Double Feature: Mad Max Fury Road & Crossroads
Roads (AKA Found Family)
June 3, 2016 at 1:06 pm
It has now been over a full year since our lives were forever changed by the appearance of the one true savior, Our Lady Furiosa. In celebration of this historic event, I have prepared for you this double feature centering on two of the things Our Lady has taught us to value most: Love and Support between Women, and also Roads.
Mad Max: Fury Road
We begin with Mad Max: Fury Road in order to relive that moment when we all collectively realized that there is no cap on Charlize Theron’s hotness. Like, we saw Snow White and the Huntsman and we thought, “Okay, that’s it. That’s as good as any one person could ever possibly look.”
But then came Fury Road and our eyes were opened to the fact that Charlize Theron’s beauty is just limitless. Cherubs weep tears of joy when she casts her eye upon them, bathing them in her radiant gaze (and by cherubs, I mean, me, right now, looking at these pictures).
But of course, that’s not to say that Furiosa could ever be reduced to her forcefully attractive physical form alone. She is strength and she is courage; she is an inspiration to us all.
For those of you who may have missed out on the Fury Road phenomenon: it’s not too late!
Pretty much all you need to know is that Charlize Theron and a bunch of capable and beautiful women save each other from lives of patriarchal servitude and also Tom Hardy is there.
In the grand Mad Max tradition, these oppressed people are chasing down the idea of paradise in the post-apocalyptic (or possibly just contemporary) wasteland of Australia, only to find that ideas cannot be caught; instead, of course, they find that their paradise — their salvation — was within in them all along.
Traditionally, the Mad Max franchise is peak “men making movies by/with/for themselves” (see also: all of cinematic history). This is particularly noticeable because nearly all the female characters are either killed violently or they’re completely helpless, and the fact that they exist at all serves only the facilitate Mel Gibson’s brooding (except Tina Turner, who is lovely and perfect).
**Sidebar: I have watched the original trilogy so you don’t have to! But, if you want to replicate the experience without the time commitment, just watch Tina Turner’s promotional music video.**
Basically, after the violent death of his wife, Max sort of tries to help people chase down the idea of paradise, but he never settles down or finds his own salvation, because he is a wanderer and his soul will never rest because that’s just how deep his pain runs. It’s completely obnoxious.
BUT, I am still truly and fully beyond hyped about Fury Road BECAUSE it really does stay true to this obnoxious narrative structure that is the heart of this franchise, and doing so is what allows it to be such an effective example of relevant and informed storytelling.
Mad Max: Fury Road is Good and Important in the same way Jupiter Ascending is Good and Important: it is reflective of shifting priorities within contemporary filmmaking. But, Fury Road really goes the extra mile (ha) when you compare it to its franchise forerunners.
In this latest installment, the oppressed people seeking salvation are very specifically oppressed women, and that choice actively engages with the way oppression differs along gender lines (look to Nux as a good foil). The choice to focus on wrongs done to women really brings the whole narrative discourse into the gender arena (two people enter, two people leave, and they do so with greater understanding of themselves and each other).
The narrative recognizes the very real suffering inflicted on women and magnifies it, calls attention to it (which, y’know, is what art does). But THEN it grants these women the agency to take control of the situation; the narrative gives these women the space in which to explore themselves and the world around them, away from the confines of Albino Mullet Bane’s creepy cult complex.
ALSO, in staying true to the heart of the franchise, Fury Road legitimizes itself. It’s the same basic story, it’s the same director, the same team (mostly) — so there’s no real credibility to the argument that women are ruining beloved classics of machismo masturbation. George Miller wants the viewer to understand that women are people! It’s, like, a PRIORITY!
And that’s why Mad Max: Fury Road was so well received, if you were wondering. It’s because we’re relatively unused to filmmakers (especially big-budget, action filmmakers) caring about our personhood; certainly we’re unused to filmmakers treating our personhood as a priority. And that just feels so good, you guys.
So, it really is worth sitting through all the convoluted excuses for more explosions (because, note: this movie is a bit of a trip; there are a lot of threads and they don’t all connect and not all of them get tied off). That said, if you want to, like, make some empowering snacks (some Emmeline Popcorn; an Ida B Well-ness Shake; a chunk or two of Rosa Peppermint Barks) while Fury Road is on the background, go right ahead. Then you can just be soothed by the beautiful cinematography but still pay attention to the important parts, like THE VUVALINI, or the part where the bad guy gets wrecked.
And so we come to Crossroads.
Crossroads is a goddamn delight. It’s written by Shonda Rhimes and it stars Zoe Saldana and Britney Spears and Taryn Manning (before we all collectively remembered who she is on Orange is the New Black). And where Fury Road is beautiful and meandering, Crossroads is very straightforward, very plot-driven.
It is a simple and satisfying narrative that ties up all its loose ends and also Dan Aykroyd is there!
Crossroads (AKA the quintessential post-high school “find yourself” road trip movie) was a movie made by/with/for women (!!). It focuses solely on their personal growth and exploration, especially in relation to each other and the expectations placed on them by patriarchal society.
There’s also a realism to Crossroads that’s missing from Fury Road just in terms of the way inter-generational relationships between women aren’t always as loving and supportive as the Vuvalini might have us think. This focus on mother figures just further contributes to the overarching message of the strength of found families.
The different ways these girls interact or don’t interact with their mothers really shows how those relationships with older women function to either continue or break the chain of oppressive intra-gender policing.
Like, it is through the loving support of Taryn Manning and Britney Spears that Zoe Saldana is able to come to terms with the fact that she has a pretty toxic relationship with her mother; she was taught to value the approval of men over her personal happiness (and this landed her with the shittiest imaginable, set-him-on-fire straight white boy).
But the three of them help each other to move past these mistakes! Because they love each other! And they love life! And it’s all just SO #pure!
Watching Fury Road and seeing all those beautiful, high-budget explosions screaming with you that the pain you’ve felt is valid and those who have hurt you deserve retribution can be a little overwhelming. Sitting down with Crossroads in the emotional wake of Fury Road is honestly the best way I’ve found to process everything. Crossroads provides the perfect, simple template to remind you what a narrative is and how a narrative feels; it’s the perfect vessel for your post-Fury Road high. It gives you the time you need to decompress, and to really feel, and to finish off those Coconut Madeleines Albrights.
These two movies work so well together because they really just come down to female friendships and female communities. These movies are about women loving and supporting each other; they’re about women keeping each other safe, insofar as they can, from the evils of men; they are about family found and chosen.
Also, Charlize Theron.