Mad Max: Fury Road a Feminist AND Accessibility Triumph – By Ricky Bryan

Character Furiosa from the recent mad Max Movie. Shown here brandishing her amputated arm while fighting with and ultimately killing a bad guy. She is sitting astride the bad guy about to shoot him with a sawn off shotgun.

There has been a lot of talk lately surrounding the feminist themes of the new Mad Max movie Fury Road. Aside from a few concerns, those themes are definitely there, definitely welcome and they were definitely intended. Vagina Monologues author, Eve Ensler, was a consultant on the movie so you know it was in the frame from the start.

What has gone unmentioned, however, is that the movie is also a triumph for disabled people. The lead character, (not Max! He’s really a supporting actor), but Charlize Theron’s, Furiosa, has an amputated arm and she wears a steam-punk style prosthetic limb.

The arm is never explained, never used as a plot device and no one ever tries to tell her she can’t do something because she’s missing an arm.

She is simply and utterly a total bad-ass. She drives a truck, shoots better than Max does, kills the bad guys in hand to hand combat and throws her stump into action in a way pop culture has never shown before.

Traditionally amputees are shown nursing their stumps, dealing with them gently and with great care. We are suppsoed to pity them and admire their triumphs. We know this is not the case. In real life amputees stand on their stumps, bash items into place with their stumps, hit balls, fight their siblings and effectively carry on as normal with the bodies as they are.

Furiosa’s stump simply shows that this is harsh world and at some stage she lost a limb. She didn’t let that stop her from being the best truck driver in the wastelands. She just fashioned a prosthetic and got on with things.

A nice touch is the artwork on her truck, it shows a skeleton arm on the door, her disability has become part of her personal brand but it doesn’t define her.

The movie also features actor and disability advocate Quentin Kenihan. Although his role is small and his character’s relationship with his giant brother in the film is more a nod to the Master/Blaster character in the third movie than it is anything to do with the plot. Still its great to see him show up in the movie so many years after first coming to fame as a child.

Of course a lot of praise must go to the strong performance Ms Charlize Theron.  Many viewers are angling for her, not Tom Hardy as Max, to be the title character in the sequel.

Mad Max might not be your cup of tea, but if it is it’s worth a watch. We should be praising the film makers for both for their revisionist take on the action blockbuster but also for their depiction of disability.

For more of Ricky’s writing, particularly on marketing go to:

One thought on “Mad Max: Fury Road a Feminist AND Accessibility Triumph – By Ricky Bryan

  1. Personally I didn’t like the movie very much, I felt that it betrayed its Aussie origins. That aside I see what Ricky Bryan is talking about here, although I don’t see the value in the same way s/he does – because Charlize Theron doesn’t really have a disability.

    So, I guess, good on the producers and director for showing a character with a disability, but everyone watching the movie knows that Charlize Theron doesn’t have a below elbow amputation, so they know it is fantasy. As such, the role highlights the power of the actor to convince the audience she had a disability, not the power of a person with a disability in a post apocalyptic world..

    Imagine if a hearing person had played the role of Deaf character Sarah Norman in Children of a Lesser God rather than the great actress Marlee Matlin, who is Deaf? Would the message have been as powerful? I think not.

    An important mentor in my life, an aspiring actor with a significant limp, used to lament that he couldn’t get a role playing Richard in Shakespeare’s Richard III because the character had a limp and directors wanted someone who could act like they had a limp, not someone who actually had a limp.

    I suggest then, that people who walk out of the cinema after seeing this fourth Mad Max movie won’t be thinking “wow, people with a disability can be amazing” rather they are likely to be thinking “wasn’t that a kick arse steam punk arm Charlize Theron used to play that character”.

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