(SPOILERS AHEAD FOR MAD MAX: FURY ROAD)
Whatever your opinion may be about Mel “Sugartits” Gibson, there is no question that the Mad Max movies set the visual standard for any future post-apocalyptic films. Movies such as Tank Girl and Waterworld owe their look and feel to Mad Max. Hell, if you are up for it, you can actually play in that world for an entire weekend. I confess that I love the concept of Wasteland Weekend, but the reality of the desert in late spring/early summer just does not appeal to me.
That being said, I was excited for the latest Mad Max film. It certainly delivered what all the prior Mad Max films delivered — crazy road chases with lots of explosions. And a musical battlewagon (that’s the name of my next punk rock band, BTW) complete with taiko drummers and a guy playing a flame-throwing guitar. That all by itself would be enough to get my butt into a theater seat.
But there was something more. I’ve talked in the past about problematic representations of disabilities in the media (most notably, Glee). At best, those of us with disabilities simply don’t exist in media portrayals. At worst, we become little more than an inspiration porn plot device, set to the tune of heart-tugging songs by the Dave Matthews Band.
Cue the entrance of Furiousa. What are we told about her? Well, she’s obviously a bad-ass. She has worked her way up the ranks into a trusted position. She’s not a girly girl. And there was one other thing…what was it? Oh, that’s right — the missing arm. Which really, was never even addressed in the movie.
Now I know what you guys are thinking…Why isn’t that addressed in the movie? Everybody acts like she’s not a gimp. *How insulting!* You’re right — at no time are there any shots that lovingly linger on her bionic arm. Nobody asks her what happened, and neither does she say. And the guy with the flame-throwing guitar was not playing any Dave Matthews tunes.
The only time the movie even alludes to her disability is one brief scene in which she commands Max to hold still because she is going to use his shoulder to help her steady her rifle before taking the kill shot on the baddies chasing them. Furiousa never actually says WHY she needs to use his shoulder; she just takes the shot and moves on. Neither does Max pause awkwardly to offer his shoulder because clearly, she is unable to take that shot without his assistance. Nope — Max just does as she commands because he has no need to know why she needs his help, only that she does.
And that, my friends, is FUCKING AMAZING!!! Of all of the things we are told about Furiousa…of all we learn about her…the fact that she is missing half an arm is the LEAST AWESOME thing about her. Why? Because who the fuck CARES why? She’s already proven herself a bad-ass (even Max acknowledges this). So why should we even CARE why half her arm is gone? She has no need to tell us why, but just goes about her business of being a bad-ass, thank you very much.
In the post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max, you get to be one of two, and only two things — competent or dead. There is no question that Furiousa is competent. And that, right there, is what makes Furiousa so awesome. She is tough, and smart, and can handle herself. None of which is framed as happening in spite of her disability, but instead are things she would be even if she had two fully functional arms.
Sometimes it is the stories we are not told about disability that are the most important ones. Furiousa is proof of this. And now, if y’all will excuse me, I’m off to plot about how to put together a diesel-punk version of Furiousa as a cosplay.