Mad Max vs. Mad Max

Okay, we revisited The Road Warrior last night, and I need to update my statement in which I said it was better than Fury Road. Story-wise and character-wise, they’re both (to put it charitably) streamlined for speed. But there’s a lot more action in Fury Road, and its action is far more creative. Fury Road is visually gorgeous in a way Road Warrior never approaches. And the world building in Fury Road is astonishing, just the intricate texture of the world and its cultures, all depicted without laborious exposition. Even the political/feminist themes work, as bald and obvious as they are, but then even clumsy progress is progress (a lesson I wish a lot of fanatical progressives would learn).

As for Max himself, both Mel Gibson and Tom Hardy are fine in a role that gives them little to chew on. Gibson’s best character beat is his “You want to get out of here? You talk to me.” Hardy’s is a grudging thumbs-up he gives in an action sequence. Gibson does get to be the actual star of his own movie, though, which Hardy does not (Charlize Theron’s Furiosa isn’t much better as a character, but she does get to carry the plot).

Still ahead, we’ll rewatch Beyond Thunderdome to see how that compares. And they’ve already announced another flick with Hardy. But really, I’m looking forward to the Mad Max game for PS4 a lot more.

Say, Mad Max, What About Your Promise To The He-Man-Woman-Haters-Club?

MADMAX

Depending on who you talk to, Mad Max: Fury Road is a revelatory feminist extravaganza, an insidious distaff assault on the stalwart ramparts of all real manliness, or not actually a feminist film at all because all violence is masculine.

I saw it, and if memory is accurate, The Road Warrior remains the best Max film (and Mel Gibson the best Max), but Fury Road is getting people thinking and that’s a good thing. [UPDATE: I changed my mind after rewatching The Road Warrior.]  Of course, the “Men’s Rights Activists” are pathetic creatures whose rants have worth only for those looking for a good laugh (and, perhaps in some cases, to establish a case for domestic abuse), like the quoted comment in the image above. There are similar fuckwits on the feminist extremist side of things, like the idiots who attacked Joss Whedon recently. And I respect Anita Sarkesian, and don’t think of her as a militant/unreasonable feminist, but she can be pretty reductively doctrinaire at times. This seems to be one of those times.

To me, yeah, sure it’s a feminist film. But neither it nor its characters are all that deep, and it seems that it had to hit a pretty low bar (promotion tied to Eve Ensler’s involvement, some really basic symbols and themes, passing the Bechdel test) to excite a lot of folks into raving that it’s some sort of revelation. In truth, it’s still just a beautifully crafted cartoon with the barest of ciphers for characters including Max and Furiosa.

Here’s Tina Turner (who could remind you that strong women in a Mad Max flick aren’t anything new) with a song of the week for everybody who can keep their heads out of their asses on the subject…

Tina Turner — “One Of The Living”

Captain America And The Real Myths Told By Superheroes (A Discussion)

A few years ago, when the first Captain America film came out, I was visiting my friend Phil Rockstroh. Phil is “a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City,” so leftist he makes me look like Ronald Reagan, and he watched the film with me. To him, of course, Steve Rogers was the very major model of a modern jingoistic character designed to arouse fascistic and nationalistic feelings in the weak-minded.

I tried pointing out that Cap had been created by a couple of Jewish kids trying to encourage Americans to stand against the Nazi threat in Europe before America was even in the war. I tried to delineate the progressive values Captain America has shown over the decades, and how at every point in the film, the creators subverted the potential jingoism that can, indeed, be a part of such a character. I predicted that in future films we would see a very strong anti-authoritarian theme at work in not just the Captain America films but in Marvel films in general. And I’m happy to say I was right.

Recently, while discussing the Joss Whedon/Black Widow foofaraw, we revisited the topic and the discussion got interesting, so I’m sharing it here. Making an occasional contribution is my friend Ed Hall,  a writer and the co-editor of Mothership: Tales From Afrofuturism and Beyond. Continue reading

The Crown of Creation in Action: Humanity’s Hilarious Persecution of the World

Art By Boris

This video, called “Insanlığın Dünyaya Zulmü” (“Humanity’s Persecution of the World”), amusingly and tragically sums up the history of mankind on Earth. I think it would have been slightly better if it ended without the aliens, but it’s pretty freaking great anyway.

I’m Not Your Dummy — And Neither Is Joss Whedon (Part 2 of 2)

Art by Cliff Chiang

[Read Part 1, “I’m Not Your Dummy — Why No One Should Have To Be “The Right Kind of Ally,” here.]

Joss Whedon is a feminist.

He claims the term as a central pillar of his identity. He exerts a great deal of his creative energy on crafting narratives which focus on complex, strong female characters, and behind the scenes he goes out of his way to create opportunities for female creatives. He is a persistent activist in feminist causes like Equality Now, and has been an outspoken supporter of feminist targets of misogynistic harassment like (the awesome) Anita Sarkeesian.

But Joss is not the “right kind of ally.”

Last week, after Avengers: Age of Ultron opened (the film from my dream in part 1), there was a vicious shitstorm of online invective against him because of his treatment of the Black Widow in the film. He also left Twitter, without saying why, and many assumed it was because of the abuse. Or, as one blogger derisively put it, “Feminist and female writers take issue with black widow depiction. A lot of them do. Joss gets saddy pants and leaves Twitter.”

That same blogger was full of scorn for Joss and admiration for “what these intelligent and brilliant women wrote about their concerns with avengers 2…” And what sort of intelligent, brilliant commentary did we see?

Continue reading

I’m Not Your Dummy — Why No One Should Have To Be “The Right Kind of Ally” (Part 1 of 2)

So I woke up one morning way too fucking early, with a dream dying in my head…

I’m at a huge theater with my girlfriend and my son, waiting to see the first showing of the new Avengers movie, and a nasty racial brawl is about to break out over a stupid misunderstanding. Something annoying was said, someone replied with annoyance, and several others took that as deliberate insult. A spark of irritation falls toward a volatile pool of abiding resentment. Huge violence is about to happen.

I just want to watch the movie, but am also naturally concerned about the fact that we’re smack in the middle of a crowd about to run riot. So I foolishly interject, redirecting the ringleader’s anger my way, focusing the conflict down to me and him rather than everybody. He rushes me and I back away, drawing him from the group. I don’t fight him, I don’t submit to his violence, I try to placate him, to calm him, to help him see that I was just trying to get his attention and there’s no reason to fight. This being a dream, it works. We laugh awkwardly and return to our seats. Everybody gets to see the movie, nobody’s going to bleed or die.

And I awoke. It was still dark, and I’d gotten maybe four or five hours sleep, but I was wide awake. I found myself ruminating about a recent blog post I wrote, and about the reaction it got (and didn’t get). Only after I gave in to the inevitable and got up, while I steeped some hot tea, did I make the connection between that rumination and the dream which preceded it. Continue reading