ugly: A Politic beyond Desirability,” (Femmes Of Color Symposium keynote speech, Oakland, Calif., August 21, 2011), https://leavingevidence.wordpress.com/2011/08/22/moving-toward-the-ugly-a-politic-beyond-desirability/; José Muñoz, Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (New York: New York University Press, 2009), 147–68 and Sianne Ngai. Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2012). Ugliness has its own longer history. A philosophical start to considering the power of ugliness can be seen in Karl Rosenkranz, Aesthetics of Ugliness: A Critical Edition, ed. and trans. Andrei Pop and Mechtild Widrich (London: Bloomsbury Press, 2017). Although engaged directly with beauty in the ways this essay suggests, Rita Felski offers new paradigms for considering value and critique that are, like Ngai and Galt, looking for ways around and through traditional dialogues of value. See also Rita Felski, The Limits of Critique (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015). Finally, see the three-part blog series The Aesthetics of Ugliness, starting with the following article: Katy Kelleher, “Ugliness Is Underrated: In Defense of Ugly Paintings,” Paris Review, July 31, 2018, https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2018/07/31/ugliness-is-underrated-in-defense-of-ugly-paintings/.
See also Steiner, for whom beauty is feminist in its potential as “communication.” Steiner, The Trouble with Beauty.
Simon May, The Power of Cute (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2011), 6–7, 9.
Just to be clear, this is not just a humanities/arts cycle; science is in a similar relationship to the “problem” of beauty. See, for example, Ferris Jabr, “How Beauty is Making Scientist Rethink Evolution,” New York Times Magazine, January 9, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/09/magazine/beauty-evolution-animal.html and Bevil R. Conway and Alexander Rehding, “Neuroaesthetics and the trouble with beauty,” PLOS Biology 11, no. 3 (2013), https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.1001504.
Frederic Jameson, “Future City,” New Left Review 21 (May/June 2003): 76. This was also famously borrowed by Mark Fisher in Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? (New York: Zero Books, 2009).
As Barb notes, this spray painting is both a reference to huffing and also to the suicide bomber/terrorist video testimonials. Thanks for this reminder.
Elaine Scarry, One Beauty and Being Just (Princeton, Mass.: Princeton University Press, 1999), 109.
For a handbook of ideas to that end, see Richard Grusin, ed., Anthropocene Feminism, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017).
To be fair, Haraway finds this in science fiction, but I am an art historian dammit, so I want this to come visually. Donna J. Haraway, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2018), 7.
We and Not We: Conclusion
See Carol J. Clover’s groundbreaking book, Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1992), esp. 7–20.
Farah Stockman. “Women’s March Roiled by Charges of Anti-Semitism,” New York Times, December 23, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/23/us/womens-march-anti-semitism.html?module=inline.
Jack Halberstam, “Imagined Violence/Queer Violence: Representation, Rage, and Resistance,” Social Text 37 (1993): 187–201.
Al Horner, “Pusha T: ‘The Make America Great Again Hat Is This Generation’s Ku Klux Hood,’” Guardian, July 5, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/music/2018/jul/05/pusha-t-the-make-america-great-again-hat-is-this-generations-ku-klux-hood.