Sunday, July 2, 2017

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad Max World

More on Utopia/Dystopia and Apocalypse:

What we think of as apocalyptic literature is probably not apocalyptic in that it isn't Christian or biblical. In fact, it's usually entirely secular and may actually be nihilistic. That's why I have used the term Anti-Apocalypse to describe the non-Christian or non-biblical story of the end of the world, to differentiate stories of this type from their Christian or biblical counterparts, and as an analog to the term Anti-Utopia, aka Dystopia. Again, I don't think we need a different term--i.e., Anti-Apocalypse--describing a separate genre, as that would just be a needless complication, but I wanted to make a distinction anyway.

As for Utopia and Dystopia: In literature, they are different genres, or two sides of the same genre. In the real world, though, Utopia is Dystopia, for this reason: a perfect society must be made up of perfect human beings; human beings are imperfect and imperfectible; the utopian visionary will never rest in his quest for a perfect society; as a result of all that, human beings--the citizens of Utopia--must be driven ceaselessly and mercilessly even to their deaths for the sake of creating the perfect society. That's where the Dystopia within every Utopia comes from. For anyone who believes that a perfect or utopian society is possible without a perfect humanity, I pose this question: How do you propose to make something perfect out of imperfect parts? The answer of the utopian is likely to be: By perfecting society, we will make people perfect. They of course have things backward, and more than two hundred years of ruin have shown as much.

So here's my next distinction, probably more needful than the first: Isn't an apocalyptic story one about the end of the world (or the world we know), while post-apocalyptic describes a different kind of story? I'm thinking here of apocalyptic movies like Melancholia2012, When Worlds Collide, and War of the Worlds versus movies in which the disaster has already happened and now people are trying to pick up the pieces: The Omega ManThe Road, the Terminator movies, etc. In other words, what we too often call an apocalyptic story is actually a post-apocalyptic story. I think people have had an easier time with this distinction than they have with the distinction between Dystopia and Apocalypse.

Anyway, I watched Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) the other night. It's a post-apocalyptic story, just like the other Mad Max movies. Like them, it's packed with furious action, only more so. In fact, Mad Max: Fury Road is so over the top in places that it's more like a brilliant physical comedy (and a satire) than a serious action picture. (It could easily be retitled It's a Mad, Mad, Mad Max World.) Here's something I noticed, though: Mad Max: Fury Road is a Mad Max movie, but Max has been demoted. He is now, at most, a co-protagonist. He may actually be simply a supporting character. The lead character, or Max's co-protagonist, is now a woman, Imperator Furiosa. Further, that woman is more or less a female Mad Max. The moviemakers can't really throw Max out the window and call their picture Furiosa or Mad Maxine without putting their franchise at risk, but the effect is the same. Max is no longer the lead, and it's no longer his story.

The drift of all of this seems obvious to me: what were once stories about men are becoming stories about women, and not only about women but about women who are in charge. Men have been reduced to secondary status. I'll put up for exhibit the two most recent Star Wars movies: both have strong, courageous, and determined female protagonists. (Both are also essentially iterations of the Luke Skywalker character.) The men are simply helpmates and satisfied to be led around by the women. In comic books, Iron Man and Thor have become women. (There are probably other sex changes that I don't know about, as I don't follow comic books very well.) It may just be a matter of time before there is a female Tarzan, James Bond, Sherlock Holmes (Watson is already a woman), and so on. And I don't mean just a female version of these characters: James Bond will be a woman.

So where will the men be in all of this? I am reminded of a dystopian novel, The Republic of the Future by Anna Bowman Dodd (1887). The story is told in the words of a man writing to his friend about the United States under socialism in the year 2050:
The few men . . . whom I saw seemed to me to be allowed to exist as specimen examples of a fallen race. Of course, this view is more or less an exaggeration. But the women here do appear to possess by far the most energy, vigor, vitality and ambition. (p. 38)
The longer I stay here the more I am impressed with the profound melancholy which appears to have taken possession of this people. The men, particularly, seem sunk in a torpor of dejection and settled apathy. (p. 58)
I'm not sure we'll have to wait until 2050 to see that kind of world.

Update (July 26, 2017): Since I wrote this all those many days ago, I have read that the character of the Doctor in the television show Doctor Who will next be played by a woman. Now I find out that there is talk of making James Bond a woman. You can read more about the idea in "Why James Bond Should Never Be A Woman" by D.C. McCallister, dated July 24, 2017, here. One of the actresses whose name has been thrown out to play the role is none other than Charlize Theron. (D.C. McCallister is a woman by the way.)

Second Update (Oct. 31, 2017): A few weeks ago, I saw a commercial for Red Baron Pizza in which the Red Baron has been pushed aside and replaced by the Baroness. Even in commercials, male characters are being converted into female.

Third Update (January 30, 2018): More evidence: Colonel Sanders is now a woman, played by Reba McEntire. And it's weird and disturbing.

Copyright 2017 Terence E. Hanley


  1. "Un)Ethical Futures: Utopia, Dystopia and Science Fiction" conference in Australia during December 2017.

    Thought you might find this interesting!


    1. Walt,

      Thanks for the notice and link. It sounds interesting. It's nice to imagine going on a trip to Australia.