The Trouble with Labeling Mad Max: Fury Road as Feminist

I love the move Mad Max: Fury Road. I love that it was barely about Max, and instead was about him supporting the flight of women from a man who wanted to use them as breeders. I love that Charlize Theron played an incredible badass who kicked ass all over the film. I love the shots, the scenes, the writing … I mean, I just love the film.

Of course, I didn’t see the film as feminist or masculine. It is a blow-em-up kind of movie, so I’d probably label it more of a guy’s movie, but I didn’t really think of it beyond that. It had depth, it was interesting, incredibly well shot and written. Great movie.

Some of the reviews I read surprised me — perhaps because I wasn’t looking for it — to label Mad Max: Fury Road very pro feminist. Granted, this doesn’t change my opinion of the film, and I see what they mean: Strong female protagonist, escape the patriarchy, etc.

As I consider the movie, however, I push back against the idea that we should label it a feminist film, mostly because I buck the idea that we should label it at all.

We have a great film with strong protagonists fighting off an evil antagonist in a very difficult environment. That’s all we should really label it, because I don’t want my children to think in terms of patriarchy or matriarchy. I want them to think in terms of “individuals” and “voluntary groups” doing great things for themselves and each other. While feminists might claim they seek the same, they actually hinder their efforts by labeling it by an -ism.

People often don’t think in labels until they’re introduced to one. The problem is not with the spirit or desire of a movement which creates a label, but that once people begin thinking in terms of labels, it limits all thought thereafter. They struggle to move past that label.

“Why would someone want to move past feminism?”

Why wouldn’t you? Every movement — desegregation, suffrage, end of slavery — you commit to a cause so that the cause is no longer needed. You don’t want people years after a movement still stuck in the movement. While changes might still be needed today, it’s important to remember that no movement will ever eradicate completely the evils in this world. People are stuck with evil. Our best bet is to bring a problem to the public eye, set a path forward and then immediately work toward creating a world where your movement is no longer needed. You know, like medicine or a brace.

We don’t live in a perfect world. We still struggle with bigotry and sexism, but today’s world is vastly better than yesterday. When we finally reach a world where women are respected for what they bring to the workplace, might they be hindered if they still see the world through the defensive, see-evil eyes of a hard-core feminist? Might a little girl growing up in a world with all the rights and opportunities of people of any gender still think she’s at disadvantage because she’s been raised to believe she’s somehow still a victim in a world that no longer treats her thus?

Our world will continue to change. We will face evils, inequalities and, most of all, difficult people. But we live in a wonderful world full of opportunity for people of all colors and genders; not without progress yet to be made, but lightyears further than ever before. Let’s not get so stuck on labels and movements that we forget the purpose of those movements — to treat every individual as someone worthy of love and respect. I don’t want to limit myself by thinking of people in labels.

So next time you watch Mad Max, watch it as individuals doing great things. Watch a few humans freeing themselves from the evil intentions of other humans. Watch people struggle against a world that doesn’t love them, and be glad we live in a day and age where such a great writer-director creates such a great story we can enjoy from the comfort of our movie theaters and living rooms.


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