Male Dominance In Hollywood and The Curious Case of Imperator Furiosa

One thing about me that most people don’t know is that I am a huge cinephile. I remember my mom telling me stories of how her and my father often couldn’t find a sitter for me on date night, so I was often dragged along to whatever destination they were headed to that evening — which included the premiere of Aliens 3 in 1992. I wasn’t even a full year old yet. Yeah, I would definitely say my appreciation of film started from an early age. Even though I do admit that modern film is a mixed bag of reboots, bloated superhero films, undesired/undeserved sequels and god awful children’s films, it’s still hard for me to not stand in line for midnight premieres, put up with screaming children, deal with armrest hoggers and the ever irritating ringing phones, just to catch an advance screening of the Fantastic Four reboot.

Now even though 2015 cinema hasn’t had much to offer, I have learned quite a few things at the box office so far this year:

  • Action pieces aside, Avengers: Age of Ultron was a terrible film, and not even getting rid of that baffling Hulk/Widow dynamic or Thor’s 40-minute quest for a bath will change that.
  • I do hope for J.J. Abrams’ sake that Star Wars: The Force Awakens delivers… but if not we’ll always have that nicely done trailer.
  • Inside Out is one of the smartest children’s films I’ve seen since the first two installments of the Shrek series, and everyone on that project deserves to be applauded. Contrary to popular belief, Disney Pixar has not lost a step and the film is a lock for an Oscar.
  • Say what you want about the Mission Impossible franchise as a whole, but Tom Cruise looks like he’s having a ball in these films which makes each installment fun to watch.
  • After much cynicism and skepticism, Ant-Man won me over with great effects and by simply being the Hank Pym film I’ve always wanted.
  • And lastly, Mad Max’s Imperator Furiosa is the most polarizing character of 2015.

 

I had the privilege of seeing Mad Max: Fury Road opening weekend. I’ve never seen the previous installments just out of forgetfulness and I’ve heard murmurs from the DudeBro crowd about some agenda trying to be pushed, but the trailers looked good, and the early reviews looked even better — so off to the movies I went to get the bitter taste left by Ultron out of my mouth.  Now sure, the effects, choreography, and costuming were great, but in my personal opinion this wasn’t “the action film of our generation” as many outlets eloquently put it, but still one thing seemed to resonant with me after I left the theater that day which continues to resonate with me months after to this present moment.

In the film, Tom Hardy is cast as the titular character Max Rockatansky. Before the film’s release the only thing that the media focused on more than Hardy’s likeness was the action, which could easily make Zac Snyder and Michael Bay kick themselves for not making this movie first. What raised more eyebrows that opening weekend was the revelation that yes this film is action packed, and yes Tom Hardy is “in it,” but nothing in this movie shined brighter more than Imperator Furiosa played brilliantly by Charize Theron.

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Furiosa’s journey involves her betraying leader Immortal Joe in order to free “The Five Wives” who are being held against their will within the confinement of Joe’s Citadel. Soon after her betrayal she meets Max, and despite some initial hostility the two join forces to bring the Five Wives to a safe haven and Furiosa’s home The Green Place.

Over the course of the film’s 120-minute running time you realize that besides taking place in the MM universe, this film isn’t about Max at all. During this film’s duration you’re forced to walk miles in this woman’s shoes, feel her pain, her torment, and by the end of it all you have no choice but to admire and respect the labor of love that went into making this character who she is. Tom Hardy doesn’t really do much in this film, and he looks like he’s okay with that. Judging by the reception and the ever growing popularity of Furiosa seen at many of this years Con’s, audiences are okay with that, too. But there is still a vast amount of questions that need answers from Director George Miller, the biggest being: why the bait and switch?

I remember having a conversation with a young woman in college a few years back just making small talk when I asked her what were her favorite Pixar films. 9/10 times you ask someone this question they’re going to lead with any installment of the Toy Story series because 1) its the safe choice, and 2) those movies really are the best in the pack. So it caught me off guard when she admitted that her favorite film was Brave. Initially I was puzzled because Brave rarely  appears anywhere close to the top of anyone’s pick for a favorite Pixar film, so although she didn’t owe me any clarification I still made the decision to pry and ask for some anyway. What she proceeded to tell me caught me more off guard than the pick. She began to tell me about events in her life that made her who she was, and the first time she watched Brave it got to her emotionally because Merida’s journey to become her own woman mirrored her own. The way Hollywood and its fanbase treats actresses in this industry makes me think that George Miller pulled this maneuver to give Furiosa a fighting chance for acceptance, because maybe he knew that this generation of women needed her to look up to just like iconic heroines Ellen Ripley, Xena, Buffy Summers, Korra, and Laurie Strode before her.

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Last year I wrote an article on the upcoming Ghostbusters reboot, directed by Paul Feig and starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones. It’s a film that I’m still very excited about even with all the misogynistic comments and the disappointing news of an all-male Ghostbusters reboot rumored to be starring Chris Pratt and Channing Tatum (literally barfs). News like this keeps getting announced because fanboy’s keep dismissing change even without giving it a fair shot. Look at it through this lens: Kevin Hart’s been playing the same role for the past five years, yet people criticize Melisa McCarthy for doing the exact same thing. Suicide Squad marks the second film that Margot Robbie has co-starred alongside Will Smith, now people assume that she has to be sleeping with Will and tearing his marriage with Jada apart because apparently she doesn’t have an impressive resume to get a role like Harley Quinn on her own. Although yes, I personally think it’s a little too late in the game for a Black Widow solo film (still will take one over another Thor film though), it’s hard not to watch Scarlett Johansson in these films and think that she and other Marvel heroines deserves better.

Let me break something down for all the fanboy’s and dude bro’s reading this. No one is asking you to do the “uncool thing” and drag all your friends to feminist classes or a marathon showing of both Pitch Perfect’s until you’re all slightly less horrible people. Quite frankly, as far as I am concerned, you don’t need to label yourself anything at all to empathize with others who are different from you and make well thought-out decisions accordingly.

I went into a Toys R Us recently and not much as changed since I was growing up. Nerf guns, bikes, video games, several aisles of Star Wars/Avengers merch (none featuring Widow or Leia mind you) and the two aisles strictly for girls are all the way next to the baby aisles, which sends a message in itself when it’s filled with nothing but stuffed animals, Disney Princesses, easy bake ovens, dress-up clothes, and of course Barbies. Sometimes I think how nice it would be if a young girl would walk into the girls aisle and see shelves full of Furiosa, Batgirl, Korra, Leia, Pink Ranger, Lara Croft and Black Widow action figures (all with either voice boxes and/or interchangeable weapons) and see’s the world as what she could be rather than what she “should” be.

Art by Gui Seignemartin

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