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Breaking Glass

A Mook grows up: Why we need more movies like 'Mad Max'

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Charlize Theron as Furiosa in
Charlize Theron as Furiosa in "Mad Max: Fury Road." - ()

When I was a young teenager, the Mook was all over television. This wasn't a TV show, movie or singular character you're not remembering. The Mook was an archetype of sorts that could be repackaged and sold back to young boys a thousand times over.

PBS’ “Frontline” defines The Mook as the “crude, loud, obnoxious, in-your-face character that can be found almost any hour of day or night somewhere on MTV. He's a teen frozen in permanent adolescence.”

My friends and I worshipped Mooks in the form of Tom Green, the crew on “Jackass” and, my old favorites, bands like Blink-182. Somewhere in my parents’ basement are the 15-year-old posters to prove it.

There was also “The Man Show,” which was dedicated to beer drinking and girls jumping on trampolines. Coming on either just before or after “South Park,” this depiction of manhood, a celebration of arrested development where men barked and objectified women, was must-see TV. I’d also laugh my 12-year-old head off.

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Now, of course, even the title “The Man Show” sort of gives me the willies. I think, sarcastically, “Yes, ‘The Man Show.’ Finally, someone made a television program catered towards males, ages 18 to 35.” Our media landscape is so completely supersaturated with shows directed at this demographic I hope the creators were at least joking a little bit when they decided to slap that name on their program.

That’s why I can’t fathom the backlash against the film “Mad Max: Fury Road,” which just made its way to theaters last weekend.

A “men’s rights” blog, which I will not name because it doesn’t deserve the publicity, traffic or typeface, has called the film a “feminist piece of propaganda posing as a guy flick.”

The man who wrote those words (name omitted after being found guilty of the crime of “Stupid”) hadn’t even seen the film when he posted the blog, yet still called for a boycott of the movie.

Normally, as regular readers of my blogs will hopefully recognize, I’m more than happy to parse out every individual argument presented in an article and attempt to give reasoned and researched responses as to why I agree or disagree with the writer.

I’m not going to do that here, because I refuse to give that much credence to such an inane argument.

Anyway, the fact that he calls the film a “feminist piece of propaganda posing as a guy flick” really tells you all you need to know. More importantly, it gives me more than enough to work with.

I have an unfair advantage, though: I’ve actually seen the movie.

So to that (false) claim, I say, “So what if it is?” (It isn’t.) Aren’t there enough “guy” flicks out there to satiate your hunger for male-dominated films? Literally, and I’m using “literally” literally here, every film nominated for Best Picture at the 2015 Academy Awards featured a male lead. If that’s not your speed, how about the seventh installment of the “Fast & Furious”franchise? How about the new “Avengers” movie, in which the male superheroes outnumber the females by a 4-to-1 ratio?

To the point of this being a feminist film? I don’t know if I would call it an explicitly feminist movie, but I can say that it didn’t make me queasy in its depiction of women like, say, “Crank”or “Godzilla” did. What the film does assert is that it’s wrong for any human being to claim ownership of another, through a number of means. The villain, for instance, hordes water (a scarce resource in the post-apocalyptic world) to keep his subjects dependent on his rule.

To further illustrate that point, the plot centers on women who have been forced into captivity by the warlord for the exclusive purposes of breeding, and the tough-as-nails Furiosa (Charlize Theron) who makes it her mission to save them.

This does make sexual violence a central issue to the film. To make sure the film was sensitive in its portrayal, director George Miller brought Eve Ensler, a feminist playwright, to provide workshops on sexual violence and elucidate the cast and crew on the issue.

Ensler said of the script: “One out of three women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime — it’s a central issue of our time, and that violence against women relates to racial and economic injustice. This movie takes those issues head-on. I think George Miller is a feminist, and he made a feminist action film. It was really amazing of him to know that he needed a woman to come in who had experience with this.”

The result is a depiction of female characters that have strengths, weaknesses, fears, hopes and, heaven forbid, thoughts of their own.

Why this is a problem, I’m not sure. Still, if this is what passes for a “feminist” film in 2015, we need more of them until this isn’t an issue anymore.


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