Mad Max: Fury Road: Allegory for the Totalitarian Welfare State

I saw Mad Max: Fury Road last night. I enjoyed it. There was definitely a feminist agenda to it, I’ve decided upon some reflection: no evil women, and only two decent and capable men. The women were either beautiful damsels or hardcore warriors, and even the damsels proved preternaturally proficient in combat when push came to shove. And Max’s sidekick Furiosa got way more screen time, and was way more interesting, than the titular character. The tired old trope of “evil man wants to cut his baby from the helpless mother’s womb” was trotted out. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Others have stated this better.

Luckily there was enough action to distract me from this inevitable influence of feminism on the movie. All movies are feminist these days, it would seem. Every single action movie makes a point of basically saying, “See? Women are badass, you misogynist pig! All women can kick anyone’s ass! Physically! Without exception!” I don’t watch many movies for this reason. But when I do watch movies, at least I’m realistic enough to not be surprised by all the propaganda. I prefer to sit back and decide to enjoy a movie, to whatever extent my stomach can handle the political correctness. If you’re going to spend two hours on your ass, you might as well look for the positive aspects.

One positive aspect I noticed was that part of the movie could actually be interpreted as being anti-statist. The king of the citadel (that Hannibal Lecter-and-Predator-had-a-love-child-looking dude) had control over all the water. When he wanted to dispense his largess upon the miserable and deformed masses he lorded over, he would let out some of the water from these huge pipes. It would rain down from the pipes, and the people would collect a few measly drops in their baskets and pans. Then he would shut off the water. In this way, he showed them who was their daddy, and that’s how he maintained power.

Just like the welfare state. The government gives you enough stuff to keep you loving the government, but not enough to make you independent of the government. Once you’re in its grips, you’re in its grips. I’ve navigated the welfare state myself. The alleged help they dole out is nothing short of freedom-eliminating. The state gets you by, but just barely. And the sacrifices it demands of you in order to remain worthy of its largesse precludes you from pursuing economic freedom through private pursuits. I forfeited all my benefits early on when I realized it was just holding me back. I’d rather die trying to go it alone than die of spiritual bankruptcy under the thumb of the faceless king we call the government.

Just like Mad Max. He went it alone. Of course, he was just a secondary character in the movie that is allegedly about him, but at least the script revealed that much: Max likes to go it alone. In the end, he hooks up with the badass women and throws a revolution, because women are always and without exception wonderful creatures who are correct in every dispute and righteous even when justifying violent means to an end, and women are always and without exception just so inspiring that even a loner of ambiguous morality can become a virtuous and supportive asset of the female clan mother cabal.

I’m not saying the filmmakers were intentionally trying to comment on the welfare state. The withholding of wealth as a means to power is probably a common trope in movies, and could apply to any totalitarian state, including the socialist welfare state. But the similarity to the welfare state is present nonetheless in Fury Road.

Political readings aside, the action was really good and really over-the-top, and the physics felt legit. There were a lot of laugh-out-loud moments, and a lot of satisfying kills without torturing me too much. (I don’t like prolonged violence. Perfect example: the slow-knife-in-heart scene in Saving Private Ryan. Can’t watch it. Can’t even think about it. Shudder. Moving on.)

I won’t ruin it with any more semi-spoilers. Go see it for funsies. Expect feminism. See if you can spot other allegorical elements I may have missed.