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Righteous Fury: In Praise of Peaceful Notions In Violent Movies

tn_furyroadbVTILIIlogoa Vern Tells It Like It Is Adventure

WARNING: This essay is made up entirely of spoilers

Of the long list of things that are great about MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, one item that’s been getting alot of attention is its strong pro-woman vibe. People love its large cast of badass female characters and themes of escaping sex slavery, overthrowing a tyrannical patriarchy, etc. Surprised to see a movie with so much asskicking but also so many great female characters and themes, many have called it a “feminist action film.”

FURY ROAD is about as close to universally beloved as new movies come, but the stronger the praise the sweeter the temptation to backlash. A week in and we’ve already reached the “you guys said this movie is the ultimate feminist manifesto that will uplift women and change the world forever but I saw it and it’s some movie about cars and trucks driving around in the desert and exploding” stage. And of course there’s room in the world for anti-FURY ROAD sentiments, no need to shut down naysayers. But I’ve been looking for an excuse to write more about this movie, so thanks, I’ll take it!

The most annoyingly contrarian review I’ve seen passed around is “Actually, Mad Max: Fury Road Isn’t That Feminist; And It Isn’t That Good, Either” by Eileen Jones, a college professor and author of a book called Filmsuck, about how films suck. Some of her reasons why it’s not that feminist: the Wives are played by models, Charlize Theron has a “soft, tiny-nosed, blonde prettiness,” the consultant Eve Ensler couldn’t possibly know what it’s like to be Bosnian or Afghani. I was confused by her complaints of the “gorgeous color, red rock and rich umber sand against heartening blue sky,” which she feels is an example of “the scourge of color grading that’s afflicting so many action films.” I’m gonna have to get some action movie recommendations from her I guess because I haven’t seen enough of these Technicolor ones she’s so tired of.

But the one I respectfully disagree with and want to respond to is not actually a review, just some eyebrow-raising Twitter comments posted by the feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian on Tuesday. I only ever heard of Sarkeesian because of the creepo video game players who harassed and threatened her because they disagreed with some of the points she made in web videos about elfs or Halos or whatever. So she’s okay in my book. I saw her on The Colbert Report once and now she’s one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People so alot of people (285K followers x 274 retweets) are listening when she she argues why FURY ROAD “isn’t feminist”:

I can’t disagree with one of her larger points: there needs to be equality in more than just cinematic asskicking (obviously), and a woman looking cool with a gun or a sword in a movie does not necessarily constitute a strong woman character or feminism. That’s been going on at least since the ’80s, when non-James Camerons did their hollow imitations of part-2-era Ripley and Sarah Connor and seemed to miss the point. They usually end up with characters who look cool but don’t have the humanity or gravitas of Ripley. They’re posers. That’s not the case with FURY ROAD’s lead Imperator Furiosa or her dozen or so supporting heroines, though. That’s why this has become a genuine cultural phenomenon and not just a new RESIDENT EVIL movie or something.still_furyroadb2
I think what Sarkeesian writes misunderstands what people are seeing in FURY ROAD and, worse in my book, snootily dismisses the entire genre of action. Charlize Theron, like other great women in action movies – Pam Grier, Michelle Yeoh, Cynthia Rothrock, Jeeja Yanin, Gina Carano, even Angelina Jolie and Milla Jovovich – is not just imitating “guy stuff,” she’s contributing to an ongoing artform. And she’s getting extra attention for this one because those of us who enjoy that artform are excited to see one where the point-of-view is so overtly pro-woman and anti-oppression.

That’s one of my favorite things: a movie that kicks ass but also has something to say about our world. So here I am to defend the value of badass movies with righteous subtext.

I guess first, unfortunately, I have to defend the idea of action movies at all. So bear with me a couple paragraphs. In her critique, Sarkeesian disparages “glorified violence” and “a cinematic orgy of male violence.” Man, I got it worse than the fuckin video game guys, because with them she’s coming from the point of view that video games can be better. Here it sounds like she thinks action movies are a no-go by definition. Since FURY ROAD is an action movie it has its female and male characters participate in the story through cinematic, imaginary, fake, glorious violence.

In life I am a non-violent person. I avoid fights, I’m against wars and murders, even capital punishment, I don’t like guns, I’m for peaceful solutions. In movies though I love to watch a perfect flying kick, a guy getting thrown through a window, a car flipping and exploding, a bloody samurai duel, or Chow Yun Fat sliding down a railing firing more bullets than a gun can hold. I don’t think it’s a contradiction, it’s normal. I’d guess that describes more people than it doesn’t. We know the difference between life and stories about life. Man, I haven’t driven a car in about 15 years, but I love every one of the FAST AND FURIOUS movies.

Those who don’t enjoy violence in movies, or feel that things that happen in fictional stories should be closer to their ideal version of what the world should be, have made a valid choice for their own lives. To assume that the rest of the world should share their tastes, though, is silly. I don’t subscribe to the idea that pretend violence in art is in some way immoral or needs to be avoided just because that’s true of real violence. Violence has always been a part of life and therefore a powerful source of drama.

Sarkeesian notes FURY ROAD’s “cartoonish version of misogyny,” but still assumes we’re taking the movie literally. In that limited view a woman driving fast and stoically killing people can only mean women can drive fast and stoically kill people. But this has never been the case with men in movies. In Joan Didion’s 1965 essay “JOHN WAYNE: a love song” she writes:

“When John Wayne spoke, there was no mistaking his intentions; he had a sexual authority so strong that even a child could perceive it. And in a world we understood early to be characterised by venality and doubt and paralysing ambiguities, he suggested another world, one which may or may not have existed ever but in any case existed no more; a place where a man could move free, could make his own code and live by it; a world in which, if a man did what he had to do, he could one day take the girl and go riding through the draw and find himself home free, not in a hospital with something going wrong inside, not in a high bed with the flowers and the drugs and the forced smiles, but there at the bend in the bright river, the cottonwoods shimmering in the early morning sun.”

She does not write:

“John Wayne could ride a horse and stoically kill Indians!”

That’s because movies and their characters mean more than that to the people who love them. When someone says they love Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson, Bruce Lee or John McClane, they’re not talking about plans to shoot people or kick somebody or jump off a building with a firehose. They’re talking about an attitude, a way to carry themselves, a code, a discipline, a persistence, a way to see the world, a way to tackle life. The same is certainly true of Furiosa.

Just as Immortan Joe is not a realistic depiction of the specific methods of modern oppression, Furiosa, The Wives and the Vuvalini are not a recipe for how exactly women should behave in our actual, non-apocalyptic reality. They’re a legend, a tall tale, a comic book, but based on essential truths. We recognize aspects of Joe from politicians, warlords, religious leaders and assholes of all stripes, just as we recognize Furiosa’s strength, anger and pain from people we know, things we’ve seen or experienced. Sometimes larger-than-life is just the right size.

I think I’m more politically-minded than the average person, but more than that I’m artistically-minded. I love movies, and I love to analyze them on many different levels. If their politics or attitudes are in opposition to mine sometimes it bothers me, but it’s not always a dealbreaker. Movies are art, they’re not necessarily supposed to just be a list of things I agree with. It would probly be bad for my evolution as a person if they were.

Here’s the problem with loving movies and the politics within them: you accidentally end up in movie debates with people who aren’t actually into movies. I’ve noticed a new wave of editorialists who seem to watch movies only to find something wrong with the politics. They zero in on their pet issue, which I’m all for. A great movie like FURY ROAD, or even a not-so great one like, let’s say THE GINGERDEAD MAN or something, is worth looking at from a million different angles. But too many of these anglers seem to have a poor understanding of how storytelling works, of metaphor, of larger cinematic history, the context of the genre or the filmmaker’s larger body of work, or just of the joy of watching movies. They mistake satire for sincerity and depiction for endorsement (call it WOLF OF WALL STREET Syndrome) and I feel like they’re cherry-picking evidence more than discovering a truth. Their often well-intentioned points about race or gender or whatever do more harm than good, because they promote this idea that people who care about those issues are joyless prigs who just look for something to be outraged by and don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about.

I’m not talking about Sarkeesian there, and I don’t know how much she loves movies. But I reject her implication that violent movies are inherently immoral and non-feminist. And even if they were, what then? Kung fu and car chase movies are not going away, you might as well hope for ones that promote equality within their framework.

I figure if you love movies you don’t have a political test they have to pass. I can appreciate DIRTY HARRY as one of the best cop movies ever, while considering its idea about police being held back by regulations to be bullshit. I can love FIRST BLOOD, and its depiction of macho stubbornness bringing the war home to smalltown USA, while questioning that part where he claims he was spit on by protesters at the airport and blames politicians for losing the war. I can laugh at the campily nationalistic anti-communist movies that I went to with my church in the ’80s.

But as a life-long action aficionado and a dyed in the wool liberal pinko I have an extra appreciation for the rare badass movies that seem to share more of my world view. There’s Tom Laughlin’s BILLY JACK series, about a pacifism-preaching but karate-practicing founder of a hippie school who always finds himself having to fight off rapists, racists and corrupt officials. There’s Steven Seagal’s goofy but heartfelt environmental warnings ON DEADLY GROUND and FIRE DOWN BELOW. There’s Paul Verhoeven’s savage caricatures of corporatization and violent policing (ROBOCOP) and warmongering (STARSHIP TROOPERS). There’s THE MATRIX, which to me has always been about (among other things) becoming aware and then learning to fight the system from within.

Resisting a cartoonish form of capitalistic subjugation.

My very favorite in this department would be THEY LIVE, which has been claimed by many populist causes but was clearly made as an attack on the economic disparity and institutionalized selfishness of the Reagan years. The wealthy and the powerful are aliens or have sold out to aliens, the working class mostly refuse to even put on the sunglasses to find out the truth.

Sure, FURY ROAD is a better movie than it is a manifesto. As Sarkeesian points out, it merely allows us to root against bad people and their system, but probly doesn’t convince us that we are the bad people and enablers of the system. Let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, though. I don’t think Miller set out to solve all these problems. He just made an action movie that comes from his world view, which happens to be a feminist one. It’s unusual for these ideas to be so deeply engrained in such a fun movie, so that’s one of the many things people are responding to.

Even more than I have a liberal bias I have a cinematic bias. If they say the right things but they don’t work as movies they’re out the door. I like a movie like THEY LIVE or FURY ROAD not just because of what it says but because it works as a great, entertaining movie anyway. Many times that includes “totally fun and awesome” violence. The best of these movies is a perfect balance of awesome and true.

In THE ROAD WARRIOR, savages drive around in circles wasting gas in pursuit of one precious commodity: more gas. Awesome, because those are colorful characters and great car chases, but true, because our entire civilization is fighting wars overseas to control the oil that we piss away at home. It’s allowed to be totally fun and awesome, and not just a lecture, because we are intelligent people who understand that this world of “fire and blood” is not the world we want to build, it’s a sick parody of where we’re worried we might be headed. The Wasteland of FURY ROAD is a place where an arms dealer (whose clothes and teeth are entirely made of bullets!) is blinded and still feels he should unload two machine guns while yelling about “the scales of justice.” It’s fun, we can laugh, but obviously that doesn’t mean we support what he’s doing or what it symbolically represents. A cool, entertaining movie with a point can be a far more powerful statement than a depressing slog through realistic, punishing, not fun or awesome violence (an approach which, by the way, almost always receives even more criticism from the anti-violence-in-movies people anyway. See the works of Gaspar Noe or Rob Zombie for example).

Sarkeesian writes that the camera caresses the Wives’ bodies. I really don’t believe they are photographically ogled, but my eyes certainly go to them before the hundreds of more-naked-than-them Warboys. I’m not qualified to argue about the male gaze, but I want to point out that when the plot “treats them like things” this is part of the point of the movie that so many people are excited about. It’s the world that treats them like things. People refer to them as “property”, “stolen stuff” and “treasure.” They’re locked in a vault, they have to be smuggled as precious cargo, like ROAD WARRIOR’s tank full of (supposed) gas. Max is treated as a thing too, literally propped up and used as a bloodbag, and called that for the rest of the movie like it’s his name. We witness this degrading treatment because it’s what our heroes are rebelling against.

“We are not things.”

I think the movie, after showing us these five chastity-belted super models, immediately defies our assumptions about how it will portray them, and not by putting guns in their hands. They’re naive but they’re defiant, they’re funny, they’re capable. They stand up for themselves even against Furiosa, insisting on helping in ways she doesn’t think they can, demanding that she not kill Nux, an act of mercy and forgiveness that also ends up saving their lives. (They also gain more clothing the further they get from being treasure, if that’s your issue.)

still_babe2The Wives represent an important part of the movie that Sarkeesian’s comments don’t acknowledge: its dream of a world where this violence is a thing of the past. George Miller may be a genius of “male violence,” but he’s also the big old softie who wrote the BABE and HAPPY FEET movies, heartfelt stories of acceptance, cooperation and community. As I mentioned in my FURY ROAD review, the most powerful scene in Miller’s BABE: PIG IN THE CITY is when Babe saves the life of a bull terrier that is trying to kill him, and makes a loyal friend out of him. This is Miller’s ideal and it’s echoed in FURY ROAD and most of his films.

The Wives’ mentor or friend Miss Giddy taught them that bullets are “anti-seed,” destroying life. When one of the grizzled, gun-toting Vuvalini brags about how many people she’s killed, the Wife named The Dag laments, “I thought somehow you girls were above all that.”

They’re not, but there is hope for the next generation to turn things around. The woman, called The Keeper of the Seeds, passes on her secret stash of heirloom seeds. The Wives transport this bag and it represents their belief in the possibility of a better world, a hope that no one in the original MAD MAX trilogy ever harbored. And at the end of the movie we have good reason to believe they’re going to be able to grow those seeds. That they, like Sarkeesian, are “redefining our social value system” and want to “re-imagine concepts of power and move beyond the glorification of violence.”

Sarkeesian also retweeted something her producer added:

This also is taking it too literally, like if you enjoy watching a car crash in a movie you are pro-car crash. What are we afraid of here? That because the pole-swinging chainsaw fighters and guitar blowtorches are awesome, viewers might aspire to a post-apocalyptic age of savage tyranny? I don’t buy it. For the purposes of this discussion, the overall attitude and message are absolutely more important than the (jawdroppingly spectacular) style.

still_furyroadb6Of course the main reason we’re having this conversation at all is everybody’s favorite character, Furiosa. Let’s leave gender out of it for a minute, and also pretend that action movies are a legitimate artform that reasonable people can enjoy watching without being barbarians. We who love these movies love Furiosa because she’s a great action hero by any standard. She has all of the qualifications. She’s tough and stoic, she looks cool, she knows how to climb across fast moving vehicles, or what to do when dudes on motorcycles keep jumping over the truck dropping grenades. She has a mysterious past. She works for the bad guys, but she’s changing that. She risks everything to do the right thing. She seeks redemption for unspecified sins and revenge for an implied wrong. She steals the movie from the iconic title character, because she’s the one that makes the move, gets the ball rolling, starts the revolution. For the first section of the movie we barely see Max’s face or hear his voice, he’s helplessly strapped to the front of the car while she does the work. When he gets away they go toe-to-toe, and she holds her own. At the end she kills the bad guy and collects the reward for it.

In the world of FURY ROAD these are not male traits. They are survivor traits. But yes, that Furiosa happens to be a woman and Immortan Joe a raping scumbag makes it all the more fun to root for her. It’s great action movie wish fulfillment, like Django fighting slavers or the Basterds killing Hitler or, for some people, Rambo retroactively winning the Vietnam War. It also subverts the paternal trope of the male rescuer or protector. Max isn’t their savior, he’s an obstacle. He has to get with the program, and then he helps out.

His biggest move, actually, is not more “male violence,” but medical care and blood donorship, something it’s hard to imagine crusty old Max doing before the inspiration of all these women. That Furiosa is a woman also makes it more meaningful that the two earn each other’s trust and respect, and say goodbye with a badass nod. They don’t fall in love like a normal male and female lead.

Because I believe in the legitimacy of action movies, I believe that the creation of great action characters is a worthwhile accomplishment. These are two iconic action heroes, one male, one female, and they are equals. If that’s not feminism, fine. But whatever it is I’m for it.


This entry was posted on Friday, May 22nd, 2015 at 11:28 am and is filed under Blog Post (short for weblog), Vern Tells It Like It Is. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

210 Responses to “Righteous Fury: In Praise of Peaceful Notions In Violent Movies”

  1. Great read, but I stay out of that discussion. Sorry.

  2. Crushinator Jones

    May 22nd, 2015 at 11:53 am


  3. Can a man truly be a feminist?

  4. This may be the best thing you’ve ever written. So true!

  5. I’m just gonna go ahead and say it: I do think Anita is an extremist bitch who’s either incapable or unwilling to look at these things from a non-snobbish, pompous point of view. You can just feel the ego and superiority complex dripping off her tweets there. I agree with Vern that she’s completely dismissing action films as a worthy art form, and also encouraging the same dumb-as-rocks thinking that make people accuse video games or Tarantino movies of glorifying real-life violence. People like her are just insufferable to me.

    But of course getting death threats and so on is idiotic and loathsome. So there’s my obligatory ‘I’m not pro-Gamergate!’ statement.

  6. Man, I really wish Sarkeesian would reply to this essay, Vern. Not because I think you totally “got her” or something, but because I think she makes some very good points and you make some great counterpoints, and I would love to see where a this conversation between you two would go.

  7. Yeah the thing I love most about Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry or the Man with No Name isn’t that he gets to shoot people. It’s that he’s so calm and cool while being shot AT, whether he’s a cop or a bounty hunter.

  8. Oh, and I shared this essay on my Facebook page, I was so impressed by its point. Thanks, Vern!

  9. Thank you so much for this piece. As a woman who has always loved the action genre and strong female leads like Ripley and Sarah Conner, this movie and Furiosa are a welcome addition to my all-time favorites. To dismiss the complexity of the characters because of an irrational hatred of the genre is ridiculous.

  10. Crushinator Jones

    May 22nd, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    BTW Lexi Alexander, the female former karate champion and director of Punisher: Own Zone (war zone), basically called out the Feminist Frequency tweets with this:

    “When you can’t see how Mad Max is a feminist film you lose me. You also have no fucking clue about the plight of women in Hollywood.”

    So the FemFreq stuff is by no means a monolithic take on the film.

  11. Good essay…

    I thought the larger idea of this movie, beyond it’s nicely felt (but fairly standard) feminism, is that Immortan Joe’s system exploits EVERYBODY: the men are cannon fodder, the women are for breeding, Max is turned into a “blood bag”, etc..

    Focusing just on the feminist aspects of the movie and then criticizing it for being too feminist or not feminist enough seems ridiculously short-sighted to me.

  12. Truly great article, Vern.

    FURY ROAD isn’t feminist, not truly feminist, no. It can’t be, I guess, as it was made by (mostly) men. But it can be on the right side. It can be a film that makes someone think a little differently. That’s good.

    I get the impression Sarkeesian is someone who knows her stuff, but from those tweets she just comes off as pissed that a real discussion is going on due to a lowly action film that should know it’s place.

    FURY ROAD clearly strives for excellence. So should we all.

  13. Speaking as a feminist, Sarkeesian fan (and not-infected-by-the-rage-virus-gamer, not that it’s relevant for this article)……. yup.
    I think I agree with the points she made slightly more than I did before, now that I’ve seen all of the relevant tweets (I’d missed the last few for some reason). The last four make particularly important and valid points, in my opinion, but I’m still not sure that her conclusion that it isn’t a feminist film at all is justified. It’s not “the ultimate feminist manifesto that will uplift women and change the world forever”, obviously, but it’s probably as feminish as an action movie can reasonably be, and that seems good to me.

  14. I hate it when self righteousness becomes narrowmindness and (proto?)-intolerance, as is the case with this particular backlash.

    Great article Vern.

  15. I respect Sarkeesian for her contributions and courage in her endeavors, but her (and McIntosh’s, for that matter) Fury Road take reeks of someone with little background in film misapplying tools of formal analysis. Dissonance between theme and form exist, but the presence of violence, even stylized violence does not instantly invalidate a message that is the opposite, which seems to be what her argument hinges on.

    Furthermore, the deeming of Immortan Joe’s power structure as “cartoonish,” while apt if we’re talking about it in the broader strokes, seems to throw out the usefulness of allegory altogether, and ignores the more specific touches within the margins such as Nux’s character arc, or the fact that Joe has instilled an honor system in his War Boys rooted in the toxic masculine meritocracy that inspire real-life instances of misogyny like, well, GamerGate.

  16. Now THIS is an article Wired should be republishing. Absolutely outstanding.

    “Here’s the problem with loving movies and the politics within them: you accidentally end up in movie debates with people who aren’t actually into movies. I’ve noticed a new wave of editorialists who seem to watch movies only to find something wrong with the politics.”

    Holy shit yes. The AV Club just ran an article about how the Death Wish movies are “repugnantly fascist” (I’d say they’re *endearingly* fascist myself). The “(Insert Comic Book/Star Wars/tough guy action/westerns/color/talkies) Blockbusters Are Killing Movies” articles we get every year just further prove that many writers don’t actually engage with movies anymore. They just view them entirely through their POV and no longer actually discuss them.

    Also, I saw that McIntosh’s Twitter feed. People were rightfully calling him out on his condescending “filmic dissonance” bullshit, in which he dismisses story, context, themes, intent, character arcs, etc. to find a movie’s alleged offenses. I appreciate what he tries to do in theory but, holy hell, that guy’s asshole must smell like New Car to him judging by how far his head is rammed up there. Which, again, goes back to people making grand judgements despite not understanding or engaging with movies, especially genre ones.

  17. As RRA said, a liberal is a liberal’s own worst enemy, and I wonder how many people will pull a 180 and suddenly go from liking this movie to suddenly hating it because of Sarkeesian. The internet is so fickle and so dripping in love it/hate it hyperbole, and as we’ve all said, outrage is the new bling these days – you have to show it off at all times, and shows how yours is bigger than everyone elses. I’m a die-hard liberal but some days I do feel like liberals are just sitting around finding new ways to get outraged by something in a Eureka moment that nobody else has expressed outraged for.

    The main problem is that yeah, her tweets seem to be completely dismissive about the entire action genre. If you feel violence is always tragic and you have a problem with it being portrayed as awesome or fun (which she actually says) then why the hell are you watching an action movie? Better yet if you don’t feel violence can be fun then why are you even commenting on video games?? Yes, it’s shitty what happened to her and gamergate, etc… (I guess every single person now ever has to throw in that disclaimer if they ever have anything critical to say about her) – but yeah, she basically personifies the phrase “you must be real fun at parties”. (Oh and also, “this is why they hate us”)

  18. TOTALLY dude. This whole conversation is out of hand with this movie. Even with the slavery and obsession with breeding, I almost feel like the world of Fury Road is LESS sexist than our own. The bad guys don’t care about men and women, they care about owning “things” and treasures.” They are bad because of their treatment of people as a whole, not of a specific sex. And the good guys team up because they have a common goal; they don’t check crotches first to determine who’s a good person. When Max is threatening the Brides and Furiosa, he doesn’t give a shit what they are. He’d do the same thing to men. And I think that can be said of every character in this movie. That goes beyond “feminism” or “misandry” or whatever. This movie is pro-teamwork.

  19. Crushinator Jones

    May 22nd, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    The movie is an indictment of the god damn patriarchy. The War Boys are young kids sent to die or serve as fodder. The women are milked or raped for children. The guy in power is an old dying dude who wears fake muscles and hoards shit like a typical 1% asshole while saying it’s for everyone’s own good that he has everything. The three bad guys are a religious icon, a business dude (who is a secret perv) and a warmonger. All of which support each other in exploiting people.

    It’s a damn masterpiece and the problem is that whoever wrote that FemFrequency screed has wrote “hippie bullshit” into their definition of feminism and there’s no better way to kill your ideology than with that kind of thinking in my opinion. And I’m a guy who loves hippie bullshit and respects what they are trying to do but peace/love/understanding as an end to itself has been profoundly rejected by western civilization…and that’s before you try to put it as a rider to “oh and also you should treat everyone as equals.” I mean come the fuck on. Have a little pragmatism here. Let’s get society thinking about women as equals before we also try to usher in a golden age of universal peace and free love, my friend.

  20. Her commentary is disappointing, because as much as I admire her work on video game tropes, and the intestinal fortitude she’s shown in dealing with Gamergate, this reads like a provocation, like clickbait. And McIntosh’s addendum is literally the stupidest argument for anything I’ve ever read. Is he suggesting that movies that deal with bad things should look bad…? That if anyone thought, “Woah, that’s awesome,” when they first saw the Death Star or Jaws, that means Star Wars is a pro-Death Star film and Jaws is pro-killer great white. That is what movies are supposed to do, particularly those that create new worlds for us, the way Fury Road does.

  21. Yeah, unfortunately Sarkeesian (who I generally think does a good job making provocative, thoughtful arguments) has kinda fallen into that oldest of political afflictions, grumbling that something that falls short of a platonic ideal of utopia is therefore worthless or even harmful. I mean, her basic point is totally valid: feminism means more than just having a strong female protagonist and being against sex slavery. But does that really mean that anything that isn’t wholly and completely devoted to depicting the entire nuanced spectrum of modern feminist political and social thought is meaningless? Never mind what action movie, what movie of any genre can claim it’s feminist, if the only things that have value must represent the entirety not just of feminist thought, but of its ideal expression?

    I don’t think she really feels that way, I think she’s just being contrarian in the hopes of reminding people that there’s a lot more to feminism than just women with guns. Which is a perfectly true and worthwhile point; in fact, in a way the fact that FURY ROAD has been so praised for its relatively minor feminist elements kinda shows how rare it is that mainstream movies have even a gesture to feminist ideas. I really feel she could have expressed herself better in this case, though. Twitter is not a good medium for expressing nuance, but come on Sarkeesian, you’re smarter than this.

  22. Well said, Vern. I’ve been mulling this perspective over lately too — as much as I am a stalwart proponent of empowering females (and everyone) I’m starting to get a little annoyed at how every single thing has to be fully idealized, inclusive, and un-offensive or it will start a relentless, tiresome debate over social media (like ULTRON).

    Then I watch a movie like KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE, and I remember why its important that we pick apart the off-hand, rapey vibes that keep popping up in films and culture (for example), often ruining what was, until that point, a clever little bit of entertainment.

    I guess I just wish the balancing act was a little easier?

  23. The thing about feminism is that EVERYONE has a different definition of it. You can see it right here, with people questioning whether a film made by a man can be truly feminist. Many would say feminism is about equality, which is something anyone can get behind, man or woman, and by that logic, how is Fury Road not feminist? And if it can be feminist, surely a man can too. Then there’s the other side who disagrees with that notion, and then there’s dozens of other little views anywhere inbetween.

    As for the whole Sarkeesian thing, she certainly has a point about it being more than just women with guns, but the thing is that, as Vern said wonderfully in this article, that viewpoint ignores all the subtlety of the film. It ignores the art. Also disagree about the male gaze. I don’t recall this film sexualizing the brides in that way, the camera didn’t linger on them as if to say “Check out that ass!” ala Michael Bay. That would be the male gaze. Granted, the film didn’t traffic in the female gaze either. Maybe that’s equality. Here, of course, things also get muddled. Some might argue that merely having the women in skimpy clothing reinforces the male gaze, others might say it fits into the film’s world naturally and thus isn’t gratuitous, especially given its themes and overall message. It’s also like the arguments over what defines feminism. To some, a woman in a revealing outfit is sexually liberated, to others, she’s buying into the patriarchy. It’s a really complex subject and I’m sure that to many others, my views here will appear to be misinformed.

    All in all though, great article. Even with everyone’s conflicting viewpoints, I think that at the end of the day, everyone should be able to acknowledge that Fury Road represents some progress. Baby steps y’all, baby steps.

  24. Women be thinkin’ too much, and when they do nothing good comes of it.

    It’s a male-dominated world. Deal with it.

  25. Great stuff Vern. What impresses me is that your socio-political views are backed up by the way you live your life – not participating in the consumption of guzzoline as a middle finger to the hypocrisy of the government’s warring for more oil.

    Larry – really? C’mon man…

  26. And once again, Amazing Larry sets the bar in this conversation, as high as it can possibly go…

  27. 1) That Time mag “100 Most Influential whatever” is among the worst things ever published in an ostensibly ‘serious’ mainstream media forum. In saying that, I am not being hyperbolic for the sake of sticking out on the internet as many many internet input-ers do; it’s really that bad. Like… wow, it’s almost unfathomable how desperate and straight up stupid that clickbait/checkout-aisle-bait bullshit truly is, how much it shrinks & belittles everything that came before it under the formerly semi-authoritative ‘Time’ masthead imprimatur. A huge & irretrievably embarrassing splotch on a previously respectable-ish institution of Americana and worldly thought. Beyond awful.

    2) Cinema is my church, and Vern is correct to question those who selectively criticize certain slices of cinema (such as this particular George Miller masterpiece) through the framework of looking for something to criticize, something to politicize, instead of primarily looking for “Is this a good movie or no, and is this movie genre a valid mode of artistic expression or no?” I don’t talk ignorant shit about video games and pretend like I know something about the representation of ______________ in video games, because I don’t play video games. I don’t talk ignorant shit about comic books and their representation of ___________ , because I don’t read enough comic books to consider myself even a partial-worthy understander of the medium or its universe of fans & artists. I don’t talk ignorant shit about [insert artistic endeavor here], because I don’t [know anything about it other than a cursory exposure to the thing]. So, yeah, it’d be nice if people of some prestige from other fields didn’t suddenly swoop in with their relatively unfounded opinions about film and declare that their opinions about film must be regarded as Important. Cinema is a democratically available mass medium as far as consumption goes, but that doesn’t mean that any asshole with a verified Twitter handle should be lent legitimacy when she steps in to comment on cinema. Like, I just typed a bunch of words and sentences and sentence fragments in the last 10 minutes here, but that doesn’t mean I should be regarded as being on the same academic literary level as the editor of the next updated edition of Strunk & White.

    FURY ROAD is more popular than anything else at the moment, and that’s why it’s facing backlash and ill-advised overanalysis. People are jumping on this bandwagon, if only in hopes of being noticed for throwing gasoline & lit matches at said wagon. Ain’t nobody writing serious twitter-diatribes about other more/less deserving pop culture shit and I won’t finish this thought because the notion of fucking twitter being the place for serious discourse & social commentary disgusts me and it should disgust you too.

    In conclusion go watch BLADE II FURY ROAD again. And again. And again.

  28. KingNewbs- Sorry to divert things, but what exactly is “rapey” about KINGSMAN? I googled for something, since being somewhat familiar with Mark Millar’s work I know he skirts the line and sometimes outright crosses it in his creator owned titles, but the only thing that I can find is some people saying the stuff at the very end with the Swedish Princess has that tone, even though what they’re doing was her idea, so I don’t get how that gets that label. It’s certainly crass, but not something I can really see as being rapey.

  29. Honestly, I’m surprised the FR “backlash” hasn’t yet turned on Miller for the rape in the earlier Mad Max films.

    Gern – Isn’t it funny how some cinemaphiles by lazy kneejerk bitch about blockbusters, how they’re raping cinema…until they see one they like? Sadly alot of those assholes “like” FURY ROAD simply to bash other blockbusters. At least Vern and others dig the movie for its own merits, not just to lash out at Marvel or Transformers or whatever.

    Stu – personally I thought that ending was like a joke on the old 007 movie tradition of Bond being rewarded with nookie…except taken to an extreme. (Let’s be honest, of course Bond is an assman.) I found it funny personally, if only because of Mark Strong’s embarrased reaction to what he sees.

  30. neal2zod – What drives me bonkers with liberals is how they miss the barn for the barnyard sometimes, with little to no use for context.

    Let me give a recent example: did anybody see AGENT CARTER when it was on? I can pick apart its flaws, but overall a decent program. It ran 6-8 episodes (I forgot the length) but regardless you had a narrative of Peggy Carter in post-WW2 New York City having to fight against the institutional and cultural/casual sexism of that era, dismissed by her coworkers as “Captain America’s girlfriend.” Ultimately she earned the respect of those same co-workers by saving the day, and she gets over Cap’s death.

    In most comic book-related media, women are usually stuck in girlfriend parts, i.e. the male hero’s prop. Here we have such a character who becomes the focus and is further fleshed out as a character, forcing the audience to invest their hopes and dreams and fears and everything as we do (or try) with all protagonists. It helps that Hayley Atwell is a charismatic, likeable (and sexy) woman. This was also the first female-fronted Marvel Studios production, one that was made by women showrunners. (It’s a much better show than AGENTS OF SHIELD cranked out by the Whedon clan.) So basically in the case of Peggy Carter, she went from the metaphorically grieving widow (to sell Cap’s tragedy of becoming an ice cube) into a woman that decides to let him go and move on with her life. She has own battles and she wins them. Indeed THE WINTER SOLDIER showed us that she went on to have her own family, alongside apparently a great career at SHIELD.

    Point is, how many good comic book shows/movies starring women do we have? Not exactly many, so its nice that Marvel showed that they could do a good one and indeed we’re getting another season of AC. Hopefully their future girl shows/movies from AKA JESSICA JONES (out Christmas on Netflix) and CAPTAIN MARVEL will also be successful and encourage those capitalists to do more girl-led projects. (Over at DC, the pilot for the upcoming SUPERGIRL series leaked today and early reviews are pretty positive.)

    Then right after AC was renewed, somebody at CBR posted an article that called the show racist. Why? Because it didn’t have enough minoritiy characters. They do have a point about the show not having any POC characters (beyond random cop and whatever), but…I as a comic book fan look at the big picture and consider that a show about a kickass woman in comic book trappings (albeit a retro-period setting) who’s adversary is another woman (the 1940s-era Black Widow), and it’s decent? And well-reviewed? And renewed?!?

    I think AC’s liberal credentials are defendable enough

  31. Good points all around (except you, Larry). Timmy, I like what you wrote about the good guys teaming up regardless of gender. I meant to mention that, actually. One of the Vuvalini asks something like “Who are these men?,” with mild suspicion. Furiosa says something like “They’re reliable, they helped us get here,” and that’s the end of that, they’re accepted. While it’s mostly women on the good side they don’t discount the value of men.

    thanks guys

    p.s. Please don’t call the people I quoted names. I disagree with some of their points but there’s no reason to be jerky about it. (That’s only applicable to a couple of you, but worth saying.)

  32. This brings up why I’m dreading the upcoming Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel movies. (But to an extent will also be the case with tv shows like JESSICA JONES and SUPERGIRL and whatever.) Liberals will debate and fight each other over whether these films/programs are truely “feminist” enough, and miss whether (1) they’re good as entertainments and (2) if their creative/commercial success allows for Marvel and DC (and whoever else) to take more chances with estrogen-powered blockbusters/series.

    It doesn’t help that quite frankly, we liberals can’t even agree what “feminist” means. It’s almost like pornograhpy: We can’t precisely define what exactly is or how it should be expressed, but apparently we know it when we can see it.

    I’m white, male, more or less liberal. I can’t define “feminism” as a topic because it’s become a loaded term that’s been hijacked by right-wingers and misinterpreted by both sides. I’m not qualified to say the least.

    But in art? I like to believe something is feminist where your protagonist is a girl/woman and YOU the audience whether it be guys or gals or American or Russian or white or Hispanic or whatever…YOU project yourselves onto this woman, invest her with your hopes and dreams and fears and fantasies, you connect with their journey emotionally. It can be something like FURY ROAD where Furiosa is in reality the real protagonist of that film and she’s a badass in a bad world. It could a film aimed at children like FROZEN which basically if you think about it is a superhero origin story (with shades of Incredible Hulk) albeit in the Disney princess fantasy cartoon trappings. It can be many “serious/legitimate” arthouse fare. Whatever. Point is this is moving beyond the tradtional film narrative where women usually are mere props for the male protagonist that all audiences are supposed to relate/project through.

  33. For the record (as these sentiments get lost in the busy fog of reaction & interaction),
    if I’m to have my wispy barbaric yawp registered on the internets, Vern should know that my reaction to this article and review is

    while George Miller should know that MAD MAX: FURY ROAD is the most obviously awards-worthy film of the year.

    I love everything about this movie and this movie’s reception
    and this movie’s reception’s fallout and this movie’s Furiosa and this movie’s everything and _________.

  34. Mouth: in trying to convince a friend to see it as soon as possible the other day, I ended up saying something like “one good part of the movie was… everything between the opening credits and the ending credits”. I even liked the fonts. I think that a lot of people had that reaction. I seriously cannot remember having even seen a movie tell a story so well in the traditional mode. It’s pretty much full mastery of classical cinematic technique.

    Anyway. The thing about debates surrounding feminism, as everybody has probably noticed, is that there exists no single and uncontested definition. It’s different things to different people and no one definition can cover it. I think that it’s better to get more specific and talk about what aspects of feminist theory can be usefully applied in these situations.

    In this regard, I found that the most striking resonance between feminist theory and FURY ROAD was the notion that the various forms of feminism are, in essence, critical approaches. Rather than being reified as systems in and of themselves, they could be viewed as being expressions of opposition in a conflict. Basically, in this view, feminism exists because patriarchy exists and some sort of challenge must be mounted against it.

    The feminism of FURY ROAD, then, lies squarely in the conflict that drives the story itself. Furiosa and the Brides attack a system that forces everybody in it into awful, life-destroying roles. The very fact of them doing that starts to prove that there’s another way to live. Max and Nux join with women who don’t obey Immortan Joe and proceed to be men who don’t obey Immortan Joe. To me, that’s the core of it. Feminism in FURY ROAD is standing up to an asshole who literally forces everybody in his town to call him “Dad” and the other assholes who prop up his asshole reign. It isn’t just about shooting. It’s about daring to drive off the road and take a desperate gamble at finding a better world; moreover, it’s about living in that better world in every way that you can until it’s true.

  35. Amazing article, Vern. As compassionate and thoughtful as ever. I am not on any sort of social media and try to stay away from any online forum or comments section apart from this one as the tidal waves of ignorance and binary opinions just depress the hell out of me.

    I personally think Sarkeesian’s views are misguided and myopic in the extreme and to me appear more like her applying her issues with female representation in popular culture and her obvious dislike / disregard of action films than rationally commenting on anything depicted in the film itself. I also agree with the points being made that the film isn’t misogynistic or misandristic either. The systematic abuse and perversion of the land and the people in this world is universal.

    It’s a shame because there is so much to unpack and decode in this film, so much rich content to inspire so many great conversations, that’s it’s kind of heartbreaking to read the sort of posts that Sarkeesian has made and realise that her and many people like her don’t actually seem to be that interested in initiating an actual contemplative debate. I found Fury Road’s explorations of and comments on gender, humanity, representation, identity and legacy to be elegant and resonant with a deep understanding of the unavoidable moral complexities of a life of co-existence on this planet.

    The wonderful thing about Fury Road is that it would love Sarkeesian and try to understand her point of view even if she couldn’t offer anything like that in return.

  36. The ending of Kingsman was so tonally off that it drew attention to itself. I had to look up what the director had been going for, which is perhaps a sign that it missed its mark, and I clearly wasn’t the only one that thought so. What a lot of people failed to mention was the complete absence of any sexual tropes throughout that film (no love interest, no innuendo), so when a gratuitous ass scene reared its head at the end it was all the more of a shock. I would argue that it wasn’t rapey, but clearly Jane Goldman wasn’t in the room when that scene was written.

  37. Great analysis… this has to be one of your best pieces.

  38. RRA- And it’s not even like AGENT CARTER didn’t make concessions despite the time period. Like the cop being black for instance, as well as the black nightclub owner in the first episode, operating an establishment that catered seemingly to mostly white people, and had white people working under him with no issue or reaction when Peggy pretends she’s got the hots for a black man. Plus the black Howling Commandos member in an episode that also had the Asian OSR agent tag along(and get killed, sure, but they also offed a white Howling Commando too). If anything, the show’s probably more diverse than what the reality would be.
    On a slightly related note, can I say how much I love THE FLASH series? Not just for being a pretty wonderful example of how overt superheroics can be done on TV, but also for giving the white main character a black foster father and them making their bond for each other so believable and strong that they do consider each other to be parent and son respectively.

    Manny- “I would argue that it wasn’t rapey, but clearly Jane Goldman wasn’t in the room when that scene was written.”
    Why? Because she’s a woman, she wouldn’t write something like that? She also wrote the KICKASS movie, where the female love interest, upon learning that Dave has been lying to her about being gay, gets over it immediately and has sex with him. Contrast it with the comic where at the end of the story Dave admits to the same character that he was lying, but he loves her and she calls him a creep then has him beaten up by a jock who she then goes off and has sex with. As was said earlier, the end of KINGSMAN was a send up of the traditional Bond movie endings. It was a little jarring to me as I figured that the female cadet was going to end up being his love interest, but they instead actually make her a pretty strong character in the film, being able to succeed where Eggsy failed and then later being instrumental in saving the world. That was pretty refreshing.

  39. I think it’s understandable for Sarkeesian to want to see the movie she’s asking for. FURY ROAD takes a step in the right direction but it’s clearly still a very simplistic might-makes-right, good-vs-evil, “male” kind of conflict-based storytelling. She’s looking for something else. That’s fair. No one should have to suck it up and accept the scraps they’re given if they’re not happy with the results. But that’s not really FURY ROAD’s problem, is it? It’s trying to be a kickass action movie first, a feminist expression a distant, distant second. It’s churlish to hold it to a standard it never set for itself. It’s a fair point about the film industry in general, but her dismissiveness of a film that’s obviously trying to be an ally is a misguided debate strategy. It’ll get her a lot of attention but few converts.

  40. RRA – I don’t really think pointing out the lack of POC in a show is a bad thing, even in the case of something of like Agent Carter, although I do agree with the idea that sometimes it’s just being brought up to raise controversy or for clicks. Mad Men is a very feminist show that doesn’t have a lot of POC, but it rarely gets criticized for that because it’s a highly acclaimed drama. Agent Carter is a comic book show, it can’t afford the high art body armor, thus it’s an easy target. There’s also the issue of second wave feminism vs. third wave. Second wave was criticized for ignoring groups such as trans people or POC, where as the third wave is trying to be exclusive. I think that’s partially why people take issue with it. I do think we all have to be realistic about these things though. People have spoken time and time again about Marvel having issues with their female characters, we shouldn’t all expect their one show with a female lead to be a feminist masterwork.

  41. Old Man's Star War

    May 23rd, 2015 at 6:45 am

    You hit the nail on the head when you said, “Here’s the problem with loving movies and the politics within them: you accidentally end up in movie debates with people who aren’t actually into movies.”

    For the most part, I think those who are criticizing the scene of the wives washing off by the truck as catering to the “male gaze” are not looking at that scene with the eye of someone who is trying to understand that scene and why it is there (and honestly, maybe part of the blame for that comes from the fact that we no longer expect anything beyond the surface from action directors anymore, so when a George Miller comes a long and communicates huge amounts of character and world information in thirty seconds of footage it’s not something most people are attuned to).

    To me, that scene breaks down like this: First, we’re coming off an extremely intense two sequences: the storm chase and Max savagely trying to free himself from Nux to no avail. From a mechanics of film construction standpoint, the audience needed a lighter moment to catch their breath, and Hardy’s momentarily baffled reaction when he stumbles across this bizarre and completely tonally dissonant scene was humorous at the exact moment we the audience needed a little humor.

    Second, our expectation as the audience is IMMEDIATELY subverted. What Miller sets up to LOOK like a stereotypical action movie cheesecake scene turns out to be something quite different. You thought Max was ogling the women? Nope. You might have been, but Max wasn’t. He was ogling the wasted water, and we immediately know the priorities in this world: water is survival, and survival is everything. What you might have thought was important wasn’t what Max thinks is important.

    In fact, survival has become such a singular impulse in this world that even a formerly good man like Max is entirely prepared to drive off and leave these women in the desert — he doesn’t have a change of heart and return, he only stops because Furiosa rigged the damned truck. This tells us even more without saying anything: Max is not a hero — not yet. In fact, he’s become not much better than the people he’s fleeing, and if he can steal your water and your gas and your vehicle to survive another day, he’ll do it. So this scene is not only telling us something about the world and its priorities, it’s also planting the starting marker for Max’s character arc with a bright banner saying “Max starts here.”

    There’s so much world building and character building and story setup going on in that sequence that it does Miller a huge disservice when people simply dismiss it as “catering to the male gaze”. That says more about the critic’s expectations of the scene and less about what Miller is actually doing in the scene.

  42. Well said, Old Man’s Star War. I couldn’t agree more with your breakdown of that scene.

  43. In my opinion, Sarkeesian is, at best, clueless or, at worst, a shameless self promoter who exploits the facts to suit a manufactured narrative.

  44. Those of you who are completely dismissing Sarkeesian should at least check out her videos on the subject of female portrayals in video games. While you may disagree with some points, I don’t think there’s any doubt that she’s fundamentally making some very valid arguments, a lot of which get raised far too infrequently. She’s obviously not just a troll or a self-promoter, this is her issue and she’s made it her job to try and create thought-provoking commentary on it.

    Alas, twitter is a pretty poor platform for making nuanced arguments, and with such loaded topics nuance is essential if you expect anyone who doesn’t already agree with you to take you seriously. I suspect she’s trying to be a little provocative and remind people that as much as it’s nice (and rare) to have a big-budget movie with strong female characters, it’s hardly the be-all end-all of feminism. Which is a fair point and one I think most of us would agree with. But of course there’s a lot of nuance there to express in 12 short sentences, and I don’t think it was the best medium for this message. I sincerely doubt that she really believes all fun-violent media is inherently anti-feminist, especially since she plays a lot of video games which are almost entirely violence-based. That’s definitely the impression her tweets give, but you can see in her videos that this is hardly a hard and fast rule with her. Talking about sensitive topics like this, you really can’t afford to be that inarticulate, and I wish she had thought about that before tweeting.

    Let this be a lesson for you: twitter is a terrible, terrible medium for talking about anything complicated, especially anything that’s complicated and also emotional.

    Here’s a link to her first video on the subject: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6p5AZp7r_Q

  45. I have watched a number of her videos, Mr. Sublety. I don’t play video games so I was approaching her videos as a man interested in Feminist views on popular culture. And while I agree with her primary argument that mass media needs way more positive female characters, I find also that she is equally interested (if not more so) in promoting her personal image and tends to ignore or even misconstrue aspects of her topic toward that end.

    This shallow, uninformed critique of FURY ROAD is further proof of her true aim (self aggrandizement). It’s as though she never actually watched the movie. Or if she did, she really didn’t understand what she was seeing but still manages to tweet sound bites that her audience will blindly consume. If she was truly interested in a conversation about FR she would publish a proper review with informed arguments.

  46. Vern, this is awesome. This is the definitive essay your entire body of work – from your early defense of Steven Seagal to the present day – has been building toward.

    There’s almost nothing left that I want to say to people on the Internet that can’t be said just by posting a link to this.

  47. I’ve re-read her tweets above and isn’t her real argument here that women shouldn’t, or can’t, enjoy action movies?
    My wife loved FURY ROAD on a purely visceral level of enjoyment. She loved Theron’s performance and the feminist angle to things was considered a bonus level to an otherwise super entertaining thriller.

  48. Thanks for all the comments on this and the other FURY ROAD thread, everybody. You’ve made me think about parts of the movie and these arguments in different ways, and I love it. I’m hoping to go for viewing #3 after work tomorrow and I’ll be looking for some of the things people have brought up.

  49. Curt- So you’re saying after years of talking about action cinema, his latest piece which adds an element of discussion of feminism is the ultimate expression of his point of view? In other words, this is Vern’s FURY ROAD?

  50. ‘I only ever heard of Sarkeesian because of the creepo video game players who harassed and threatened her because they disagreed with some of the points she made in web videos about elfs or Halos or whatever. So she’s okay in my book. I saw her on The Colbert Report once and now she’s one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People so alot of people (285K followers x 274 retweets) are listening when she she argues why FURY ROAD “isn’t feminist”:’

    You might want to consider her ideas about video games are as wrong as they are about movies. It seems more than a bit intellectually dishonest that you find numerous faults with her analysis of a subject you are intimately familiar with (movies) yet are willing to assume, somehow, that her ideas about another form of entertainment (video games) are correct because she appeared on TV and in a magazine. This is doubly dishonest when her general perspective – that media contains reams and reams of hidden and (somehow) destructive anti-female messages – is one she applies to both movies and video games.

    I also wonder how familiar you are with the gaming community? I ask because it is one of the most diverse and tolerant communities you will ever find. The scare tactics employed by Sarkeesian and McIntosh against them (for which they receive quite a bit of notoriety and money) are both shameful and smack of earlier moral panics against other forms of popular culture like comic books, pinball, and, yes, movies. Isn’t it a reasonable possibility that her deep misunderstanding of movie-goers applies to gamers as well?

  51. Hi, Vern. Thank you so much for writing such a great article. I loved your Hard Boiled reference!

    While the critics of Mad Max: Fury Road are certainly entitled to their views, they are sheltered people who live in industrialised countries and have never had to shed blood for anything in their lives. Their views are myopic as a result. At worst, it’s ignorant.

    I’m a producer who works in broadcast television, and I cover the international news a lot.

    Have you heard of the Kurdish women taking up arms and fighting against ISIS in Iraq?

    Here’s a photo essay that covers their exploits: http://edition.cnn.com/2015/03/12/world/cnnphotos-female-peshmerga-fighters

    I’d encourage everyone here to take a look at this. Then tell me that Mad Max: Fury Road isn’t a symbolic stand-in for what’s actually happening in our world today.

    Yes, many women indeed have no choice but to shed blood in order to protect their loved ones, their homes and even to get basic necessities like electricity and food.

    Eileen Jones and Anita Sarkeesian are brilliant academics. I have no doubt of their ability to spin a sentence or express a lucid point. But do they actually know what it’s like to be a Third World woman threatened with rape, torture, starvation and degradation on a daily basis? Do they really?

  52. Stu – FLASH is a winner indeed.

  53. animalramirez1976

    May 24th, 2015 at 6:24 am

    I only saw FURY ROAD once a week ago so if I get some of the finer points wrong forgive me.

    I never really thought of FURY ROAD as a feminist movie while I was watching it and still find the case that it is a bit much. Don’t mean to exaggerate, but I think there have been 11,573 movies where sex slavers are the villains. They are currently what Nazis, Communists, muggers and terrorists have been in their respective eras.

    Three hypothesis may be drawn:

    1) All these pictures are feminist
    2) None of these pictures are feminist
    3) FURY ROAD is feminist but these other pictures are not.

    Let’s explore 3). Why is would this be so? The first and primary reason is because the hero of the picture is a woman. Does this fact and this fact alone make FURY ROAD feminist? Let’s try and isolate this further. Does the fact that a picture is against sex slavery make it feminist? Is THE EQUALIZER feminist? It is not considered so. Let’s assume the answer is no. Okay, so Furiosa liberates sex slaves. That doesn’t make her a feminist. It has to be that she is a woman that makes the picture feminist.

    But she is a competent female protagonist. Like sex slavery, female competence is a pretty common trope in modern movies. Am I sexist for suggesting that it could be an overused trope? Especially when this competence is expressed through arbitrary violence, particularly when it is done for no good reason. Someone mentioned Peggy Carter. In FIRST AVENGER she punches a soldier for back talking her. Can you imagine a male character needing to assert his authority over a subordinate in this way? Dirty Harry could get this guy in line with one sarcastic remark. This is not a villain we’re talking about, just an obnoxious guy. Similarly, in the new ANT MAN trailer, Paul Rudd, an inexperienced fighter, asks a woman acquaintance to show him how to punch. Needless to say, she punches him right in the face. Why the fuck would any rational person do this? Did Mr. Miyagi teach Daniel San to fight like this, or am I misremembering the movie? If Tony Stark was Tanya Stark, I guarantee she would punch out some redshirt S.H.I.E.L.D. agent for giving her a donut instead of a danish.

    If there are plenty of male counterexamples, then I guess my problem with this is an irrational prejudice on my part. But the overall point is that female violence does not equal a feminist movie, unless are twelve billion feminist movies out there.

    That’s really the point: if FURY ROAD is feminist, so are many, many other movies where the question “Is this movie feminist?” has never been addressed. Are feminist movies so common?

    Here’s another point: assume FURY ROAD is not feminist. So what?

  54. I just want to expand a little on what John Ling wrote. I actually find it unfortunate that Sarkeesian thinks that the depiction of misogynists in the film are “cartoonish.” I think she’s partially blinded by her relatively privileged position as a white, economically secure woman living in a first world nation. But a cursory view of world news tells us that the kind of violence against women depicted in the film is a reality. Sex slavery does in fact exist around the world (and even in the United States). This means that her comment reflects only her personal experience and refuses to see the kind of extreme violence that happens to women daily.

  55. The Original Paul

    May 24th, 2015 at 8:52 am

    Well there’s a lot of food for thought here.

    Firstly: I’ve seen the after-effects of domestic violence first-hand, up to and including the bruses, and I think the depiction of misogynists in FURY ROAD is “cartoonish”. I also think that having a mummified guy suspended on the front of a giant war-truck to play a dual-purpose bass guitar and flamethrower is “cartoonish”, as is most of the other stuff in the film, including a lot of Wile-E-Coyote-style violent deaths (an anvil is actually one of the few heavy metal objects that doesn’t get dropped on somebody’s head in this one). Why this should affect how “feminist” the film is, I have no idea.

    Secondly: I’m one of what I think are probably the relative few critics of Sarkeesian’s videos – as opposed to Sarkeesian herself. You can put me down as neutral on that one. On some things, as here (as Vern very ably demonstrates) I think she makes points that disregard the context of what she’s discussing. On some things I agree with her, and on one or two (in particular what she says about the game SKYRIM, which I’ve wasted a lot of time on) I think she actually doesn’t go far enough, and could maybe have developed her argument more than she actually does.

    Thirdly: I think the biggest point in her favour, disregarding what she actually says, is the misogynist mob. If you have to confront a bullshitter, someone you know is lying, you call them out on it. You don’t try to shut them up, you use what they’re saying against them. Nobody was trying to get LOOSE CHANGE banned from pubic view forever. Why? ‘Cause everyone knew it was ridiculous. Sarkeesian, on the other hand, has people actively trying to shut her up. Why? ‘Cause they know, or believe, that she’s right, and they don’t want people to take notice of her.

    Fourthly: I think you have to be very very careful to not assume that because someone has a differing opinion to you, they’re somehow stupid or intellectually inferior; and worse, because of that, that they’re incapable of separating a particular piece of art from reality. This applies to both Sarkeesian and her critics.

    Fifthly: I 100% agree with Vern’s original analysis of Sarkeesian’s statements regarding FURY ROAD. Very well said indeed.

    Sixthly and finally: With all this talk of Sarkeesian, feminists, Gamergate, etc, let’s not forget the real enemy here: Twitter, possibly the worst public arena ever for promoting rational debate and conversations.

  56. Great article, Vern. You show what deep, intellectual thought can be had about action movies. As Gandhi would say, you’re being the change you want to see in the world.

    I read one article that said MM:FR is not feminist because, among other examples, it has a male lead. So that is the level of discourse out there, and the level of understanding feminism. God forbid someone try to make a feminist film about a male misogynist who learns the error in his ways. That wouldn’t be considered feminist either.

    You also hit the larger issue on the head. It becomes impossible to have intelligent discussions about movies because you’ve got people who don’t even like, let alone understand movies getting involved. It’s like every time there’s a school shooting and pundits say it’s because of violent movies. Well, sure, if you don’t watch movies and suddenly you see this big scary thing in a movie, of course you jump to the conclusion that it’s bad and evil and turning children into killers. But as Michael Moore said, you could just as easily blame bowling, but everyone understands bowling and knows that’s ridiculous.

    I am a little shocked that in 2015, understandings of cinema and media are still so low. It’s such a pervasive part of our culture, we often take it for granted that everyone is up to speed. I would love to see media literacy taught in schools, so that impressionable kids can learn to interpret what they’re being sold. But advertisers would hate that because then their tricks wouldn’t work anymore.

  57. The Original Paul

    May 24th, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    I confess. I get seriously creeped out by the term “Men’s Rights”. Despite agreeing with a lot of their points and causes – custody rights being weighted in favour of women, regardless of suitability for parenting, for example. I’ve seen one example of this myself – custody being granted to a mother who was outright abusive to her kids, over their stable employed father. That’s only one example and I don’t know how widespread the problem is, but there’s no doubt that a lot of people think there’s a serious issue there.

    But that said… the term “men’s rights” seems to put the movement on the same level, at least linguistically, as “women’s rights”. And I’m pretty sure that even in these liberal days, women as a whole have a helluva lot more to justifiably complain about than men do. Again, not belittling what some men have gone through. But focussing on the rights of men today feels kinda like focussing on problems whites had during Apartheid. Yes, there were genuine problems that white people had at that time, but there was a much bigger issue there.

    Plus it seems, at least on the Internet, to attract the kind of (mostly, I’m assuming) men, or possibly boys, who equate “feminist” with “man-hating bitch”. That’s one helluva baggage to deal with when you’re trying to deal with those circumstances where men DO face genuine prejudice and discrimination. Especially for the kinds of activists who genuinely want equality and for everyone to get their fair dues.

  58. Paul, personally I think that the worst thing we can do in our society (and especially in our time), is to tell anybody that their problems don’t count, because someone else has it worse. The problem is still there and it will not get any better from waiting. “I felt bad because I had no shoes, until I met a man with no feet” is a good proverb, but if you don’t hurry up and get some shoes, you might lose your feet as soon as the next winter arrives!

    And that brings me to my personal OTHER #1 place in the ranking of the worst things we can do: Fighting for only one “team”. There is no rule that says that you can’t fight for the rights of men AND women! And homosexuals, blacks, muslims, jews, whatever! Basically it all comes down to “Everybody deserves an equally sized piece of the cake called life”, so why don’t we just try to solve all problems at once? Making sure that a man doesn’t have to leave his kids with his abusive ex-wife, doesn’t mean that women have to give one of their rights back. There is enough cake for everybody.

    That’s all. Now I try to stay out of this again. I know, I will get dragged back into it, but that shit is draining me too much at the moment.

  59. Have no idea why you would waste your breath on this type of thing. It’s truly a no win situation. This person who has been appointed as the sheriff of all-things female endeavors will never give in on anything. That type of folk will never be pleased with any particular situation. They’re incapable of being content.

    Besides, as you said it yourself: she’s no action movie fan to begin with. What the hell does she know about it? Please. She just – again wants to be the sheriff and flex her bullshit for the few that listen to this horseshit.

  60. Domestic violence against women is getting a lot of attention in the political arena over here in Australia at the moment. The issue is whether or not abuse against a partner/spouse is considered more criminal, (which, according to current laws, partners are less likely to be as severely punished) than if the violence were against a stranger or non-family member. Like you Paul, I’ve seen it first-hand as an observer, and it only reinforced my belief that women are to be treated as equals and, if you have a wife or partner, cherished above yourself. Read that as selfless, not as women being above men. Without discounting a woman’s ability to have these traits also, it’s intrinsic to a man’s nature to be a protector of all things beautiful and less vulnerable than himself. Not every man has discovered that about himself yet. It’s a lifetime journey.

    It’s a huge beast of a topic which I tread carefully around, and like CJ, am a bit weary from it all, so I’ll shut up and watch FURY ROAD again.

  61. Can you see now Vern why gamers, even the kind who wouldn’t send death threats to anybody, have a problem with Sarkeesian? She doesn’t actually know what she’s talking about but is very good at pretending like she does, she cherry picks whatever will allow her to build a reputation, even going after video games first is not a coincidence since she is a self-confessed non-gamer, she simply knew that going after video games would stir up the most shit and she was right.

    Video games are as important to me Vern as movies are to you (and to be honest I’m a bit bothered by your derisive “elfs or Halos or whatever” comment), gamers worked so hard to rehabilitate the image of games in the culture after the days of Jack Thompson and as soon as that became long a thing of the past Sarkeesian came along and ruined it all over again (though in fairness it’s not entirely her fault, the people who harassed her obviously share some of the blame, in a perfect world she would have been able to make her videos and gamers reaction would have been “oh well”, but it’s not a perfect world), it’s always Mario rescuing Princess Peach or “look at this scantily clad female character”, they don’t talk about Silent Hill 2 or Shadow of The Colossus or Final Fantasy, which has had a strong female following ever since 7, video games have been around for decades and there’s countless of them out there and if you look hard enough you’ll find an example of whatever it is you’re looking for to push whatever agenda you want, it’s like if you pointed to the movie HARDBODIES and said “see! movies are nothing but wank fantasies for lonely men!”.

    And that’s the reality when it comes to political views and entertainment, if you put a strict enough lens on you can see anything in anything, you can see sexism in any movie, if you have this impossibly high standard of what counts as “feminist friendly” then nothing will live up to it and it can only lead to headaches for everyone, it’s an insane way to process pop culture and everyone needs to just lighten the fuck up.

  62. There’s other aspects of this whole situation that really bothers me as well, like the whole “male gaze” thing, if a movie ever shows a scantily clad (or nude) lady for the sole purpose of being sexually arousing that is supposed to be inherently immoral? A movie is just never, ever supposed to do that?

    That bothers me for a myriad of reasons, number 1 it seems to be saying that male sexuality in general is inherently immoral, if you are a straight male and find yourself turned on by an attractive woman well there’s just something wrong with that and you should feel bad about it, number 2 it seems to be assuming that the only people who are sexually excited by the sight of a woman is men, what, lesbians don’t exist now?

    And finally there’s the reverse situation, is it ok for Daniel Craig to strut out of the water showing off his abs in Casino Royale but not ok for Ursula Andress to do the same in Dr No? How is that not one big fat double standard?

  63. The Original Paul

    May 24th, 2015 at 6:35 pm

    CJ – Agree 100% with what you’re saying. It’s not the action that I object to, at all. It’s the term. And that for what I fully admit are pretty nebulous reasons.

    I mean, if someone came up with the term “white rights” for people living in Apartheid, I think a sensible person might have a problem with that and yet still acknowledge that, yes, some whites had some pretty serious problems. The “Men’s Rights” term is the same kind of thing, except it’s either much less or much greater in scale, depending on how you measure it. On the one hand there’s a lot less discrimination against women, at least in first-world countries, than there ever was against blacks under Apartheid; on the other hand, discrimination against women in many forms is still pretty much universal. Women are likely to get paid less for doing the same jobs as men (and yes, I’m aware there are other factors, such as women not applying for high-paid positions in male-dominated sectors, but even taking these into account there are still some pretty big discrepancies in pay), they’re more likely to be victims of sexual assault, etc.

    None of which is to say that there aren’t many issues affecting men more than women, or that those problems are less important. What I’m objecting to is the idea that they’re equally prevalent. Discrimination doesn’t affect all groups equally, so let’s not distort the truth and pretend that it does to suit some kind of political agenda. Let’s just fix the damn problems, regardless of who they affect. Ok?

  64. CrustaceanHate

    May 24th, 2015 at 6:38 pm

    I haven’t seen that many of Sarkeesian’s videos but from what I can tell she’s not just trolling, she genuinely believes what she’s saying. And I don’t think getting people to think about the gender-specific subtext of standard gaming tropes is such a bad thing, especially since subtext isn’t high on most developers lists (perhaps rightly so, but if that’s the case then games really aren’t art). I honestly don’t get what you’re afraid of, or how what she’s doing relates to Jack Thompson in any way. Anyway, at this very moment Sarkeesian has a web series called Positive Female Characters in Video Games that focuses on positive examples (e.g. Jade from BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL).

    As for the male gaze, it’s something that is so pervasive and so heavily ingrained into popular culture that you probably don’t even notice it, and that’s the problem. It’s done so unconsciously that you end up in situations where the camera is ogling women’s bodies regardless of the context, even when it’s highly inappropriate. Like, how many movies have you seen where a women is put in some abusive or degrading sexual situation and the camera is lingering on her body, basically making you a participant. It’s not about sex shaming or that the act of looking at women is wrong, it’s that when it’s aggregated over the whole of popular movies/video games/whatever it paints a pretty depressing picture. (I think it works in MAD MAX: FURY ROAD because it’s thematically appropriate as well as a funny moment)

    That shot of Daniel Craig is the exception that proves the rule. It’s iconic for a reason. Yeah, dudes take their shirts off in action movies and there are plenty of women (and men) ooh-ing and ah-ing over any of Marvel Chrises, but it’s not overtly sexualized the same way women’s bodies are. Look up the Hawkeye Initiative.

  65. Griff – “it’s always Mario rescuing Princess Peach”

    the irony considering what a big female following the Mario series actually has worldwide.

    This will seem rather crass because I’m a humanist though I don’t even know how I feel about saying that cause I’m not one for labels but it’s the closest approximation of my beliefs. I believe in full blown equality for everyone but I don’t associate with liberals or male rights activists (lol the arrogance!) or feminists or any of that because the worst and most of extreme of that bunch are certainly no friends of mine.

    Quite frankly I think this lady is a full fledged idiot and I take issue with her approach. For reasons already stated; she speaks on things she knows nothing about for the sake of sensationalism. As someone who respects passionate and informed opinions regardless of whether I agree with them or not it offends me. It’s very easy to pick on the seemingly easy targets but all that makes them is verbal bullies who want easy attention. People who sit behind a keyboard/keypad and ramble on because anybody could do it and not because they’re truly inspired to share a compelling argument or point that may be valid and not yet addressed. Something that actually takes thought and effort as opposed to the textual equivalent of verbal diarrhea.

    Truth is in many ways I don’t even think this Sarkeesian lady quite gets what it is that she thinks she actually stands for.

  66. The Original Paul

    May 24th, 2015 at 6:46 pm


    “And finally there’s the reverse situation, is it ok for Daniel Craig to strut out of the water showing off his abs in Casino Royale but not ok for Ursula Andress to do the same in Dr No? How is that not one big fat double standard?”

    I think the answer to that one is that there’s a massive cultural history of objectification of women that, until recently, hasn’t really touched men in the same way. That’s an explanation, not an excuse, ’cause I pretty much agree with you on this one.

    Don’t despair, though. If you want evidence that things are starting to even out on this whole “objectification” thing, look no further than 2012’s SHAME, which has the most gratuitous cock-shot that I’ve ever seen in a movie. And that’s even taking into account the fact that whole movie was pretty much about Michael Fassbender’s character’s cock and his psychological compulsion to use it. So if that’s what you’re after, enjoy!

  67. The Original Paul

    May 24th, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    Crustacean probably answered Griff’s question better than I did, by the way, although I think we were saying much the same thing in different ways.

  68. In other words people who don’t actually take time to at least research what they want to speak on just grind my gears and I don’t generally waste any time on their shenanigans. I ignored the entire “gamergate” debacle for example because there was pure ignorance on both ends of that chaos that pretty much made me embarrassed to call these people paisanos of mine within the human race.

    On the other hand someone like say Roger Ebert who I rarely agreed with was someone who always kept my attention with his reviews and articles. Simply because at least I knew that his writing when it came to cinema was that of someone truly informed in their subject and truly as objective as can be. That is striving for excellence which is why it’s always something I could get behind.

    Crying foul about something that you don’t even fully comprehend is not something I could get behind. It’s borderlines insanity and probably the symptom of a deeper psychological issue.

  69. Oh and props to Vern on this great counterpoint. Another example of always striving for excellence.

  70. The Original Paul

    May 24th, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    Also Broddie – I don’t think Sarkeesian’s trying to “bully” anybody here, although I take the same issue with her rather ill-thought-out stance against action movies that Vern does, and I think Vern’s put the argument against that stance very well indeed.

    I think that, thanks to the controversy she’s created, every single thing she writes, tweets or says is going to get caught up and picked apart by people with differing motivations from differing interests with differing biases. I mean, we’re talking a bunch of tweets here. I don’t want to belittle what someone says, but still… it’s tweets. If ninety-nine out of a hundred people wrote something like that on twitter, they’d be largely ignored. (Because it’s twitter; and, as has been already established – I stated it a few posts above this one – twitter is the real enemy.) But because it’s Sarkeesian, stuff like this article / comments section happens. And it’ll probably be forgotten about in a few days’ time anyway.

    So by all means debate this thing, but don’t read too much into it. One person’s tweets will not set the world on fire, unless nerd rage really does turn incendiary. Or to misquote one famous movie: “It’s twitter. Let her tweet.”

  71. CrustaceanHate – “or how what she’s doing relates to Jack Thompson in any way”.

    In the days of Grand Theft Auto’s peak controversy Jack Thompson seized on that controversy to build a reputation, Sarkeesian similarly seized on a controversy (woman and video games, which has been a point of contention long before the modern day, it just never got this ugly) to build a reputation and she has succeeded where Thompson failed in actually being taken seriously.

    I just have a problem when anybody stands on a soapbox and starts preaching how they think video games are wrong and need to change, either “they’re too violent” or “they’re too sexist”, I believe the right of game developers to make whatever kind of game they want and for gamers to vote with their dollar as to what kind of games they want to see, we don’t need the soapboxers who do nothing but stir up shit.

    So she cites Jade from Beyond Good and Evil (a pretty good game that I actually did play back in the day) as an example of a good female character? Well that’s great, but that game sold like shit, hence why it never got a sequel and why games starring characters like that are a rarity, it’s tough, but that’s just the way it goes, I for example hate those fucking Call of Duty games and wish they would stop making them, but they sell and so long as they sell they’ll keep making them.

    But I understand that those games are just not made for me and I simply don’t waste my time or money on them, instead I’ll play something like Bloodborne, so if you’re a female gamer and you just can’t stand anything macho then there’s still plenty of games out there that might still appeal to you, video games are not as monolithically male oriented as they’re made out to be and if you’re a female and you want to get into the video game business and make the kind of games you want to play then by God, more power to you and if there’s actually a market for them they’ll sell, but you can’t force with it all this internet soapboxing and hand wringing that does nothing but make gaming culture worse and uglier than it was before.

    Meanwhile if there is one day a market for games aimed at female audiences that’s fine, but can you leave us dudes and the kind of games we want to play alone? Is the world not big enough for the both of us?

  72. This is a great essay, but the comments aren’t as good as I’d expect from this site. I’m a gamer, and Anita’s videos just apply basic feminism 101 analysis to games. She’s made me aware of some sexist tropes – like when I was playing Shadow Complex and your girlfriend literally asks you to stuff her into a cabinet so she can get out of the way. That’s all. She isn’t calling for censorship or anything.
    If a woman made some of the points Vern does about certain movies being problematic or not liking movies that endorse witch-hunts, but made them about games, she’d get death-threats and hate from people who can’t deal with critiques of the entertainment they love.

  73. Also, speaking personally I would LOVE to see more female protagonists, I really liked that 2013 Tomb Raider reboot where they made Lara Croft into more like an actual person than some sort of blow up doll looking character, I agree completely with the criticism that there’s too many “generic white dude” protagonists in games these days.

    But I still say let the market decide, not some Canadian lady with hoop earrings.

  74. On the third viewing I agree with Renfield, and whoever else has said this, about “Remember me.” This time I don’t think it’s a question. I think she’s telling Joe to remember her ripping his fucking face off when he gets to Valhalla. But I like that I interpret it differently each time.

    I still think it’s the little girl calling him “Pa” before he goes out into the salt flats to find everybody.

    Animal: It’s much more than that they’re saving sex slaves. Feminism is the advocacy of women being equal. FURY ROAD does this by having more than a dozen very capable, likable good guys and only two of them are men. Furiosa is not just the hero, not just rescuing women from a patriarchal tyrant, but also returning to her all-woman tribe and helping them build a new, hopefully more fair and peaceful tomorrow. And it’s feminist just by treating all these women as real characters, giving them great things to do, making them awesome. Like Fred says it’s being the change it wants to see.

    So it’s pretty different from TAKEN or something.

  75. Unlike Brimstone, I feel that the vast majority of the comments posted here regarding Vern’s brilliant article have been thoughtful, articulate and incredibly interesting. Keep it up, guys!

    As a first hand victim of, and witness to, domestic violence myself I have always felt that, based on my experiences, the perpetrator’s actions are informed less by misogyny and more by their latent frustration and self-loathing becoming manifest as outwardly directed physical violence. This includes female perpetrators too of course. And of course self-hatred can often contort into hatred of others, especially towards those who could be seen to be in direct opposition to how one regards oneself (be it identifications of gender, race, culture etc).

    Also I really don’t want to keep this fire burning, (and I’m sorry Mouth) but Sarkeesian’s tweets perfectly encapsulate my feelings on SUCKER PUNCH while running in diametric opposition to my feelings on FURY ROAD.

  76. Video game stuff for John Shade and Griff:

    I don’t think it’s intellectually dishonest because I didn’t pretend to be knowledgeable about video games or her criticisms of them. I just said I side with her because she gets attacked by creepos. Notice that when I disagreed with her I wrote a respectful essay about it. I am proud to say that my discourse remains 100% rape threat free.

    It is true though, now that you bring it up, that from what little I’ve watched of her videos they do seem harmless, are heavily illustrated with examples and even start out with a friendly reminder to “enjoy media” even as you are criticizing it. I wish Mystery Science Theater and How Did This Get Made? would do that. Although Griff still says that she is not a gamer, all of her biographies call her a lifelong video game player. No matter what she ever does, you won’t believe her, and you’ll make fun of her appearance and clothing, and you won’t ever realize that you’re proving her points over and over again.

    I mean Griff, how could you possibly believe that Sarkeesian’s academic analysis itself has “harmed the reputation of gamers”? First of all, there is zero percent chance that I or the vast majority of non-gamers would have seen a second of her work or heard her name if not for hundreds or thousands of horrible garbage people harassing her and writing moronic things about her. Second, her criticism that I have seen, thanks to your fellow hobbyists’ hard work promoting her, is entirely about the tropes in games, and not about the people who play them (including her). The only way she has contributed to a bad reputation for gamers is by being the victim and obsession of horrible shitbags who identify as gamers. That you feel she is primarily or partly to blame of course supports the idea that there could be something to that stereotype.

    And I already said this before, but I hate this argument you keep making about her “building a reputation.” Of course she’s trying to build a reputation doing her work. I’m trying to build a reputation doing my work too. I haven’t figured out how to turn it into very much money, but I would love to. I’ll keep trying.

    I disagreed with her points so I made mine. I didn’t attack her jewelry or her ambitions or call her a bitch. And it’s still weird to me how threatened you feel by her. She’s not censoring video games any more than she’s censoring FURY ROAD. So game developers could find her arguments persuasive and that could be influential in their future work? You already said you wanted more female protagonists. You already said you were against sexism. You already think games aren’t that sexist. You won’t even notice then if/when they become less sexist.

    I also want to say that I feel a little bad about writing this, because I do understand that she was just stating her opinion on Twitter and not making some grand proclamation. It’s a little bit of an uneven battlefield, me spending days writing a long essay about it and her just making a few comments not intended to be definitive. This specific thing obviously means more to me than her and I put more thought and work into it. But as I said these were things I wanted to write about, I want to explore these issues, not rebut her personally.

  77. Original Paul, you hit the nail on the head friendo. All problems aren’t equally prevalent. Men make up the vast (as in not even close majority of workplace deaths/injuries, violent crime victims, the homeless, the incarcerated, the drug/alcohol addicted, suicides, the mentally ill. Funny how the thoroughly debunked workplace pay gap trumps the actual much wider margined workplace death gap, but such is the grand canyon sized blindspot yielded by the feminist ideological lens. Modern western males possess neither reproductive rights nor even the right to maintain the integrity of their reproductive parts, as per genital mutilation performed at infancy. Can you cite one right denied western females.

  78. Oh jesus christ, the circumcision thing again. Just leave that one out if you want some chance of being taken seriously. That’s a freebie for ya.

  79. And John Shade, to answer your question, yes, I’m sure she is wrong about plenty of things video game related, and I bet there are reasonable people who have written intelligent rebuttals to them. But for those of us who don’t really follow the video game world we only end up hearing from the knuckleheads.

  80. The Original Paul

    May 25th, 2015 at 1:41 am

    “Funny how the thoroughly debunked workplace pay gap trumps the actual much wider margined workplace death gap.”

    1) “Thoroughly debunked”? Erm… no. We’ve been reading very different studies if that’s what you think is the case.

    And 2) So how many people have YOU known who’ve died at work?

    Funnily enough the “violent crime” thing was something I thought of bringing up myself as an example of an issue that affects men a lot more than women, but didn’t, because again, the actual numbers affected pale in comparison to the number of reported sexual assaults on women (even in our gender-equal liberal Western society), so much so that it felt like I would have been doing the very thing I objected to.

    Again, I’m not denying that these problems exist, or that they’re a big deal. I want to see them solved. And obviously I want to see men get a fair deal as well as women because, hey, I’m a man. It’s the idea that discrimination affects all groups equally that I object to. Because that’s just intellectual dishonesty.

  81. I don´t know. The Lara Croft in TOMB RAIDER reboot is easily emotionally distressed unlike for example Nathan drake who shrugs everything off. It´s not a perfect women protagonist. But I guess it was a better effort than most.

  82. Who is to say that the people is better off with Furiosa? She might turn into Auntie. A dictator replaced by another dictator.

  83. I had never heard of Sarkeesian prior to the “gamergate” controversy. And I only watched her videos after she came up in conversation in this very websight. Now, I’m a very casual video game player, but I actually thought the videos had a point. In fact, some of her analysis was so obvious that I was surprised there was any controversy at all. A good percentage of our media treats women poorly, and you would have to be absolutely blind not to see that. I disagree with the above tweets (I still feel stupid using that term), and I’m sure reasonable people could disagree with some of what she has to say about video games. I am sort of troubled when people start attacking her and not her ideas.

    Griff–The image of Daniel Craig in the ocean in Casino Royale is a deliberate callback to Dr. No. It’s definitely an attempt to replace the male gaze with the female gaze in kind of a what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. (Casino Royale, for my money, is totally underrated). Representing attractive women in media is not automatically a bad thing, and a lot of third-wave feminists have dealt with this issue. They have argued that women can be sexualized while maintaining their own agency. I actually think that if you were more familiar with feminist arguments, you would be less defensive about Sarkeesian. (But, of course, who the hell spends their free time reading feminist academics if you’re not also a feminist academic).

  84. Vern – “That you feel she is primarily or partly to blame of course supports the idea that there could be something to that stereotype.”

    She’s not really to blame, save for the fact that I’m sure she’s smart enough to have known that going after a male dominated culture like gaming was really going to stir some shit up and I’m sure that she just did not care how it would negatively impact said culture.

    But look, at the end of the day it’s not so much Sarkeesian I’m mad at so much as I’m simply very angry and bitter over this whole situation gaming culture has found itself in these days, it breaks my fucking heart, gaming culture used to be fun Goddammit and now it’s gotten ugly and I can’t help but resent Sarkeesian for starting this shit even if the worse of it is not her fault, I wish I felt differently but it’s just the way it is, I’m not perfect

  85. “I don´t know. The Lara Croft in TOMB RAIDER reboot is easily emotionally distressed unlike for example Nathan drake who shrugs everything off.”

    But the game is supposed to be Lara’s very first adventure, she has no prior experience with these sort of death defying situations and she’s learning the ropes, when you play as Nathan Drake in the first game he’s already a seasoned expert in adventuring.

  86. Griff, how in the living actual fuck does pointing out a pre-existing problem equal “starting this shit?” I suppose tobacco company whistleblowers cause lung cancer. Is the medium and culture you love such a fragile little flower that it can’t take ONE FUCKING PERSON pointing out some shit she doesn’t think is all that cool about it? If that’s all it takes to make the whole thing come tumbling down into a morass of rape-threats and butthurt beta male defensiveness, then it’s a shitty medium and a shitty culture and you all deserve to get your asses handed to you in the mainstream discussion where the grownups hang out. Nobody’s taking your toys away, and if your culture has turned ugly, you have no one but yourselves to blame. Stop being such a fucking baby, Griff, and let your fellow human being who happens to have a vagina have her goddamn say.

  87. Thank you for this article. It is well written and to the point. I especially agree with the challenges of arguing politics of a film with someone who doesn’t like cinema.

    Fury Road is not 100% feminist but I think it is heaps ahead of many other action films in that regards. And despite the fact that I love the fact that Furiosa is a woman, I’d have liked her even if she wasn’t.

    Also I have just seen that some people think that the first look at the wives are some sort of male gazing. Surprising. How can people think that? It is because the women were pretty?

  88. I am starting to hate video games because ofl the culture. A friend of mine showed me how he use to play something called JEDI ACADEMY. Picking a server and just jumping around bullying each other making rape jokes and he thought it was funny. I thought it was just fucking stupid and immature. That is video gaming in a nutshell.

  89. “Meanwhile if there is one day a market for games aimed at female audiences that’s fine, but can you leave us dudes and the kind of games we want to play alone? Is the world not big enough for the both of us?”

    See Griff, the issue with the perspective a lot of males take with Sarkeesian’s side, is that you treat it like it’s a “this or that” thing, but real life isn’t about binaries, it’s not black and white. You act as if “us dudes” make up the entire gaming market, and that women are a huge minority, but they aren’t. Statistically, the gaming audience is nearly 50/50, with about 48% being women. The overwhelming majority of games have male protagonists. Can you imagine being a women, and playing games, but nearly every single game you find forces you to play as a man or represents women poorly in general (regardless of whether or not you get the option to change your characters gender). No one is attacking your “dude stuff” because Fury Road proves that “dude stuff” and “fair and equal gender representation” can coexist.

    And don’t even say any more about “If women want more female protagonists they should make more games and movies” because that entire argument is pretty bullshit. It’s a way more complex situation than that.

  90. Worth noting about that last TOMB RAIDER game, which the company behind it purposefully desexualized Lara Croft in order to appeal to more female gamers and set up that movie reboot (which last I checked was still in development), it ended up being the best selling game of that franchise. And that’s an incredible fact considering how HUGE that game series was back in the 1990s.

    Also what Griff is doing, I…I’m not sure what is going on. I’m a dude, but I’ve enjoyed stories about women. I think the HUNGER GAMES films are terrific science fiction, larger than life stories. One of the better titles Marvel has out now is Ms. Marvel, which allegedly is now outselling X-Men. (Which I have trouble believing honestly but hey if actually true that’s awesome.) I think there are promising signs from both comic book companies trying to get a larger womens readership. The new Thor title where a girl now wields Mjinor, the first few issues outsold the first few issues of good ole Thor Odinson’s last title (which came out after Chris Hemsworth had done 2-3 movies.) Harley Quinn is actually DC’s #2 top selling title (behind Batman) if you don’t count the Convergence mega-company wide event stufff. Also Spider-Gwen* is apparently now Marvel’s top-selling non-Star Wars book.

    What I found both amusing and annoying as fuck is whenever these facts pop up, way too many guys on forums for comics and video games say they don’t mean anything because “they’re gimmicky!” (and which comics aren’t?) and that TR statistic I brought up? They say it only sold all those millions because the game got discounted….because you know, that doesn’t happen to every game.

    Honestly these people should try to listen to themselves sometime.

    *=Haven’t read any of that series, but apparently as an alternate reality version of Gwen Stacy (who got bit by that radioactive spider instead of Mr. Parker) she refered to the dead Gwen Stacy from the main Spider-Man continuity as getting “fridged.” That’s funny.

  91. I don’t game like I used to. I had terrible academic scores cause I procrastinated on school work to binge game growing up. However today it’s a different story. The last generation of home consoles (Wii, PS3, XBOX 360) was the first one since 1987 that I actually skipped. The last handheld I owned was a PSP which is pretty much ancient tech by today’s standards.

    A big part of what turned me off from gaming was the emphasis on straight up bro dude behavior from people who are usually beat up by bro dudes when it came to online console gaming. At first online gaming was cool on consoles. Sharing strategy techniques in Phantasy Star Online or play tactics in NFL 2K1 back on Dreamcast. Or plotting as a unit in SOCOM on PS2.

    Then it quickly devolved into complete chaos not even 2 years in. That was a big reason online gaming held very little appeal to me in the long run. Not for nothing but when I was at the arcades back in the day nobody spent time talking smack to each other when playing against each other. We just went in there and took care of business and lost some quarters.

    A great chunk of people on these servers are self absorbed and think they’re Jerry Fucking Seinfeld. I’m not paying for that shit. I’m paying for something actually valuable and productive instead. For those reasons I’m very much a single player type and todays big games aren’t really about that. Kinda always was one anyway due to my introverted lone wolf nature but today even much more so since I don’t even have 1 friend left who actually plays video games even casually.

    The Wii U caught my attention recently with it’s varied library with emphasis on solid single player experiences and because the majority of those come from japanese devs. I’ve always prefered japanese developed games. I’ll buy one for myself this summer as a birthday present because it caters to my sensibilities. Will be my first Nintendo hardware (home console or handheld) since SNES.

    Outside of that I’m not eager to jump into Xbox One or PS4 any time soon because a lot of those games are not only interchangeable but their communities are suspect. Plus another turn off from modern games for me was the emphasis of going overtly cinematic to the point that it hinders gameplay. Too much software suffers from that. I love video games and I love movies I however don’t want either medium to be more like the other. I appreciate them staying in their lane doing what they do best instead of trying to be jacks of all trades and mastering none.

    That and thinking that grim darkness = maturity. Funny thing is after playing both for a great deal of time at a family members place I found that PIKMIN 3 is far more mature in the way it challenges you to weigh responsibility and coordination than I ever did BLOODBORNE. Both were fun though but all I’m saying is aesthetics and themes mean jack shit when it comes to “mature” content. Nevertheless for the time being I do see some brightness in the future of gaming. Ironically it’s all coming from Nintendo who is the biggest representer of gaming’s past today.

  92. The Original Paul

    May 25th, 2015 at 10:36 am

    Y’know what, I put that really badly. Comparing discrimination between women and men (which would be a really, really interesting debate to have – just not here I think) right now misses the point I was trying to make in the first place.

    So the term “Women’s Rights” came out when women didn’t have voting rights, didn’t have access to things like birth control, etc. That’s how the term and the message got started.

    “Men’s Rights”… very, very different situation. Again, not trying to marginalise the problems that do happen to men. What I’m objecting to is the deliberate co-opting of the term “women’s rights”. As though the issue of discrimination against men is anywhere equal to that situation where women couldn’t vote, etc. That to me is the deliberate implication there. And it’s a false implication.

    This is why I like the term “Fathers for Justice”, even though I question some of their methods. There’s no question about what you’re getting with that movement.

  93. The Original Paul

    May 25th, 2015 at 11:33 am

    And regarding TOMB RAIDER: I’ve spoken to Rhianna Pratchett in person, after she gave a talk about storytelling in videogames. I was, I have to say, somewhat in disagreement with her about her chosen direction (she focussed mainly on the character of Lara but said almost nothing about the role of the player in the story, which to me is a red flag, given what Broddie’s said – which I entirely agree with – about “cinematic” games.) Nonetheless I played TOMB RAIDER, hoping to be pleasantly surprised; and instead I pretty much hated every minute of the two hours or so that I spent with it. I found it boring, indulgent, linear to the point of pretty much being a series of QTEs; I found Lara herself incredibly annoying (she won’t fucking shut up! Ever!) Mostly I hated the fact that you play a pretty much immortal ninja tank who can defeat armies of heavily-armed pirates with a freakin’ longbow but won’t stop whining about how distressed she is. I’ve heard that things do improve and become less linear later in the game, but to verify that I’d have to play more of it, and the game itself has given me no reason to want to do that.

    So basically, I’m not a fan of Pratchett or of New Lara Croft is what I’m saying. I am, however, a fan of pretty much everything Broddie has just said.

    RRA – Rhianna Pratchett made that point about a “desexualised” Lara herself, right before showing a trailer that included a three-second slow-motion shot of New Lara’s cleavage. (Ok, she’s plummeting from a great height at the time, but still… it’s pretty eye-catching. Someone even brought that shot up in the Q&A session afterwards.) So colour me sceptical about that one. I like the concept of getting a Lara who’s not just a pair of tight shorts and DDs, for sure. I just thought that the TOMB RAIDER reboot was exactly the wrong way to go about it.

  94. Jesus Christ on a cracker, are we as allegedly rational decent human beings really supposed to be expected to give a crap about infants having their junk sliced on for no substantive reason?!? Well of course not…if they’re male. Stop annoying everbody… and pipe that wailing in needless agony infant down.

    I suppose, Original Paul, I could just as easily ask, How many women do you know who’ve been sexually assaulted? But that wouldn’t be a refutation. So here’s some 4000 to 300 (upper left, on chart) Bureau of Labor stats.


    And on the pay gap, and sexual assault.



  95. Griff, as has already been said, none of this schism in “gaming culture” is at all Sarkesian’s fault, but the fault of the people who shit their pants at what she has to say. I’ll tell you one thing, though, you say gaming culture “used to be fun”? Not for me, it wasn’t.

    I think I come from a very similar timeline as Broddie, but my experience is a little different. Once upon a time, I was a little kid who was into all sorts of (compared to the tastes of my little kid friends) obscure video games, so when I finally got my first connection to the internet, I was stoked! I was finally going to get to talk to people about Chrono Trigger and Earthbound and Actraiser and Streets of Rage and oh boy oh boy oh boy!

    Then I finally got online, and learned a valuable lesson that has since been repeated to me over and over and over again; the vast majority of nerd hobby community (video games, comics, fantasy novels, etc.), and I say this comparing to Society At Large™, are total assholes.

    Whether it was in the very first Usenet and IRC experiences I had at the beginning of my exposure to the Internet, or dudes in CS servers/on Xbox Live, or the chan culture shit my stupid teenaged ass fell into, all the way up to this GamerGate/Sad Puppy/ThorGate/what the fuck ever shit, 90% of the people I would run into in these communities were total dogshit human beings, and the vast majority of THEM were either “Nerd Uber Alles” types, proto-Randian libertarian types, ‘nice guy’ “bitches just don’t understand” types, or typically, a mixture of the three. And I’ll tell you right now, when most of those people caught word that I was a homo, they certainly weren’t any nicer.

    It’s gotten even worse now that I’ve started pursuing an education (to pursue a career) in a hard science (that crosses over with a bunch of other hard sciences). Thankfully I’ve fallen into a real chill, stoner, but otherwise heterogeneous math-and-science crowd, but it’s social oasis SURROUNDED by a desert of these fucking chip-on-their-shoulder “nerd power” types that have Capital O “Opinions” about women, shit blood and oil at the thought of JOCKS, and greet anyone who isn’t one of them with a face that looks like |:\

    I know that not all nerd hobbyist types, or nerds in general, are like this. I know I’m not, I know my friends aren’t, I know that a lot of the people I’ve met throughout haunting these kind of communities aren’t, but I’d wager cash money that there are more people that ARE like this (at a certain level of enthusiasm) than there are people that AREN’T like this.

    So if you want to point the blame at someone for “the state of gaming culture”, you take that finger and thrust it right into the faces of the gamers, because I’ll tell you what; when I read that (thoroughly misinterpreted) “Gamers Are Dead” article that Leigh Alexander put out that everyone shit their pants over? I stood up and I fucking CHEERED, because finally someone in an industry setting (sort of) spoke the goddamn truth about goddamn GAMERS.

  96. (I hope everyone understands the tone of that comment isn’t really directed at anyone in particular in this discussion.)

  97. Wow, I just reread what I wrote and that came out way, way harsh. I’m sorry about that, Griff. Like a lot of us regulars, I tend to think of you as my internet little brother, so I get disappointed and frustrated when you seem to take one step forward and then two steps back with this weird sexism thing you’re struggling with. I totally believe that you’re a good person but you have to let go of this defensiveness about “the feminists” coming to take your shit away from you. They don’t want your shit. They want their own shit. There’s plenty of shit to go around so just chill out about it and you’ll see that everything is better for everyone when a medium or a culture doesn’t only try to appeal to a certain type of person. You’ll still have all the stuff you love, but you won’t be so clearly embarrassed by it anymore. I, personally, don’t miss the blasé sexism and womanizing of the male movie characters I grew up on one bit. Sure, I could have ranted and raved about “This is how it’s always been and we like it this way and why can’t they just let us have our stuff?” but what for? That stuff was created by people who didn’t know any better. I do know–and so do you. So let your beloved video games mature. You’ll still love them, and you might respect them more.

  98. RRA- “What I found both amusing and annoying as fuck is whenever these facts pop up, way too many guys on forums for comics and video games say they don’t mean anything because “they’re gimmicky!” (and which comics aren’t?) ”

    In regards to stuff like the Thor comic, or to cast it wider, the All-New Captain America comic where Falcon became the new Cap, the “gimmicky” criticism is valid when it’s obvious that the change isn’t going to be a lasting one. Original Thor will go back to wielding Mjolnir eventually, and Steve Rogers will get to be Captain America again. It feels like illusionary examples of progress at times in that regard. Especially with the latter, as after WINTER SOLDIER, the time couldn’t have been better to give the character his own title, but instead they took this temporary cheap-fix approach. Ms. Marvel and Harley Quinn are better examples because those characters are in roles that no one is going to supplant them from any time soon. David Walker(writer of the current SHAFT comic and future CYBORG one) talks about it here:

  99. @ThePinkServbot – My experience was very similar to yours. One of my previous roommates spent way too much time on the chans and it’s honestly just fucked up his worldview to the point where I couldn’t even talk to him about certain political subjects because his views on some things were just so backwards. It doesn’t help much that the internet can be an echo chamber at times. On one hand it exposes you to so much, but then on the other it’s very easy to ignore that and find a way to just reinforce your own views without being challenged.

    @The Original Paul – It’s tangential to things now, but the Tomb Raider game really does improve once you get past the opening. It opens up a lot and and is very heavily inspired by Metroid and Zelda. The platforming in it is more involving than the pseudo-platforming we get now from shit like Assassin’s Creed, and there’s a Metroidvania-esque sense of progression as you loop between new areas and hub worlds, collecting upgrades and then using that to unlock new areas. It really is a modern Metroidvania in that regard, full stop. There is that huge dichotomy between the gameplay and narrative (“Oh no, this is terrifying!” followed by you murdering 30 people), but it really does tighten up once you get past the opening. It was honestly very refreshing when compared to a lot of other AAA games.

  100. ThePinkServbot

    May 25th, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    Evan, I spent a lot of time on those boards, and started at what would probably have been the ripest age to, you know, “convert” a person, but for some reason that never happened. I would always look at the consistently rando libertarian politics, the racism and the sexism, obviously the homophobia, and the language (oh MAN! the language! what a bunch of cultists!) and I would always say “what the fuck are you talking about? you’re supposed to be nerds, intellectuals, all that shit I had convinced myself at a young age. you’re a bunch of loser thugs.”

    I mean, I might be pretty spiky about this, but I absolutely don’t relish it. I really don’t like that it’s this way.

  101. I hope you stick around, PinkServbot. We don’t talk about video games much, but we’re heavy, heavy, heavy into the nerdy shit we love but still manage to not be total monsters about it most of the time. It’s one of only two sights I bother posting on anymore. The only homophobia I’ve ever witnessed on here is from this crazy Australian berserker who rides in out of the salt flats a couple times a year, calls us all the F-word because we don’t like a movie as much as he does or for the same reasons, then fires up the afterburner and roars back off into the wastelands again. We don’t really hold it against him, though. How’s he supposed to know how to behave in society when he was raised eating dog food out of a can and skinning car crash victims for their back leather? Honestly, I think he just likes the sound of the word and has nothing against gay people at all. I mean, you know how those berserkers get down.

    So other than that guy and a few libertarians (who honestly are some of the more civil examples of their breeds I’ve ever encountered), we’re a pretty gracious bunch. I say this as the guy who just yelled at one of our own pretty egregiously but I swear I did it out of love.

  102. I second Mr. Magestyk’s fine how do you do, ThePinkServbot. All are welcome here. Vern sets the casual but intellectual tone around here. Debate is encouraged, assaholihism is discouraged. Do visit us often.

  103. ThePinkServbot

    May 25th, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    Oh, hee hee, jeez. Hey, yeah, speaking of that, I didn’t mean to set too *broadly* of a spiteful tone out there, by the way. From what I’ve read of this place, and, honestly, film nerdery “circles” in general (like podcasts like We Hate Movies)? Typically on the cooler end of the spectrum than others, I find. So, yeah, sorry film dudes. Y’know, as a film dude, anyway. ;(

  104. Old Man's Star War

    May 25th, 2015 at 3:19 pm

    @Eliza Bennet: “Also I have just seen that some people think that the first look at the wives are some sort of male gazing. Surprising. How can people think that? It is because the women were pretty?”

    I think Miller very deliberately set up that shot as a stereotypical action-film “male gaze” shot, and I think he did it for a couple of reasons.

    a) To immediately subvert it by showing that Max is more focused on the water and doesn’t really even spare much of a thought for the women, which is important to world building and to underline that Max is very much not the kind of macho 80’s action stereotype we might have been expecting, and that this isn’t the type of action film you the viewer might have been expecting.

    b) By completely subverting the audience’s initial expectations of the shot to not-so-subtly critique the fact that in a Michael Bay world this is what audiences have come to expect in action movies. I don’t think that’s a stretch, honestly. I really do think this entire film was George Miller’s in-your-face indictment of the state of action movies, and a challenge to the audience to demand better, and I think he was fully cognizant of his film as a statement, and as a gauntlet thrown down, in almost every directorial decision. He seems very humble in his interviews and I doubt he’d ever come out and say it, but I can’t help but imagine him thinking “Look, you directorial wankers, THIS is the legacy Sergio Leone and Akira Kurosawa bequeathed you, this right here, now step the fuck up son and stop letting a 70 year old man rub your face in it.”

    I’m trying to tread carefully here lest I give the critics of the scene any credit. I hope it’s clear that I think they are only seeing the surface of the scene and not understanding what Miller is saying, almost like someone criticizing “The Great Dictator” being “problematic” because Chaplin is making light of the horrors of fascism or something.

  105. The Original Paul

    May 25th, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    Rogue… well, those articles certainly make sense in accounting for some of an admitted pay gap for Americans. Although not American doctors:

    Or business leaders (the hard stats come about a third of the way through the video, I think):

    Or there’s the articles that TIME magazine article cites, which STILL show a gender gap of an average of about 5% (most of the articles mention a figure between 3 and 8 per cent) between the sexes, even taking into account every other variable. Again, specifically in America, which has one of the lowest like-for-like (meaning, people working the same jobs, for the same hours) gender pay discrepancies in the world.

    And among the “non-discriminatory” causes of women earning less than men – maternity benefits being significantly worse than paternity benefits. Yeah, maybe this is my inferior female-inspired logic showing through here (seriously, I will never get tired of that quote!) but I don’t see how that’s supposed to be “non-discriminatory”. Just as having a baby is a “lifestyle choice” that comes with its own pay cut. Lifestyle choice, not discrimination.

    On a more broad topic, there’s this (from Australia, but it’s the best and most informative video I could find on the issue):

    There are other things… blind studies from the US that show that men who show “leadership characteristics” are perceived as ambitious, whereas women are perceived as bitchy… studies showing that in many male-dominated industries there’s a “boy’s club” effect that makes it harder for women to enter those industries than men (and I’m not claiming that everybody who contributes to this is a sexist misogynist pig or anything like that. It’s very much a societal thing: http://www.attn.com/stories/1003/women-leaving-tech-sexism . Although: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/06/technology/technologys-man-problem.html?_r=0 )

    All of that said… look, I don’t dispute for a second that the idea that “American women earn 77% of what men earn for the same jobs”, which seems to be just about everywhere on the Interwebs despite being factually wrong (it’s a comparison of what men and women earn on average, regardless of hours worked, type of job, etc), shouldn’t be used to cite deliberate discrimination against women. A lot of that disparity has nothing to do with discrimination; although even the parts that don’t bear looking into to see why, for example, traditionally “women’s jobs” are generally less well-paid than “men’s jobs”, and why there are still massive differences between female and male workers in specific sectors. And I’m not going to start claiming that women football (soccer) players should get paid the same as their male counterparts when very few people actually watch women’s football.

    But dismantling the 77% statistic, which is widely misused and is only ever applied to one country in the world, is effectively tearing down a strawman. (Albeit one that seems to be given credence by a worryingly large amount of people from this side of the debate also. Barack Freakin’ Obama?!! Man, if there’s one thing we can agree on here, it’s to never let a politician have access to statistics.) The point is, it’s nonsense. I know it’s nonsense. And it doesn’t change the fact that in like-for-like comparisons within the same industries in the same countries, women either earn slightly less, or a helluva lot less, than their male counterparts. Nor does it change the fact that in some of the most highly-paid jobs, women make up a very small percentage of the workforce, and there is often some pretty fucked-up cultural reasons as to why this is the case.

    On the plus side, you Americans have it good. In terms of gender equality of pay, you’re up there with the likes of the Swedes. Be proud. Us Brits are quite a bit worse off than you guys are. (Well, I should probably be laughing, on account of I have a penis. But it’s not something I’m proud of. The gender equality thing, I mean. Not my penis.) Equally good, things seem to be improving a lot. As these issues get highlighted, people want to see something done about them to fix them. So I’m optimistic for the future.

    I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said regarding worker safety, by the way. Dangerous jobs are still largely occupied by men. Erm… I don’t really have an answer for that one either, beyond “try and make the jobs safer”. But let’s face it, if you’re deep-sea fishing or chopping down giant trees for a living, there’s pretty much a limit to how safe you can be. Maybe encourage more gender equality in dangerous jobs, so that women have an equal chance of being eaten by sharks or getting crushed by falling trees? If you can find a way to do it, you should, right?

  106. The Original Paul

    May 25th, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    Argh, that last comment, assuming it gets through moderation, took freakin’ ages. And I didn’t even address Rogue’s point on the sexual assault thing. Mind if we take a raincheck on that one?

  107. Stu – Except female Thor inevitably will get the Steel treatment: Start out as replacement/imposter, get new name/look and go on from there.

    You’re right they’ll go back to Rogers inevitably but…why should they? Of course I grew up at a time when Oliver Queen and Barry Allen and Hal Jordan were all mulch and others took up those gigs. God knows Marvel won’t resist that inevitable sales bump when Rogers returns.

    I suppose that’s why I’m looking forward to Mark Waid’s upcoming new Avengers book. Several traditional Avengers members, but almost all of those mantles now being worn by others. (Even Vision, he was rebuilt so technically he’s a new man.)

  108. Original Paul – OK let me rephrase what I said: relatively desexualized COMPARED to the old games.*

    *=Ah yes, I remember those middle school days when me and other boys truely believed the fabled “Nude Code” was a real thing.

  109. ThePinkServbot – I would say that in my time I have encountered more assholes in real life than on the net. I’ve been kinda lucky in that regard and I go back to AOL discs and Netscape when sites like Cinescape and Coming Soon were the hypest places to talk movies. Only community I found too toxic to stay posting in was AICN so I didn’t last long there in talkbacks but an upside was thanks to that sight I found out about this one. It was kismet.

    In real life though the only people who ever shat on me were nerds one time when I moved down south with my pop. My own kindness in giving them a chance was exposed as a weakness because they always had an agenda to begin with. Kinda learned very early on not to trust many if any and just walked alone every now and then shifting in and out of different cliques but never assimilating.

    Of course since nerds in high school saw me talking to girls and popular kids as easily as I did jocks and shit yet still read comic book. movie and video game magazines with 0 embarrassment cause I had no reason to apologize for being me; they assumed they could get in through our similar interests and then reap the benefits by proxy. Once they found out that I was’t clingy and overall a pretty asexual dude who was always invited to parties but rarely went cause it wasn’t my scene they bailed.

    I liked binge listening to music. watching movies and reading on my saturday nights. Not getting piss drunk and throwing up everywhere while still not getting any pussy anyway. What a waste of time.

    I was cool with just rolling my own blunts at home. I was weird that way and in a sense it turned people off mostly the geeks when they tried reaching out cause I was too cold and distant in the sense that I didn’t tolerate a lot of their whining & the way they judged others. I was from NYC we grew up different up north. They judged others while ironically not wanting others to judge them but still tried to encourage them to be fearless and themselves and that was suspect behavior to me.

    Their loss not mine. All I’m trying to say is there are intolerant jerks everywhere they’re just more vocal online cause it’s an easier platform to stand up on soapboxes or act a fool in. A lot of them were intolerant nerds too and just because I hated Magic The Gathering and would rather be mixing records at my home or playing a video game instead of nerdy card shit didn’t think I was capable of being a genuine friend even though I was always a stand up dude. So yeah I went through a period of coming across pretentious and self righteous and selfish nerds too. That’s definitely a type.

    The popular kids used to pay me to make them mixtapes and shit cause I used to make beats and mix around. I also used to put them on to the best weed dealers but it never kept me from being a real individual because I never really rode with any crews. Just was kind to everyone and minded my business and as an adult I’m thankful for that. I liked minding his business even though I still wasn’t a push over and knocked out anybody that fucked with me in a bad way many slowly drifted away.

    This community though is one of the most tolerant and respectful ones you could find. I would say despite the differences between everyone as individuals nobody fails to be a pleasant human being on this site for the most part.

  110. My main issue with the gamers involved in “gamergate” is that I’m pretty sure none of them even *tried* parachuting out of Sarkeesian’s car just after driving it over a cliff while recording a video message to her to prove their point

  111. Stu – By nature though that is a necessary trope in serialized fiction. Can it really be considered gimmicky when it was never designed to be something that seemingly lasts to begin with yet still manages to expand the overall narrative going forward?

    We’re talking about concepts and characters that were here before us and will remain here after us. This is why they need that occasional shot in the arm. It’s not like this is even the first time we have a new Thor. Beta Ray Bill was Thor for a while there back in the 80’s.

    As a kid in the 90’s I remember Artemis specifically created to replace the real Wonder Woman for a cup of coffee. Azrael/Jean Paul Valley was created for the same purpose regarding The Batman and there were not 1 or 2 nor 3 but 4! 4 different men! all trying to claim that they were Superman then it all went back to the status quo. Even recently two of the best received stories were Bucky America and Dick Grayson as Batman to Bruce Wayne’s son’s Robin and the status quo reverted then too but still most people were fine with it because it’s a well established industry wide trope.

    Even the progressive ones like Wally West lasting 2 decades as The Flash were eventually set back and the status quo brought back. It is what it is but things have to get shaken around for people to still even talk about the comic book medium especially with all the competition it has.

  112. Evan – I worry that it is a “this or that” situation, if you accept a new standard in gaming culture then anything that is evocative of the past culture is gonna stick out like a sore thumb and is not gonna sit well with some people, we’ve seen this already with Polygon’s infamous Bayonetta 2 review, where the reviewer knocked points off the score simply because he thought the character was too sexy and was totally offended by that, I’d love to live in a world where we can have more games like Gone Home and also still have Cammy from Street Fighter kicking people while wearing a thong one piece swimsuit and nobody gets upset over either approach, but I doubt it can be that simple, but hopefully I’m wrong.

    Mr. Majestyk – Thanks for apologizing, I’m trying to be as civil and understanding as I can be about this whole topic.

  113. The Original Paul

    May 25th, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    RRA – sad to admit that we’ve all been there.

  114. “Stu – Except female Thor inevitably will get the Steel treatment: Start out as replacement/imposter, get new name/look and go on from there.”
    Or go back to her normal life given who they revealed she was and what her situation is.
    Are you reading the current series? I just read all of Aaron’s previous Thor series, which I enjoyed, giving me cause to consider continuing on with she-Thor in trade form, but I’d have to know that it works in the same vein as a superhero/fantasy/adventure book and isn’t all about preaching about her worthiness as a woman. I saw a horribly written scene from one issue where she was fighting a supervillain and Aaron was clearly using him as a strawman for the people who’d be critical of she-Thor, saying the same stuff about her needing to get her own identity and “damn feminists ruin everything” before getting knocked out, then had female villain Titania surrender as “a one-time girl power pass” out of respect, which to me is kind of a damaging depiction of female character who’s meant to be empowered and have agency.
    For the record I’m fine with the idea of a woman getting the power of Thor, I just find it weird she goes by his name considering
    1. It’s a guy’s name.
    2. Actual Thor is still around. And he’s still calling himself Thor. He just can’t use Mjolnir.

  115. Pacman 2.0 – Please know the xXx reference was appreciated.

    Rogue4 – There are plenty of legitimate arguments to be made that the health and hygiene benefits of circumcision aren’t that much, that it’s just leftover from another time, etc. But to bust that out as some kind of tit for tat of male vs. female gender misery is just embarrassing because, I don’t know if you know this, but you are in a culture where the vast majority of males are circumcised. So they are very aware that it has not damaged them. You can’t come on here over and over again to show off your blase attitude toward teenagers shot to death, then pretend to be a wilting flower who is so sensitive he’s still traumatized by a surgical procedure that happened when he was an infant.

    Anyway, don’t say I didn’t try to help.

  116. Broddie- I’m fine with legacy characters, or brief fill-ins from time to time with characters(looking forward to Jim Gordon as Robo-Batman), but I’m talking specifically about trying to prop up a minority character or a female one NOT by simply putting effort into promoting them as they are, but instead putting them in someone else’s clothes and going “LOOK! LOOK! THEY MATTER NOW!” for a brief period, like, as Walker says in that article, the highest aspiration for a minority character would be to take a white person’s identity. Sam Wilson could have just been The Falcon in a solo series, maybe even carrying the shield, since he was Captain America’s best friend, and been his own man. Because here’s the thing about Captain America for me- the guy’s so specific a character I don’t you can just slot anyone into the role. Captain America’s meant to be this guy who just happens to be the human personification of American values and idealism. Almost fantastically so. He was basically Marvel’s Superman. Sam Wilson is just a guy. A pretty great guy, but I don’t think of him like a walking Star Spangled Banner. If they had to have a new Captain America, this as a great opportunity to try to determine what the modern equivalent of Steve Rogers would be? Who represents the ideals and potential of the USA for 2015 the same way Rogers did for 1945?

  117. “…blase attitude toward teenagers shot to death…” ??? You’d have to refresh my memory on that one Main Man. In any case, subjecting an infant to needless anatomical transfiguration and pain is… subjecting an infant to needless anatomical transfiguration and pain. Whether the individual has a problem with it decades after the fact is beside the point. Simple enough to let an individual make that choice at an age of awareness/consent, I think. In any case, that was hardly the only point I mentioned with regard to gender disparities. I bring it up because it pretty dazzlingly illuminates the overall societal/cultural attitude with male hardship/issues/distress relative to females’.

  118. Stu – oh man if that scene bothered you, then I suggest you not bother with the SUPERGIRL pilot that leaked the other day. I mean there’s even a moment where a waitress (speaking for Greg Berlanti as he pats himself on the pat) talks about being proud that there’s a girl hero for her daughter to look up to.

    Not to spoil that revelation about female Thor’s identity, but…I find it intriguing. Reminds me (intentional I’m sure) of the original comics Thor origin story with ole Dr. Blake.

  119. Griff: “[…] if you accept a new standard in gaming culture then anything that is evocative of the past culture is gonna stick out like a sore thumb and is not gonna sit well with some people, we’ve seen this already with Polygon’s infamous Bayonetta 2 review, where the reviewer knocked points off the score simply because he thought the character was too sexy and was totally offended by that […]”

    In the first place, no, Arthur Gies didn’t ratchet the grading down “simply because he thought the character was too sexy.” The male-gaze stuff was his main target, but he complained about “overwrought, over-dramatic dialogue and nonsensical non-sequiturs,” and he had some issues with the multiplayer mode. He wound up giving the game a 7.5.

    By Polygon’s review scale, games that score 7 are “good games that may even have some great parts, but they also have some big ‘buts.'” Games that score 8 are “great games, and easily recommendable with caveats in mind.” A 7.5 is an unquestionably positive grade. But yeah, this is the review that’s “infamous.” This is the review that had crazed hordes of Bayonetta fans harassing Polygon’s advertisers for weeks, trying to drive Gies out of work and the site out of business.

    If that’s gaming culture, then I’d say it deserves criticism a lot harsher than Sarkeesian’s anodyne, conciliatory videos. All the bullshit she’s gone through, you’d think she’d want to raze it to the ground and salt the fields.

  120. I don’t have anything to contribute to the conversation, other than I very much enjoyed reading this essay (can I call it an essay? I think it is one) and that, unlike many places I frequent on the internet, I VERY much enjoyed this comment section. It’s the only place I’ve willingly scrolled down the comments eager to see the discussion(!!!) and debate (not arguing!!!) that each (most) of you have to contribute. It was really refreshing.

  121. The Original Paul

    May 26th, 2015 at 1:09 am

    Rogue4 – I responded, in great detail, to your comment, specifically in regard to the “mythical” pay gap. With a helluva lot of links and citations that are probably why my comment is still “awaiting moderation”. My points being:

    – Your quotations specifically refer to America, which has one of the lowest gender pay gaps in the world. You’re leagues ahead of Britain, for example. And despite this…
    – Even the sources you cite don’t disagree that there’s a pay gap, they just dispute its causes. (And even those sources still admit a 3 – 8%, depending on the source, difference between gender pay that they can’t account for.)
    – Of those causes, the “non-discriminatory” ones include having a baby, because that’s a “lifestyle choice”. Even when there are significant gaps between paternity and maternity leave in most countries, and in many industries inside the US.
    – Other “non-discriminatory” causes of the wage gap include women not working in high-paying industries. Yet there’s a wealth of evidence to suggest that 1) some of those industries have cultures that are downright hostile to women working in them, and 2) In many countries the education you’ll receive in school varies widely depending on your gender, and this is blamed for women not going into those industries.

    That 77% statistic is nonsense. I know it’s nonsense. There are a wealth of other factors, however, which aren’t nonsense. Don’t pin your entire view on the topic on the fact that the claim that “Women earn 77% of the wages of men for the same jobs in the USA” is demonstrably wrong. Barack Obama may have quoted it, but all I get from that is that you shouldn’t give a politician statistics – it’s like giving plutonium to a baby.

    I don’t dispute the accidents at work statistics at all. Men work more dangerous jobs than women do. Given that said jobs include things like logging and deep-sea fishing, and it’s pretty damn hard to make those kinds of jobs “safe”, I’m not sure what to do about that. Try and reduce the gender disparity so that women have an equal chance to be eaten by sharks / fall out of trees, maybe?

  122. Griff- how many male protagonists do you see emotionally distressed even when they are rookies? None.

  123. From what I can tell Sarkeesian makes good points, but her tendency to be condescending and antagonistic seem to me like is annoyingly counterproductive to her purpose. If she could let that go, the knuckleheads would have no ammo to attack her with and things might actually happen.

  124. The Original Paul

    May 26th, 2015 at 10:56 am

    Ironside – on behalf of the commentors – thanks very much, we try.

    Shoot – not sure if this counts as “emotional”, especially given that it’s a first-person game; but does the protagonist of FAR CRY 3 meet that criteria?

  125. Griff, I’m not sure I understand where you’re coming from, since near as I can tell, you’re living in that world already. Do you really see a significant amount of de-sexualization happening? Or even threatening to happen? Was Cammy dressed any differently in SFxTekken? More specifically, do you honestly see even REMOTELY the same amount of Gone Homes as you see DoA:Xtreme Beach Volleyball experiences?

    You’re also misinterpreting that Polygon review; the problem isn’t that Bayonetta dresses too sexy. The problem is that whenever the reviewer would start really getting into the groove with the battle system or start really getting into the game, the game would then have the camera pass through her legs or initiate some sort of hyper sexual finisher sequence or some other situation that would *break his immersion in the experience.*

    It’s not that she’s too sexy and sex is terrible and oh my goodness what will the neighbors think, the problem is that there were moments where he, effectively, wasn’t able to see the game around Bayonetta’s assets.

  126. ah, crap, sorry to Michael B. for basically repeating exactly what he said.

  127. Paul- do you even consider the male protagonist of FAR CRY 3 as a character. I never did.

  128. RRA- I watched the SUPERGIRL pilot already. I liked it for the most part. Biggest issue is the depiction of Superman as a deadbeat relative who seemingly has had almost no contact with Kara since dropping her off with her adoptive parents. But that’s actually kind of a weird thing with Superman and his fellow Super-family members. By any measurement, he should have treated Superboy, his clone, as a son, but just sends him to go live with his elderly folks and gets on with his life.

  129. I’ve always hated the extended Super family. They ruin the entire Superman myth. Is Kal the last survivor of Krypton or is he one of many? Because the first option is an iconic backstory that lends real pathos and tragedy to what could otherwise be a pretty one-dimensional character. The second is a real easy way to create more merchandising opportunities.

    I will accept the dog. But the boy and the girl are pushing it.

  130. I have no problem with the Superman family. The majority of those characters were created by Siegel and Schuster to begin with along with some Jack Kirby and the truth is they represent what an inspiration and beacon of altruism Superman truly is. He may have lost his family both on Krypton and on Earth but he always had his extended cast to keep him grounded.

    Haven’t seen SUPERGIRL yet though. I’ll wait for the final version in the fall. Only question I have is; is it more like ARROW or more like THE FLASH? not necessarily tonally cause I know it would be more superheroey like FLASH but in terms of awesome execution and pacing cause FLASH is leagues ahead of ARROW in that regard.

  131. It’s always been one of many survivors anyway because the bottle city of Kandor existed in the fortress for decades that was even retconned into post-crisis continuity eventually too before the reboot from 2011.

  132. I always hated that, too. I just feel that being the last of his kind is who he is. That’s his cross to bear, and it’s the tragedy that balances out the godliness of his powers. Throwing more Kryptonians in there who aren’t trying to kill him is like bringing Batman’s parents back to life.

  133. I’m gonna say one last thing about Sarkeesian and then honestly that may be my final word on the subject because I’m fucking tired of talking about it.

    I really don’t want to come off as anti-female or anything like that, please don’t think of me as some “MRA” type asshole, it’s just that at the end of the day I simply fear change when it comes to gaming, gaming has already changed so much since I first really got into it as a teenager in the early 2000’s and not always for the better, so anytime something comes along to change the status quo of gaming I get nervous, I worry about what exactly the changes will be and whether they’ll be improvements or simply hassles, one example of this is DLC or “downloadable content”, when stuff like that first came on the scene I worried it would become a venue for publishers to get greedy and nickel and dime you and sure enough that’s what many of them do these days, so my fears about this sort of thing are not always unfounded.

    I’m also simply depressed by all the bad blood that’s been going around in gaming culture and can’t help but wish that it could have been avoided, but I guess it was just inevitable growing pains as gaming reaches wider audiences beyond the “young male” demographic, but hopefully on the other side of this things will be better.

  134. Crushinator Jones

    May 26th, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    Hey if you want to read a good article that tackles this subject as well here’s a link:


    Yeah it’s tumbr but it’s pretty good.

  135. Mr. Majestyk – No his real cross to bear is being an orphan. Having not only his biological parents but also his Earth parents gone from his life. Which is what influences him to live up to and personify their ideals by being the best Superman he can be. He honors both sets of parents with his selflessness.

    Another cross he has to bear: outliving everybody he eventually gets attached to. The people who become his surrogate family.

    Not that there is anything wrong with Last Son of Krypton as a trope but there is equal value in Superman being the personification of hope to the point that he literally saves the last civilization of his homeworld from a tyrannical world collector (Brainiac) and instills hope within them that things could go back to being ok for them after all.

  136. Griff – I’ve been gaming longer than you’ve been living on this earth. I’ve seen all kinds of changes to the industry that IMO were not for the better. By the same token because of some of those changes your generation got into gaming. Gaming culture is always in a flux if you really are going to take to heart every monumental shift not just creatively but business wise and even community wise within the industry maybe you should find another hobby. That will not be healthy for you in the long run.

    In other words it’s just part of the game. Just got to take the good with the bad like with every other art form. Gaming is not some special snowflake that can be exempt from that not in this capitalistic world we live in. Nothing is done “for the love” anymore. Arguably it’s been that ways for decades anyway.

  137. The Original Paul

    May 26th, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    What Crushinator didn’t point out, but could have, was that that article that he links to actually links right back here to Vern’s article (and is pretty complimentary about it). The circle is complete!

    Personally I thought it was a well-written counterpoint to some of the criticism of FURY ROAD out there. At the same time it makes me kinda depressed. Given my recent debate with Rogue on the pay gap thing, I’m probably not the best person to be asking this question; but why do people have to attach their egos to a “cause”, and then see it everywhere, regardless of context?

    One good side-note to this whole debate… I now want to see FURY ROAD when it comes out on DVD, just to look for all the different stuff that people have said about it to justify their “FURY ROAD is feminist / anti-feminist” stances. With hindsight I kinda wish I’d waited to do that anyway. It’s difficult to appreciate the finer points of a film when it’s played so damn loudly, it’s physically uncomfortable.

    And on that subject… 3D gives me migraines, hand-held camera gives me motion sickness, and now loud action scenes are giving me hearing problems. When did going to the cinema become such a hazardous endeavour?

  138. Broddie- It’s more like THE FLASH. It’s bright and funny and they definitely set up an indefinite “villain of the week” with bigger overall arc storyline. She gets her name and costume and is displaying her powers pretty quick. It’s perhaps exposing a formula that Berlanti is relying on, but it’s one that’s to be expected of network television.

    Also, Superman is literally The Last Son of Krypton because he was the last child born on the planet. Kryptonians as a culture will have to carry on away from Krypton, and that’ll no doubt warp their heritage a bit. Also when he meets other “true” Kryptonians, it highlights just how HUMAN he is by the contrast he has with what is meant to be “his” people.

  139. So.

    In the interest of looking at Anita’s comments from a different perspective, let’s recast Mad Max as a story about a badass Black person rescuing some black people from some cartoon racists. In order for this analog to work, we’ll also have to stipulate that in this thought experiment, black people RARELY get to do the stuff a white action hero does.

    In this case, some people would be claiming that Bad Blax: Fury Blvd was radically pro-black. And the Anita in this situation would be saying, “not, really.”

    And here’s why Anita would be right. While, on the one hand, watching Black people kick the ass of white oppressors WOULD be a distinct change and refreshing, it would be essentially letting black people into the role that white people had been dominating for years, as the action hero. This is not anti-racist so much as it is integrationist. It’s about saying, “see, black folk can do what while folk do just as well!” In a movie written and directed by white folk. Now, there’s nothing WRONG with this. It’s just not truly pro-black. For it to be pro-black, truly, it would have to exist outside the cultural structure of white movies entirely.

    See what I’m saying?

    Anita isn’t necessarily saying that action movies are bad. She’s saying that the entire form of action movies* is rooted in the patriarchal. We celebrate who is the most bad ass, we solve our problems with violence, we prosper by being the most masculine. Gender Equality in the current world says, yeah, women should be able to do all that stuff. Be celebrated as the most bad ass, solve problems with violence, and prosper by being traditionally masculine. But Feminism would ask us to envision entirely different narrative structures. Essentially, this film shows women succeeding in a man’s world, by out-manning the men. A truly feminist film would be different.

    Incidentally, I really thought Mad Max was awesome. And I loved Furiosa. Charlize brought some of the subtlety she brings to roles like Young Adult here, and while there’s not a lot of dialogue, I thought she did a great job with internal performance. I think that this film should be viewed as a film with a strong female lead who overshadows the title character, and a narrative about challenging patriarchy in its most overt forms.

    I think Anita is correct, though, that occasionally, cartoon oppressors sometimes obfuscate the microaggressors and systemic oppression. We cheer when Django shoots a white slaver, who’s a total ass to black people. But what about if he shot every single person capitalizing on slavery at all? The entire economy was flush with slavery money. Hey, that blacksmith who makes shackles has got that slavery money. That wagon wheel builder has got that slavery money. These people are still part of the problem, but they’re not villains the same way the slavers are. Or what if he went around shooting people who just didn’t really believe that bad things happen at the hands of law enforcement disproportionately? Or the reporters that use the term “loot” for black folk and “forage for supplies” for white folk in the same disaster area? Everybody knows that keeping sex slaves chained in your parlor is bad. We can all get behind that. We can all get behind revenge against overseers cracking the whip. It doesn’t look at more systemic and insidious issues. That doesn’t make cartoon villains a bad idea to include in films. It just means that there’s nothing terribly radical about using them…


    That Hollywood is still so crustily patriarchal that everybody calls Mad Max: Fury Road a piece of feminist filmmaking… it just means we have a LOT further to go.

    There are a lot of strong components of Mad Max. And it’s awesome. And as long as Hollywood churns out these pulse pounding action fests, I’m all for more gender equality in there, and more stories that examine oppression. But, feminism is a lot bigger than integration into a man’s world. That is all.

  140. Che – I don’t think that a single person who has expressed their thoughts on this subject in these comments at any point equated feminism with “integration into a man’s world.” (correct me if I’m wrong though). And I certainly don’t think that the politics of FURY ROAD are suggestive of that either. Survival instincts and self presrtvation are not beholden to a particular gender.

    Furiosa isn’t simply a female actor portraying a character that was written as a man. This isn’t a case of mimicry or impersonation. Furiosa is a complex, layered, fully developed character whose gender is an integral part of who she is. She is equal to Max, but different. And that’s wonderful. I think it is awfully reductive to just assume Furiosa, or any of the female characters in the film, are either interchangeable with the men or in contest to see which of them can “prosper by being the most masculine”. There is a very strong implication that the Vuvalini have been forced into a survivalist mentality over a long period of time. And yes, a masculine and patriarchal force could shoulder a lot of the blame for that. But consider both of the end games in the film: to escape to The Green Place and then, when that option has been depleted, return to The Citadel and make THAT the new Green Place. That has less to do with overthrowing a patriarchy and more to do with, in your words, “envision(ing) entirely different narrative structures.”

    I don’t know why I keep getting myself involved in this debate, but it’s not as though George Miller has (to the best of my knowledge) ever referred to FURY ROAD as a “feminist action movie” so it just seems insane to me that people are holding the film to a standard that has been imposed on it by others. But if you honestly saw this story as reflecting the philosophy that women can only succeeed and triumph over a dominating and oppresive patriarchy by being more manly than the manliest men then I think that we just saw very different things in the film. Which is of course totally fine and it’s awesome that so many people have so many varied opinions on this one.

    Just gotta say though – that bizarro “Bad Blax Fury Blvd” alternate universe title is kinda weirdly casually racist in my opinion.

  141. Also, Che, I wasn’t attacking you in that last post – we both loved the film and I think we see eye-to-eye on many aspects of it – I think my hackles just get raised whenever I see someone pointing out the differences, for example, between real life attrocities and their broad, “cartoonish” genre movie equivalents. I just find it a little offensive because I would assume that many people, including the filmmakers, are aware of such a disparity, but certain platforms of artistic expression are better equipped at exploring those complexities than others. We’re dealing in archetypes here and not the minutiae of oppression, subjugation and evil.

    I guess I just fundamentally don’t agree that condensing or conflating the many nuances of microaggression and systematic oppression into more manageable, genre-friendly chunks really obfuscates anything and the suggestion that it does makes me feel, and this is just my opinion, that someone is kinda saying to me “Hey, you are too stupid to realise that the representations of tyranny and oppression depicted in this entertaining and emotional genre movie that you are enjoying are grossly simplistic and inaccurate. Let me point that out for you so you don’t assume that only cackling, psychotic maniacs who use terms like “property” when describing women are involved in sex slavery.”

  142. Also sorry for all the grammar and spelling errors – I should know better than to phone-post.

  143. The more I think about FURY ROAD, the more I like it. The subversiveness. George Miller satire on male on screen power fantasies is a hoot. Too bad if people can´t take the joke *cough* mens rights activists*. But that is exactly why I loved it. Genre formulas can really be a powerful subversive tool when you know how to play with them. The kind of action/adventure movies we all love has had a troubled past, to say the least. And we all can acknowledge them. That´s the only way we can improve thembecause we love them so much.

    I´ve been thinking about something.Bear with me here. Someone here mentioned Daniel Craigs upper torso coming up from the sea as a reversal of the usual male gaze of the James Bond formula. That is interesting,because I was thinking about the much hated misogyny of SKYFALL. I think it was intentional on the filmmakers part to confront the audience with the nasty nature of the character and how flippant he treats women.In previous movies it is so casual it is disturbing ( MOONRAKER being a prime exemple). Bonds misogony is nasty. That is the point! Now you are confronted with a character you have mixed feelings about, because normally you should side with the point of view of the protagonist. Now the franchise actually starts to deal with the misogyny in a serious matter,don´t you think? It started with CASINO ROYALE when M confronts Bond with the dead woman on the beach but is elaborated further in QUANTUM with the poor desk clerk-girl who never was meant to be on the field to a fullblown assault of despicable act on Bonds part in SKYFALL.

    I think SKYFALL address the Bond series troubled past in a surprisingly earnest way. Few movies or franchises would accept past crimes like this. And FURY ROAD deals with a lot of unsound ideas in a setting that is used to glorify them. I like to see shit blow up, asses to be kicked in all sorts of ways. But i think the most mature thing to do is to start thinking about them and be lot more aware on their roots and sometimes being poked fun of.

  144. Griff, I’m sure that none of us think you’re anti-women, or an MRA, or any shit like that. At least I don’t. What I think is that you, for whatever reason (maybe it’s emotional? Whatever, I won’t presume) put a lot more stock than you should into Gaming Culture and The Gaming Community. I think it represents something far more than simply video games to you, which is a problem a lot of people have. Maybe you’ve got a lot of your identity tied up in it, so when someone points out The Problems, you either take it personally, or you start worrying that people will start wanting to throw out your baby with the radioactive bathwater. The only advice I can give you is to find a way to take whatever stake you have in the “gamer identity”, and try to separate it from your own identity as much as possible.

  145. Che, thanks for the comments. I don’t think we disagree on that much there. But I just have trouble with this concept that an action movie is by definition not feminist, as if it is a separate artform only for men or man–like women imitating men, which is okay and fun but not feminist. What would you say to women who are legends of action filmmaking, like Kathryn Bigelow, Gina Carano, Cynthia Rothrock, Jeeja Yanin, Michelle Yeoh? Are they excelling in a men’s artform, a genre that doesn’t belong to them? If Michelle Yeoh upstaging Jackie Chan by jumping a fucking motorcycle onto a moving train is not an example of women being equal, then why do we give a shit about Sally Ride going to space or Geraldine Ferraro running for vice president or any number of women who do awesome things that are traditionally done mostly by men? Is there a distinction other than action movies being seen as a lowbrow artform?

  146. The Original Paul

    May 27th, 2015 at 11:44 am

    Shoot – That’s an interesting SKYFALL theory. It’s one I’d “buy” more easily if it wasn’t for the treatment of possible-rape-victim, certain-sex-slave Severine, who joins a long line of “Bond girls” who’ve met horrible deaths then never been mentioned again. Honestly I don’t see that this girl’s death is so different to the other myriad of girls who’ve met similar fates (often without having been possibly-raped in their showers by Bond first). It’s certainly played as a shocking moment, but then so is the girl’s death in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (I think that’s one of the few moments in DIAMONDS that’s played completely straight). And I don’t think many people regard that film as subversive.

    I guess the biggest thing with Severine is that her history as a sex slave is specifically brought up before she’s killed off. Not many Bond girls are given that level of characterisation in “classic” Bond. At the very least that could be regarded as a clue that you’re supposed to read more into her character’s fate than into some other Bond girl deaths. It’s an interesting interpritation, for sure.

  147. Eileen Jones is one of the best film critics around, and no, her book Filmsuck is not about how films suck. In fact, that book is a love letter to genre films. You should read it. It’s in kindle for like three bucks.
    I loved Fury Road but also I can see where most her complaints come from. Maybe she saw the film after the big wave of hype and GREAT reviews that came after it opened, declaring Max as the BEST ACTION FILM IN HISTORY and THE MOST IMPORTANT FEMINIST WORK since the Scum Manifesto, and reacted on that. In a contrarian way, for sure.
    I agree with one of her points. About “the scourge of color grading that’s afflicting so many action films.” She’s, of course, refering to the orange and teal color schemes so overused in the last years.
    Since other people has talked about the subject with better arguments, I leave you a link:


  148. Che, I like a lot of what you’re saying and agree with some of it. But I also think Fury Road, a movie I like a lot but don’t seem to love as much as everyone here, subverts some of the very nature of the action movie in a way that is distinctly feminist.

    Most action movies feature a lone hero, being alone and doing lonely things. I always feel like a heroic singular individual is a very masculine trope, whereas stories of community and people working together and forming bonds are usually seen as being more feminine. A lot of the tension of the film is on the characters coming together and forming that community. The action serves to tell the story of these gaps being bridged and people working together, not even as heroic individuals who just happen to get along (which is why I don’t think this applies to something like the Avengers, which is pretty bad otherwise), but as a collective whole.

    I’m a leftist, not a liberal, and in political discourse you always see the heroic individual, or free market capitalism, or these sorts of things as being very masculine. There’s a reason Ron Swanson on Parks and Rec is a libertarian, he’s a total caricature of an insecure masculine child.

    I don’t know, I think there are a few layers here that help with this movie’s feminist reputation (which is a little overstated). If nothing else I think having women who are characters deserving their own sympathy and respect is a step in the right direction, and something that is pretty rare in movies.

    And Griff, you’re a good dude but don’t let your interests become your life. Video games are dumb, and you probably would think my hobby is dumb too, but hobbies are there to give a little flavor to your life and not be your life. Otherwise you start losing perspective, which you seem to have lost, on things.

  149. ThePinkServbot

    May 27th, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    Lup11, Man, if she’s one of the best film critics around, she does a damn good job of hiding it in that Fury Road analysis of hers. She displays a shocking inability to understand this world for what it is outside of what is EXPLICITLY SAID and EXPLICITLY SHOWN to her. She bellyaches about how stereotypically “earth mother-y” the Vuvalini are, not apparently understanding that a) there actually was a Green Place, and b) these chicks were the caretakers of it for decades and decades. Of course they’re going to be earth mother-y, they’re goddamn earth mothers. Jones further complains about how lame of an attempt at comedic reversal it is to have these old women be warriors, comparing it to the rapping granny in The Wedding Singer, but she doesn’t state what the hell else she would expect them to be doing IN THIS WORLD. You know what these characters are if they AREN’T ass-kicking survivors? Out of fucking place, that’s what they are.

    There’s a MASSIVE amount of problems with her analysis, but probably the most damning of all is when she questions what Furiosa means when she says she’s seeking redemption. Did you miss the first 15 minutes of the damn movie, Collins? Did you not see Furiosa being treated as not just a hero, but a CHAMPION of Immortan Joe’s operation? She has been in Joe’s employ since she was a child, and now they’re treating her like a goddamn valkyrie (the whole reason why she’s able to get the brides out of there in the first place), and you REALLY don’t see how she possibly EVER could have done anything that she might need to be redeemed of? Did you think that Immortan Joe just really respected her as a mechanic, or something?

    I mean, maybe you’re right, maybe Collins submitted this bitter, short-sighted, HILARIOUSLY shallow and borderline inane “analysis” because she was disappointed by everyone (who?) saying that this was The Most Feminist Piece of Media To Ever Feminist a Feminism, but as a media critic, she should be able to see beyond that. In fact, you know, what, I guarantee that she can, but that doesn’t sell clicks, so we get this instead.

  150. Old Man's Star War

    May 27th, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    @Shoot McKay (re Skyfall): ” Bonds misogony is nasty. That is the point! Now you are confronted with a character you have mixed feelings about, because normally you should side with the point of view of the protagonist. Now the franchise actually starts to deal with the misogyny in a serious matter,don´t you think?”

    That’s a very interesting take on it. Has there been any indication from the creators that this was the intent? Because Skyfall completely soured me on Bond (and I’ve seen them all starting from when I was a small boy). I just loathed the character — for me it was the “Waste of good Scotch” line that did it for me and I had decided to wash my hands of this incarnation of the franchise. I might have to rethink my appraisal of it if there was genuinely more to to it than that.

  151. Crushinator Jones

    May 27th, 2015 at 4:14 pm

    The problem with showing James Bond using and discarding women is that it over-estimates what a large part of the audience will take from it. They won’t be conflicted. They will think “using and discarding women is what cool guys like James Bond do.”

  152. Old Man's Star War

    May 27th, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    Crushinator, you hit upon exactly what caused my extremely negative reaction to Skyfall — when Bond said the “A waste of good Scotch” line, the audience in my theater laughed like it was the funniest thing they heard all week, and I think that is what turned me off more than the line itself. I’d just love to know what the intent of the film was in that regard. I never got the impression that the film was critiquing this kind of macho bullshit, except, just perhaps, by dropping the bisexuality hint. I don’t know. Whatever they were going for, it’s not clear to me, unlike what Miller was pretty clearly going for in MMFR.

  153. Regarding the thing about the “male gaze”, comparing the Daniel Craig/James Bond and Ursula Andress/Honey Ryder is a no go. The difference is James Bond is a complex character that is clearly detailed for the audience and a hunky guy. Honey Ryder is a victim, damsel in distress and a body to ogle and fuck. Period. There’s nothing more to her character. It’s not that women can’t be seen by the male gaze as beautiful or sexy; it’s that she should be seen as beautiful and sexy in addition to many other things.

    In MMFF, I think Miller purposefully starts us out on this road with the wives. We see them as if they’re Greek goddesses in flowing white robes and bare skin. But if you look closer at that scene, what they’re doing is washing away their past life. They’re cleansing themselves of these roles, breaking themselves from the penis chomping shackles and building a new life. He starts out at this baseline and builds them into these more complex characters.

  154. Old Man's Star War

    May 27th, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    @MaggieMayPie: Very good observations!

  155. Original Paul, who said anything about “inferior female inspired logic”? If (apologies if I’m off friendo) that’s a nod to the “feminist ideological lens” quote, then it perpetuates the false conflation of *feminist/feminism* with *females/women*. These are not synonyms. Feminism is an ideology. One which is neither adhered to by all women, nor adhered to by only women. It’s this false conflation that is typically the springboard to slanders of misogyny thrown at any and all challenges/criticisms of said ideology.

    That *if* aside, I think you’ve cited some legit food for thought, and salute you for engaging the gender convo with more honesty and integrity than modern mainstream feminists/feminism evidence.

  156. Oh, and that scene in THE KINGSMAN is kinda rapey because when he finds the princess locked up he makes a smarmy joke along the the lines of “what are you going to give me” for freeing her. It’s supposed to be jokey and flirty, but it’s still a man saying that he’ll free a woman from a prison on the contingency of sexual favors. Rape by coercion.

  157. ThePinkServbot – unfortunately I think you’ve hit the nail on head, “gamer” has been my main thing for a very long time now and even if it’s not rooted in reality I look back on teenage years as a gamer, reading gaming magazines (all of which are gone now) and watching X-Play with Adam Sessler and Morgan Webb, gaming culture seemed very idyllic to me and I did take it personally when people like Jack Thompson stereotyped gamers as violent psychopaths, how could that be you had for example Gabe and Tycho’s “Child’s Play” charity and whatnot? So I do get very defensive when anyone criticizes gaming.

    But the 2010s have certainly shattered that illusion, I never thought gamers would be the kind of guys to send rape threats to women, but here are.

    At least I still have anime culture, anime fandom doesn’t have this gender war thing going on because anime fandom has always been split pretty much 50 50 between male and female fans and there’s always been anime and manga aimed at a female audience (most notably probably CLAMP’s work).

  158. Maggie, and it’s especially rapey because the filmmakers don’t seem to realize its rapey. They’re presenting it heroically.

  159. The Original Paul

    May 28th, 2015 at 1:24 am

    Rogue – oh that was a nod to what was posted in another thread – some not-actually-MRA guy (the other MRA guys pretty much said “he’s not one of us!”) saying that everyone should stop pretending that women were the equal of men in “strength, physique, and logic”. Honestly, lumping in “logic” with physical differences is just so jaw-droppingly bonkers, I had to take a minute to process it.

    That’s the most insane thing about the Internet right now… I find it difficult to tell who’s arguing and who’s just trolling. When I read something like that, I think “they can’t actually think that, can they?” Then I remember that Creationism is a “thing”, and think… “Yeah. Yep, they can.”

  160. The Original Paul

    May 28th, 2015 at 1:32 am

    There were very few things that I didn’t like in KINGSMEN. That scene was certainly one of them. (Gourmet MacDonalds was the other one.) It wasn’t so much that it was “rapey” (although it did give me unpleasant reminders of Bond blackmailing the nurse to have sex with him in THUNDERBALL) but rather that the tone of the scene was so “off” compared to the rest of the movie.

  161. MaggieMayPie – if memory serves he asks her for a kiss and then it’s the princess who offers him more, so the rapey charge is on shaky ground I think.

    Sorry to have missed your response Stu, and you’re quite right – I haven’t a shred of evidence that Jane Goldman didn’t write the anal scene. On the back of that I read a little into their writing process, which sounds fairly collaborative after all, (albeit while sitting in distant rooms) so she is in every sense responsible. But somehow it still smacks of an immature man operating with very minimal oversight.

  162. The Undefeated Gaul

    May 28th, 2015 at 5:03 am

    Indeed no rapey stuff in Kingsman, he asks for a kiss as an obvious joke, then says he has to go save the world and she says “oooh if you save the world you can do it in the butthole”

    Sounds terribly unfunny on paper, have to admit, but the delivery by the actress makes it work – I sure laughed. Nothing wrong with the tone either, fits perfectly with the rest of the film. Just your typical Vaughn/Millar vibe.

    While rape is obviously a serious topic/problem etc. it does feel people these days are overly sensitive to it when it appears in the media. There’s the Kingsman thing, a (funny) throwaway joke spawning thousands of comments on movie forums, but more recently you also had the Game Of Thrones controversy about the scene with Sansa (which completely fit the story and the characters and was executed about as tastefully as such a scene can be done – while still going for a shock effect obviously, but a scene like that should be shocking – just not exploitative). Seems like many people either confuse depiction with endorsing or they just don’t like dark subject matter anymore – in which case why the fuck are you watching GoT? It’s been exactly like this since the very beginning and much, much worse things have happened on the show. Baby killings, anyone?

  163. The butt joke in KINGSMAN is indeed a funny one. But it comes off like a genuine “what the fuck-moment” which makes it stand out. This kind of scene in a Bond-movie is played out with more innuendo, so it comes like a complete surprise when she says what she does.

  164. I’m just glad the scene didn’t have Iggy Izalea in it, as her name drop earlier in the film suggested a possible cameo, like the source material has all these famous people participating in the final fight.
    More weird for me about KINGSMAN- does Vaughn have a problem with Obama or something?

  165. @The Undefeated Gaul, the problem with that scene in Game of Thrones is, well, why did they feel the need to film it in the first place? We knew what was coming for Sansa, and the fact that Ramsay is a terrible person who enjoys hurting and humiliating women had already been well established in just about every single episode where he appeared. The baby killings were an important “just how evil is he?” moment for Joffrey but another rape scene for Ramsay is redundant now. They could have cut after Theon closes the door and everybody watching the show would still have remembered that Ramsey is a sadistic scumbag, and understood that Sansa was going to have an extremely unpleasant wedding night. But instead they decided to show it. There’s no important plot point or character development in that scene, it feels gratuitous. So, there’s a point where you start wondering if they enjoy filming women getting treated like shit or something.

  166. ThePinkServbot

    May 28th, 2015 at 5:50 pm

    Griff, Not to get into my stuff too much, but for over a decade, all that video game culture shit was really all that I had going for me in my life (there’s a reason why I stuck around the *chan’s for so long despite hating the fuck out of nearly everyone I interacted with there), so I know what it’s like to really cling hard and fast to, if not Gamer Culture and the Penny Arcade/AVGN/Whatever Gamer Identity, then at least having my identity superglued to video games. I’m glad you’re seeing this in yourself and deciding it’s not great, but I really don’t recommend just trying to replace it with some other similar nerd hobby component (“at least I have anime culture.”)

    What changed for me is that, when I started going to school, I very rapidly shifted from being The Video Game Guy or The Movie Guy or what-have-you, to just being A Multi-Faceted Guy who couldn’t be pigeonholed into really any category (except for gay, I’m really gay), and it really helped that the crowd that I fell into, despite being mostly people who were studying and going into STEM fields, were all similarly like that, too. I’m sure I don’t really need to explain the virtues of that kind of versatility, but among other things, it keeps me from getting in too deep with, ya’know, tabletop gaming politics or whatever the fuck to the point where I get so disappointed/sad/angry/whatever.

    Anyway, try not to find another big bunch of consumer goods to attach your identity to, instead just be you, but be broad.

  167. The Undefeated Gaul

    May 29th, 2015 at 2:24 am

    @Toxic: I see your point, although personally I feel such a major moment shouldn’t be glossed over. I assume it will end up being a major turning point for Sansa’s character and (eventually) Theon. Not showing it at all would remove the shock and reduce the dramatic importance. I felt the way the scene was done hit the exact right balance. It was shown, so you feel the impact, but in a way that was not gratuitous or exploitative. Just a matter of opinion, I guess. In addition, the shock effect is a major part of GoT that by now the audience expects, and the show runners feel they need to keep delivering.

    Sorry for going a bit off-topic everyone. I have just been noticing an annoying overreaction to anything even remotely rape related in popular media recently, often in cases where you have to try really, really hard to find that connection (i.e. the Kingsman butt joke). It’s a serious topic obviously that deserves attention, but I get the feeling many of the think-pieces I’ve read lately are written not from the heart, but with a “this is gonna get me so many clicks!” goal in mind.

  168. I haven’t seen Kingsman but in the case of Game of Thrones I really don’t think it’s “an annoying reaction” to complain about the rape scene. I see why it seems like it’s a major moment but really, cutting the scene after Ramsay tells Theon to stay and shut the door wouldn’t have been glossing over it. Again, I think it’s safe to assume that the audience already hated Ramsay before that and already hopes Sansa gets some kind of revenge for all the horrible stuff that’s happened to her, and that everybody watching the show knew exactly what was gonna happen. With that scene, it seems like the people making the show enjoy treating their audience like Ramsay treats Theon: hey, you worthless piece of shit, watch your little innocent beloved Sansa get defiled! Are they telling us we’re supposed to feel dirty for watching the show or something? I know that with GoT, shocking moments are to be expected, but I don’t believe the audience is actually demanding more and more shocking moments. Constantly trying to shock for the sake of it gets old pretty fast.

    Besides, now that the latest episode has shown us that [SPOILER I guess] Theon is still willing to betray Sansa to remain loyal to Ramsay, and Sansa is still a helpless victim, the scene actually feels even more gratuitous, not a major turning point. Nothing has changed for either of them. More shitty stuff has happened to them, and they still can’t do anything about it but suffer and cry.

  169. The Undefeated Gaul

    May 29th, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    But GoT has always put the viewer through the wringer, isn’t that part of why we like it? It honestly makes you feel something, shocks you sometimes, moves you other times. I truly don’t get that feeling of anger towards the show runners, of course they try to shock you. Even guys like Whedon admit they love to put the hurt on the audience by being especially cruel from time to time. I will give you that Sansa as a character has maybe suffered enough without having to go through this shit as well, but the only reason she’s in Winterfell is because they wanted to a) be somewhat faithful to the book and b) give Sansa something to do. It makes perfect sense to put her in that position, I’d even call it brilliant to streamline the book stuff in such a way. Downside is that Sansa after all she’s gone through ends up being captive to another sadist – but of course that’s not meant as a “fuck you” to the audience. Also, do you truly have any doubt that things won’t end the same this time? Theon may not be quite there yet one episode later, but he’s going to make that full turn against Ramsay and this horrid scene will be a big driving force behind it. Sansa will stand up for herself too, she’s already got that sharp whatever it was that she picked up while outside last episode.

    Lastly, I do believe viewers watching this want to keep being shocked. Watch too many episodes without a “big moment” go by and people start saying it’s dull. I’ll admit it, I’m the same way. The excitement of what terrible thing is gonna happen next (and it might happen to anyone, especially the characters you love) is a big part of why I’m drawn to the show. But it wouldn’t work if there weren’t so many characters there that they made me fall in love with first.

  170. A buddy pointed me to a good essay that contrasts how George Miller shot Rosie Huntington-Whiteley to how Michael Bay did in TRANSFORMERS 3:


    It’s an interesting analysis and I think works as a good rebuttal of the claim that “the camera treats them as things from start to finish.”

    p.s. I just learned from Google that “Righteous Fury” is a phrase that has something to do with World of Warcraft. I had no idea but hopefully my title seems like some kind of brilliant triple entendre.

  171. But so far the “shocking” moments had been effective because if you hadn’t read the books (I haven’t and I’m guessing a good chunk of the audience hasn’t either) they were really unexpected. You don’t expect the most famous actor on the show to get beheaded during the first season. You don’t expect the brave, handsome, all-around good guy to not be able to avenge his dead father and instead get stabbed to death along with his wife, unborn child, mother, and friends. You don’t expect the cool new guy to get his skull crushed by the evil brute, confirming the death sentence of the last decent man in that world. You don’t expect Cersei to say no to Jaime, and you don’t expect Jaime to cross that line.
    Now on the other hand who doesn’t expect Ramsay to rape girls and Sansa to get hurt and humiliated? So, unless she or Theon was going to stab Ramsay during that scene, or unless Ramsay was going to pull a 180 and be nice, charming and gentle for the first time in 3 seasons, maybe that scene wasn’t exactly necessary.
    I don’t know, Miller didn’t feel the need to show the women getting raped by Joe in Mad Max. You know it happened, though, and I think their escape and revenge feel as justified and satisfying even with no on-screen rape at all, so why would we really need it in Game of Thrones to be excited about the idea that Sansa’s gonna get revenge at some point? I mean, if she does. Obviously she’ll be betrayed by someone she loves and/or trusts and stabbed to death instead because that’s what happens to good guys in Game of Thrones.

  172. Great article on Movie Mezzanine, and it doesn’t even mention the line in TRANSFORM3RS, “What a lovely box” spoken over a close-up of Ms. Huntington-Whitely.

  173. Or the part where shots of her are intercut with descriptions of a car.

  174. The Original Paul

    May 30th, 2015 at 2:30 am

    And now I want to see DARK OF THE MOON. For… ahem… research purposes. Honest.

    Yeah, I’m a bad person.

  175. It’s times like these where I wear the fact that I’ve never subjected myself to the TRANSFORMERS sequels as a badge of honor.

  176. Given that we live in the world where we have no choice but to learn to co-exist with the TRANSFORMERS movies, I believe DARK OF THE MOON to be the keeper of the bunch. It retains some of the brazen tastelessness of the first two movies, but isn’t as dull or cloying, and it hints toward the competent staging of AGE OF EXTINCTION without being as banal. From memory I believe I’m pretty much alone on here on that one though

  177. I wonder if that one guy had never written his anti-feminist rant about a movie he hadn’t seen, or if the people who opposed his views hadn’t taken the very logical approach of spreading that rant as wide as they could throughout the Internet, would the discussion about FURY ROAD be dominated by the Goldilocks level of debate about whether the porridge has just the right amount of feminism in it? Or was it inevitable from the get-go and something besides that guy’s shouting would have triggered the avalanche anyway?

    With all the talk about the fact that Furiosa doesn’t have penis it seems like a lot of people have overlooked the more unusual and, for me, interesting fact that she also doesn’t have a hand. I can hardly come up with any other major Hollywood action movie where a lead protagonist has a physical disability. Obviously there’s some from Hong Kong, but for major Hollywood films I can only think of a few with blind characters. I can’t think of any with missing limbs, outside of some smaller characters where it’s used as a gimmick to give them a cool way to kill people, like PLANET TERROR or KINGSMAN. None where it’s treated so matter-of-factly. Surely there must have been something since BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK.

  178. Jake, I saw people talking about how feminist FURY ROAD will be, as soon as the line “We are not things” appeared for the first time in a trailer, so the discussion was inevitable.

  179. I actually have seen Transformers 3 and, up until yesterday, I would have told you that MM:FR and T3 had absolutely no cast in common even if you held a gun to my head. That is shocking; I had no idea that was the same actor.

  180. People were talking about feminism from the earliest press screenings and the cast brought up Eve Ensler (who Miller asked to consult with them) in interviews. So it was no accident there is a feminist discussion.

  181. Luke and Anakin Skywalker both lost body parts in fights, but their prosthetics are so perfect that it doesn’t seem to be quite in the same category. Snake Plissken has his missing eye, but you already mentioned visual impairments. Do Darkman’s burns count? Your skin isn’t a limb, but burns of that level would constitute a pretty serious physical disability. Other than that, it’s definitely pretty hard to come up with a lead protagonist where their disability is just a fact and not an opportunity for fetishization.

  182. Let’s not forget TERMINUS, the German ROAD WARRIOR ripoff that stars Johnny “French Elvis” Hallyday as a one-armed truck driver.

  183. The only other point I can raise is that Anita was completely wrong about the camera framing.

    Bonehandledknife on Tumblr has an amazing analysis of Fury Road’s use of center-framing composition and how that actively prevented male-gaze-y shot composition. Then there’s a third post explaining why although we shouldn’t ditch thirds composition altogether, there is no excuse for the male gaze-y focus in that composition.

    While nobody (AFAIK) has asked Miller if that was on purpose or if it was for a different reason (I recall another mention that he doesn’t like the way most modern action films are shot because they’re too visually confusing, and so he went to great lengths on Fury Road to ensure that the viewer could always follow the action easily and would never be confused) but either way, the male gaze was definitely avoided in Fury Road. (Not sure if he succeeded with the ‘avoiding visual confusion’ part though. It’s visually a very, very busy movie, and the oversaturated colour scheme really doesn’t help.)

  184. Here’s a good example of what pisses people off about Sarkeesian and her like sometimes:

    Also, she apparently said that the new Assassin’s Creed adding a playable female protagonist(something they got shit for not doing with the last game) is apparently exploitation of the female audience. So we either have her being a buzzkill who takes something deliberately ridiculous way too seriously (e.g. demons being ripped apart) or hypocrisy.

  185. One thing that no one else seems to have brought up: I think Sarkeesian fundamentally misunderstands the role of violence in art. Violence is not meaningful in and of itself; it’s meaningful because it enacts the highest stakes possible – life vs. death. And likewise, it’s not entertaining in and of itself; it’s entertaining because/if it’s well-staged/choreographed/executed. But again, the choreography isn’t glorifying violence for violence’s sake; it’s glorifying the life v. death struggle. Fury road isn’t saying that violence is awesome; it’s saying that the struggle is awesome.

    Saul Williams says, “Violence is a metaphor for victory’s plot.” Saul Williams is a wise man.

    Following from that, I think it’s wrong to suggest that Furiosa (or any of the female characters in Fury road) is merely participating in “male violence.” She is willingly engaging in mortal combat, literally putting her life on the line. That is a human struggle, not a male one. And Furiosa is doing this for the cause of liberation of her sisters, which is so basically and obviously feminist that I can’t imagine how anyone could deny it.

    It really, really bothers me that any feminist would label cinematic violence “guy stuff.” It’s only “guy stuff” because guys have been claiming it for themselves for so long. Just because the men who control Hollywood have always put men in the action hero roles doesn’t mean fighting is strictly a male thing. There’s literally nothing more human, and boxing it up as “guy stuff” is really limiting.

  186. Truth be told, I was actually put off by seeing several reviews mentioning the remark of “feminism” within the universe of “Mad Max”. Nothing against feminism, period, but the two things just seemed to be oil and water. After all, there have been more than a few attempts by various filmmakers to inject feminism into the action genre, with varying, but mostly underwhelming or even failed, result. (I have tried to watch any of the Resident Evil series countless of times, but I could never get 10 minutes past the opening title/credits). However I was not going to let that stand in the way of my enjoying some onscreen mayhem promised by the trailer I resisted watching until a week before its theatrical release here.

    [Spoiler onwards] I remained skeptical as the movie opens, because first I could not tell if the fully-bearded person captured the gang was suppose to Mad Max, Sabortooth from X-men 1, Rob Zombie’s Mike Myer 2, or Jesus from The Passionate Christ (which reminds me that Apocalypto, while definitely an accomplish flick itself, could be so much more entertaining as an ancient prequel to the Mad Max Universe… or even Mad Mel himself could be considered to directorially helm some future installments if Miller is willing to share – that would be some kind of beautiful closure). Tom Hardy’s rendition of the character also appeared to me more dim-witted than mad. What’s worse, throughout the mind-blowing first act his face was covered up like Hannibal Lecter, to the point I suspected Miller was making a reference to Bane in The Rise of Dark Knight. My worst fear, was that I have already seen most of the stunts in the trailer, and perhaps the studio pulled another one of those “whole movie in 90 seconds” type promotion, and the rest of the film will be devoted to long dialogues of expositions and philosophizing between people sitting in sand that serves up the feminism so heatedly discussed by many viewers.

    Then something amazing struck me. The so called feminism has been there all along. Unlike most other filmmakers who would introduce a female character with a shot of her butt, he tricked us (for a brief second) that the burned mark was on Max’s neck – already establishing Furiosa as an equal character to our titular protagonist. Theron won an Oscar for ‘Monster’, but I’ve always believed that it was to award her willingness to transform form a sex symbol to a crazed, murderous lesbian crack whore. Here, without many lines or much else to do besides driving and shooting, I actually think she gave the best, most nuanced performance, and all through her eyes – the coldness when she left Citadel; the determination when she deviate from her mission, the protectiveness over the ‘breeders’, the hope and the loss when she talks about home and when she found out it’s gone, the fear when she heard the plan, and the vindication when she decided to go after Immortan Joe. She doesn’t act tough or talk tough. She IS tough, but not for one second did she not feel human. And without any back story and with nothing explained, she is still instantly relatable, because her toughness is not a desperate attempt to appear dominate nor a choice, but an organic result of her surrounding, a world where survival takes precedence over any other needs.

    The way the wives were being introduced did border on objectification, at least at first glance – the sequence is almost dreamlike, with the back light showing them being white and clean – but it did not linger, because soon we discover that they are scarred, scared and pregnant. When they cut off those hideous chastity clad, there was nothing sexual about it. Their liberation was only the beginning of their problem. They were obviously bothered by the violence around them, but they never flinched from it. In fact they were not afraid to throw themselves into the fight when they have to – again, not a decision made for a statement, but what a brave human-being would do for a cause, or for hope. Femininity is not their weapon, not a subject, but an inherent, predetermined condition that was exploited by the evils of the world, and one that they have learned to live with. And to me, amidst all the chaos and insanity around them, this is the truest form of acceptance – no labels, no slogans, no ideological arguments – just humans doing what they would do in the given circumstance. Alliances may have been formed under duress, but there’s something weirdly moving and satisfying about the unspoken, even unconditional trust they have once the bond is made. Miller never put the word ‘feminism’ on a pedestal and try to appease it like an afterthought. It is so matter-of-factually non-issue, that I think its even more ridiculous, more misogynistic to argue any other way.

    Fury Road is without a doubt one of the fiercest, craziest movies I have ever seen. I may still miss the nonchalant attitude that Mel had, but when the new Max resumed in action mode, it was like all my fear were obliterated, and I was embarrassed for having ever doubted it. It is brutal but surprisingly tasteful (if one may use this word to describe this movie), visceral but rarely gory. This is what a movie should be like – a group of experts giving their all to accomplish a seemingly impossible feast, but damned if they didn’t pull it off with flairs to spare. There is not a shred of pretentiousness to be found, just a good old fashion blast of a time. I’ll be lying if I said I’m not still shaking from the excitement of it. I can not wait to see it again, and to drag as many people as I can to watch it with me.

  187. Xelaphobia- That was just beautiful, great post. Indeed, what an unexpectedly nuanced and inspiring film this is.

  188. “gorgeous color, red rock and rich umber sand against heartening blue sky,” which she feels is an example of “the scourge of color grading that’s afflicting so many action films.”

    …I would love to bring this woman to Australia some time. Her mind would be fuckin’ blown. (yes, it really does look like that)

  189. Rock on, Vern. This essay is so utterly on point and expresses so many of my own misgivings about the current twitter identity politics-verse and about films as art vs. films as a literalistic statement of how one thinks society should work.

    Also, to my shame in the Vern dojo, I only just watched this for the first time yesterday (hopefully partially redeeming myself by buying it outright without having seen it). I thought it was a singular, beautiful vision–unlike anything I’ve seen. It was so super intense and frenetic to watch, that at times I got overwhelmed and started to check out a bit. Like, I think I may need to break it up into chunks. It’s like there’s not background, all foreground. There is stuff happening constantly and all over the place, so there’s never a moment for my eyes and brain to get adjusted and really fix on one thing. I get that this is the intent, and the almost nonstop motion and action and weird visual wonders are part of what makes it unlike anything else. But I was a little overwhelmed at times, so I think I’m going to need to spend some time with this one.

    Definitely a very inspired and unique film that I enjoyed. An amazing world and a beautiful story propelling and accompanying the manic juggernaut of onscreen activity.

  190. The Original Paul

    April 16th, 2016 at 9:14 am

    Just checking in to say this: I am now the proud owner of a MAD MAX: FURY ROAD DVD. For the first time I now get to give this movie a fair assessment. The one I gave it after that awful screening in the cinema clearly didn’t cut it.

    I will let you guys know how it goes.

  191. Dvd? Why didn´t you get the betamax tape while you were at it.

  192. The Original Paul

    April 16th, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    I actually ordered the blu-ray of THE GUEST by accident. It’s most galling. I have nothing to play it with.

  193. Blu-Ray was forced on me, when my DVR stopped working and I realized that they apparently only sell either hard drive only ones (without the possibility to burn the recorded things to DVD) or Blu Ray recorders. While I own FURY ROAD on Blu-Ray, I still buy 99,9% of my movies on DVD. (And HD is overrated anyway, except for cartoons and live shows.)

  194. I´ve never been a big fan of HD either. HD has turned television sets into computer monitors. Text are almost impossible to read from a distance if you play modern day video games.

  195. The Original Paul

    April 17th, 2016 at 3:37 am

    I have nothing against it – hey, if it looks better and isn’t too restrictive in terms of backups, unskippable shit, etc, then it’s ok, right? I simply don’t have the space or the money to fit in an extra blu-ray player or games console in addition to all of my other stuff.

  196. I guess if your TV is calibrated like shit then I can understand HD content also looking like shit. But the way that the Blu-ray format allows for films shot on celluloid to actually *look* like the were shot on celluloid (with respect to film grain, fine detail and accurate colour reproduction) is undeniably superior to standard def. Again, on a TV with all of the default factory garbage (like anything that sharpens, noise reduces or incorporates the word “motion” into it) turned off.

    It really isn’t the fault of the HD content that the majority of modern TVs are set to look like retina scorching soap operas. Blu-ray is really just a delivery system to provide a generally more accurate visual and aural representation of the film as it was originally (revisionism aside) intended. Not perfect, not by a long shot. But invariably far, far more accurate than anything achievable in standard def.

    DCPs are just, like, Blu-ray XXL and I think most digital projections these days look pretty sweet (and a lot of people seem to agree with that, or at least agree that they look a lot better than they used to) so I don’t really get it.

    I mean, I get people not giving a fuck about Blu-rays and sticking to DVDs or whatever, but I still think there are a lot of misconceptions out there about that “HD look”. Just something I’ve seen kicking around on the threads throughout the years. Always thought about commenting on it, so I did.

    Sorry for derailing this shit even further fellas. In summation, wouldn’t it be great if the entire FURY ROAD storyboard/screenplay was released as a big, beautiful art book? And then wouldn’t be great if we were in the 1% of people who could actually afford it? A man can dream…

  197. Paul: You realize a Blu-ray player will play all your DVDs, right? They’ll even look better and automatically play at the right aspect ratio. If all you’re worried about is shelf space, don’t need to keep your old DVD player.

    I was a late Blu-ray adopter because all the shitty settings people had on their TVs gave me the wrong idea of what they looked like. Most movies look perfectly fine on DVD but there’s no question that Blu is superior if you’ve got your TV set up right. You can see all the detail in new movies (crucial in a movie like FURY ROAD, where you want to freeze-frame practically every second) and it actually makes old movies look LESS digitized than DVD.

    You can get one for like $50. Trust me, it’s worth it.

  198. “They’ll even look better”
    I wouldn’t go that far.

    “and automatically play at the right aspect ratio”
    If you had a problem with that, you most likely had some wrong setting in your DVD player. (Or it’s an American thing.Never had any problems with that before.)

    BTW, it need to be said that one of the things that really keeps me from buying more Blu Rays, is that because of financial reasons, I love to buy my movies used, but apparently Blus are way more scratch sensitive than DVDs. I bought old DVDs that were full of fingerprints and tiny scratches, but even played without any trouble on my cheaper players, but the used HAYWIRE Blu that I bought (thank God for only 2,99) stops playing in the middle, because of one teeny tiny scratch, that is hard to see with the naked eye.

  199. The only movies I buy nowadays are mostly collectors editions, like Arrow or Masters of Cinema releases of cult classics, through Amazon. And as they are mostly issued in blurays that is what I shop for.. Purchasing through Amazon is also the cheapest way. Sometimes it is way more cheaper buying there than from Swedish retailers.

  200. CJ – can’t dispute the scratch related headaches. Your DVDs *will* look better played through a Blu-ray majigger though because it automatically upscales the resolution resulting in better picture (although not better sound) quality. Nothing mind-blowing, but the improvements are definitely there and they are noticeable.

    For me probably the biggest stride forward is with respect to HD sound. DVD sound is just a long, horribly compressed 128kbps mp3 file. Just the worst sounding shit imaginable. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed all of the terrible digital compression artefacts that stink up a shitty sounding music mp3 but once you have it’s really hard to ignore them and DVD sound is just nothing but that gross shit for the entire duration of the movie.

    Anyway, if you only own one movie on Blu, I’m glad it’s FURY ROAD because that thing looks and sounds fucking incredible. Maybe see if you can track down a rental Blu of something like TAXI DRIVER or ALIEN to see just how beautiful a well restored classic can look on the HD format (and yes I know that ALIEN was colour-corrected for the Blu but the DVD was colour-corrected as well so at least in that case it’s kind of a moot point).

  201. Every DVD player I ever had played widescreen movies in the little non-anamorphic letterbox in the middle of the screen. You had to zoom in on the TV to fill the screen, and then it looked like shit and usually chopped off a couple inches at the top and bottom. I’m glad I traded up just to never have to deal with that ever again.

  202. Ahhhh, good ol’ non-anamorphic DVDs. When I was comparing the new(ish) THIEF Blu to my old DVD I forgot that my old copy was windowboxed. Couldn’t believe I ever put up with that shit. The shitty TV in our living room has overscan baked into its settings and there’s no way to disarm it, even going into the service menu doesn’t help. So anything I watch on it does the same shitty thing of cropping the image on all sides by zooming it in (well it’s more technical than that but this post is already boring enough).

    Not trying to force this HD Harry Pottery on anyone by the way. It’s just been interesting to see how amongst my friends, those who initially couldn’t care less about the uptick in quality you get from Blus now think DVDs look “weird and blurry” after coming to so many of my movie nights (where we watch a good mix of celluloid and digital joints). So you never know.

  203. I still await an anamorphic edition of THE ABYSS. The one I have is as letterboxed nonmorphic as them get.

  204. Shoot – seems like only yesterday that people were saying that Blus of THE ABYSS and TRUE LIES were just around the corner. Nah just kidding that was 2010 and we’re still no closer to getting them. Which is a shame as the DVD of THE ABYSS does indeed look ugly as sin. I read somewhere that a great looking HDTV master of it was aired a few years back but I have absolutely no idea where to watch it legally so the wait continues I guess. Apparently Cameron’s commitment to making A2A3A4 is holding the whole thing up.

  205. Well, I own 3 1/2 movies on Blu. FURY ROAD, THE WORLD’S END (which I mostly bought, because it was the day after I got my player and it was the best of the bunch that my video store had for sale. Yay, no scratches!), THE LAST CIRCUS and the aforementioned faulty HAYWIRE one. I made it a rule to not double dip, unless the DVD kinda sucks. (I almost cried when I wanted to watch EL DIA DE LA BESTIA again, but did it for the 1st time on a widescreen TV and realized that it wasn’t anamorphic.)

    Mr M: Seriously, either you had bad luck when it came to purchhasing DVD and only got non-anamorphic ones, or you really missed to turn on a certain setting in your DVD player every single time. (Or again: It’s really an American thing and your players are different than ours.)

  206. Speaking of The Last Circus, did Nabroleon Dynamite ever read Vern’s review of said movie? I was very excited to see his response to the granting of his wish but I haven’t seen him around here in ages. Are you out there, Nabroleon?

  207. THE ABYSS was on HBO about a year ago, and was on the HBO Now app when it first launched, and in anamorphic widescreen. There’s a whole thread about it at Blu-ray.com, with some screenshots.

    Speaking of sound, and this is more about music, but as a music lover listening to albums in 5.1 for the first time, that I know like the back of my hand is quite the experience. I get new releases with 5.1 but I wait until I know the thing by heart on stereo to listen to it in surround. The very best way I can put it is that it’s like discovering a hidden room in a house you’ve lived in all your life. Blu-ray is the premier format for that it seems now. I’m not such an audiophile that I can pinpoint the differences in formats but Blu is my preferred format anyway. I also have a few SACDs, which you can only play on certain Sony Blu-ray players and some higher-end stuff (Oppo for instance, their stuff goes for at least a grand).

  208. I think Nabroleon gave up waiting for me to do THE LAST CIRCUS and left.

    Of course blu-ray/hi def looks better. I especially like it on older films or 16 mm where you can really see the film grain, like TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE for example. Mr. Majestyk is also correct that most blu-ray players make dvds look better, because they upscale to access information that was on the discs but not readable to a dvd player. And scratches on blu-rays causing more of a problem is not a big deal because they are very, very hard to scratch. They always look brand new unless some asshole made an effort to ruin his HAYWIRE and then sold it to a store that was cruel enough to sell it to you even though it had a scratch on it. Even rental blu-rays pretty much never have scratches on them, which is a miracle.

  209. The Original Paul

    April 17th, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    I mostly buy DVDs online nowadays. You can get ’em for literally pennies if you don’t mind ’em used. I won’t deny that I get some conscience pangs for not supporting the filmmakers, but then I think: well, I’m still going to the cinema occasionally, even with all the problems I’ve had with it (I pretty much follow the advice of a few people here and take earplugs with me every time I go now). I haven’t had a scratched DVD for years – either sold to me or scratched by accident. I have lost DVDs because someone tried to use paper labels (protip: don’t ever do that. Seriously, the adhesive can warp and the resulting “unbalancing” will absolutely wreck both a DVD, and the drive that it’s in.) Other than that, it’s almost never happened.

    Money is really, really tight for me right now so I have to get the most out of my entertainment. As for “quality”, well, how good do you honestly “need” films to look? We got along fine with an 8-inch black-and-white analogue TV set when I was a child (this was many years before digital TV was even a “thing”) so I’m used to a hell of a lot worse. The only film I can even think of that’d be worth getting blu-ray for is LOST IN TRANSLATION, and only because, visually-speaking, it’s the most beautiful film I’ve ever seen. Other than that, it’s fine!

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