CELEBRATING THE WOMEN OF MAD MAX

Pontificating Aunty Entity and Furiosa.

Aunty Entity — Tina Turner in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985)

The Mad Max Anthology series box set, you’re welcome.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE MAD MAX SERIES ARE WOMEN AND FOR THAT WE HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO STAN.

The setting of Writer-Director George Miller’s Mad Max franchise is nestled in the irradiated wastelands of Australia. Therein, the existence of new factions of warriors rule the roads and hoard the remaining aqua and agricultural resources. Beyond the titular Mad Max, the most intriguing characters of the franchise are the female characters Queen Entity (Tina Turner) and Furiosa (Charlize Theron).

Their stories are further punctuated by the powerful positions that they occupy and the respect that they garner — especially within this new world order. Queen Entity already rules a kingdom of her own in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985) and Furiosa becomes the de-facto leader at the end of her film Mad Max: Fury Road (2015).

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

The worlds of Beyond Thunderdome and Fury Road are very similar, wherein the power structure is constantly shifting in a tug-of-war for control. It’s overt throughout George Miller’s epic series that women exist in the world’s oftentimes at the behest of men or can potentially be unseated at any time by their own community. Outside threats seem minimal because the films also focus on territorial boundaries and the importance of brokering relationships with others for financial or political gain.

There are no ‘politics’ in the traditional sense with ballots and elections, but more so how you display your strength, will, and fortitude as an individual. The titles of Aunty and Furiosa are earned and lauded titles with immense reverence, with the exception being that Furiosa was born with this name but her actions have made her name legendary.

AUNTY’S ASCENSION TO POWER

I have always been fascinated with the unseen but briefly mentioned story of Aunty Entity’s rise to power and authority because Bartertown is a place that she created out of nothing but her own grit and determination. Prior to Bartertown’s standing as an ideal location with its prime access to food and methane-based eco-gasoline, there was merely dry sand. She survived the fallout of nuclear war and the chaos that came after the ‘end of the world’ and rose to a position of prominence on her own accord.

Where there was opportunity and necessity for some semblance of order, she rallied a community together for survival. As seen throughout the film, she’s not above using her wiles and cunning to keep the machine running that is Bartertown. Intriguingly, Aunty Entity is presented as less of a fighter and more of a politician and tactician. She has advisors and bodyguards that follow her out of respect rather than fear like Immortan Joe in Mad Max: Fury Road.

Moreover, her creation of a place entitled Thunderdome where individual parties can hash out disputes rather than letting them spill over into the community or outside of her territory is very ingenious. Tina Turner also gives the Aunty character such gravitas and an air of mystery that’s enrapturing to watch. If there’s ever a Mad Max miniseries, we need to witness the rise of the Aunty. Plus, whoever helped craft that iconic chainmail dress for her.

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An iconic look.

WARLORD FURIOSA

Conversely, Furiosa is a much younger person navigating two worlds of internal/external conflict. Abducted as a child by Immortan Joe for the presumed purpose of sexual slavery has left her with a seething revenge that she utilizes as fuel to flee with the other women he’s kept in his harem. Furiosa has honed her body to be a weapon for war and protection, which she utilizes as a key tool to ascend in power amongst Immortan Joe’s favorite warlords.

Of course, Furiosa’s story is punctuated by the women in her life as compared to Aunty who is flanked by men at every turn. The stories of Beyond Thunderdome and Fury Road are also clear products of their time but also murkier because both women are positioned in such critical roles of authority and influence. There is a great social commentary throughout the Mad Max films that is subtle and not heavy-handed, and the franchise excels especially when there are women involved as featured characters, rather than footnotes like other stand-alone movies or franchise films.

Charlize Theron rocks that bald fuzzy grease-covered scalp like no other. I gasped multiple times while watching Fury Road, and not just for the stunning choreography and stuntwork either which I still oohed and aahed at, but the shots of Charlize with those piercing eyes affixed amidst the war-greasepaint had me swooning.

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Furiosa — Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

SHIFTING NARRATIVE CONVENTIONS

I’ve always marveled at the role that science fiction and horror plays in regards to storytelling about women and/or Queer people because these are worlds where societal dictates are upended and the world-building can be anything and everything that a creator wants it to be. Usually, no-one bats an eyelash while reading or watching these narratives because there is an established normalcy in the shifted power dynamics of those in our society that are usually powerless.

There are gatekeepers for sure in every medium but for it to be non-reflexive for fantasy worlds to have powerful women, heroic non-white people as leads, and so on is truly something special. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t address the Whiteness of the Mad Max film series as well and how there is usually only one speaking role for Black characters within the films if they’re even there in the first place. With a setting as culturally rich as Australia, I always pondered where the Aboriginal people were in the foreground and not as background character mystics and what not.

Tina Tuner is a Black American and I pray it wasn’t meant to be implied that she was a Black Aboriginal person because that’s many layers of erasure that would take more than this editorial to unpack. That is definitely one of my chief criticisms of the franchise as a whole: where are the Black people?

BEYOND THUNDERDOME

Overall, the highlights of the Mad Max series are the women and for that we have no choice but to stan. The critical time, care, and attention that is paid to the presentation and bearing of each female character within the series is commendable, especially when Fury Road showed older women existing and thriving at the ‘end of the world’.

To include, the elders leading the next generation of women with their own knowledge and allowing themselves to be lead in return by the youth in their midst was so powerful to witness. This is the type of world I want universally, please and thank you. Maybe one day, the two communities that Aunty Entity and Furiosa lead can converge (and take all of my money in the process) and teach each other a thing or two beyond the Thunderdome.

Editor: We Are Horror Magazine. Writer: An Injustice, Fanfare, Gayly Dreadful, Haw Creek Horror, Rely on Horror, Something Ghoulish, and SUPERJUMP.

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