....while I consider feminism a dishonest and oppressive philosophy, I believe good feminist stories can be told. This is because even a philosophy that is a lie in general may be the truth in a specific, individual case and stories are individual and specific. Dishonest outlooks can produce honest stories. The left has been living off this fact for decades.I've complained often enough about the need for female warriors in contemporary movies, but they're less unbelievable in movies set at or near the modern period in which guns are available. Nevertheless, the new Mad Max is not at all a feminist film. I'll put the counterargument after the jump so as to keep you from encountering spoilers.
So while ideologically corrupt critics are going wild over Fury Road because it’s feminist, I’m not criticizing it because I’m anti-feminist. I’m criticizing it because it’s not very good. Its title character is ill-defined. His mission is emotionally muddy....
What Fury Road does have is a female warrior (played by the always-watchable Charlize Theron) who does the work that any good story would have reserved for its central character. She has a back story that matters. She performs the major action tasks. She travels over a personal arc within the plot. Some in Hollywood fear that female action leads bomb. So Fury Road sneaks the female lead in by giving the female sidekick all the good stuff to do. As a result, however, the center of the movie is empty and the story collapses into it.
1) The film is totally clear on the differences in physicality between men and women. When men and women fight physically, which they do often in this movie, the women lose every time. Five women at once against a man and the women lose. Even if one of them is the 'female warrior.' This character is a better shot than Max, at least with her own rifle. But there's no fantasy that she's his physical equal.
2) Women in this movie are reduced to actual slavery. Just as in the actual Iraq where the civilization has broken down and ISIS has taken over, there's no illusion about what that would mean for women.
3) There is a band of free women who live without men. They survive only by keeping away from men, or trapping and killing them ruthlessly, and they aren't really surviving: their numbers have been reduced steadily to a mere handful who are too old to reproduce, and couldn't reproduce without men anyway. If these are the film's feminists, they're on the glidepath to extinction.
4) The 'war boys' who make up the dominant male's oppressive class are all male. They're willing to take orders from a slave because he says they should, not because she is in a position of any sort of authority in her own right. The other women from that society appear to be kept locked in a vault and actual chastity belts, or old crones put to starving in menial tasks.
So the suggestion that this is a 'feminist film' strikes me as absurd. The main feminist fantasy is that civilization is a kind of systematic structure of male privilege that forces women into submissive postures, and if we could overturn that society women would assume positions of equality. Mad Max dynamites that idea: there's nothing remotely like female equality in the wasteland it imagines. As in ISIS-led Iraq, again, the truth proves that any sort of political equality -- especially equality for women -- is an artifact of civilization, that it is not suppressed but created by civilization. Even the hunter-gatherer societies beloved of anthropologists have power structures, and they must accept whatever existence they can manage on the fringes left to them by more powerful societies. The natural condition is hierarchy, with the top position held by the strong and successful at war.
Mad Max accepts that as the most basic truth of its world. Klavan's analysis is simply wrong.