Is ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ flipping the script on distressed damsels?


If you asked me last week what action movie this summer would rise to the top when it came to representation of women, I would definitely not have said “Mad Max: Fury Road.” But then everything changed when the new trailer dropped.

All those lovely ladies in gossamer gowns? They”re back with a vengeance. Turns out they”re integral to the plot, and NOT merely extras shoehorned into the trailer to ratchet up the testosterone levels. And they”ve got something to say to all the skull-mouthed fedoras out in the anonymous forums apocalyptic wasteland: women are not things.

What Skull Mouth wants with these women is unclear, but his intentions are no doubt nefarious. Whether a personal harem, virgin sacrifices, or idols up on pedestals to be worshipped by his followers, Skull Mouth sees ladies as property, preferably his.

Charlize Theron is having none of that garbage. There”s a history here, as Theron”s character Imperator Furiosa is clearly branded with the mark of Skull Mouth”s clan.

We might not yet know her reasons for helping these women, but you go Glen Coco.

Throughout the trailer, Theron”s character is the gruff badass cutting through nameless minions like so much butter. Tom Hardy”s Mad Max might be the narrator, but he is the muzzled outsider, merely along for the ride. Captured and confused, Max is helping Furiosa but she is obviously the one with a dog in this fight and a grudge to settle with the Big Bad™. All things considered, Hardy appears to be fulfilling the role usually regulated to the female love interest.

And consider this. ”You wanna get through this? Let”s go,” is a set of lines tailor-made for the kind of grizzled survivor alpha male usually taking center stage in the “Escape from _____” plot. It”s right up there with Vin Diesel growling “There”s gonna be one speed…mine” right before the prisoners make a run for it in “The Chronicles of Riddick.” That “Mad Max” gives these lines to Theron speaks volumes as to her role in “Fury Road.”

This dynamic even spills over into the latest poster. Tom Hardy is caged and symbolically silenced, regulated to driving. Meanwhile, Theron looks at the camera with a death glare that indicates she”s about to parkour herself out of the vehicle and into a bout of fisticuffs with an albino desert-dweller.

But the million dollar question is whether or not this archetype role reversal is an accurate reflection of the film itself. Movie marketing can be a masterful illusion, obscuring the true nature of a story arc. But if the central tenet of “Mad Max: Fury Road” really is that women are not objects to be possessed? That”s just one more good reason to check out this summer most bonkers action film. Who knows? Maybe Imperator Furiosa is the next Sarah Connor.

”Mad Max: Fury Road” unleashes the madness on May 15, 2015.

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