In George Miller's epic action film, "Mad Max: Fury Road," viewers are introduced to the character of Furiosa, a one-armed woman with a buzz cut, played by the talented, two-armed, blonde in real life Charlize Theron.
We've seen Charlize skirt the norm before, but there's something about this role that really plays up her ability to be both strong and athletic, while emphasizing her natural beauty and femininity. She seems extra gorgeous because she is all woman, and not just a part or type of woman society demands her to be.
As Laci Green points out on this week's episode of "Braless," "Furiosa is calculated, determined, and thinks quick on her feet. She’s a compassionate leader with sharp mechanical expertise and back-up plans on her back-up plans - a type of female hero we almost never see on screen."
But Charlize wasn't the only ass-kicking woman to face-dive into action-movie tropes this week. On Sunday, May 17, Taylor Swift released her video for "Bad Blood" at the Billboard Music Awards. In the lead up to the premiere, Swift teased photos of some of her friends who would be appearing in the video, including Karli Kloss, Selena Gomez, GiGi Hadid, and Cindy Crawford. Each woman was decked out in the style of a "Sin City" poster, and had a cameo where they got physical, drove fast cars, and formed a weapon-wielding army behind Swift.
Responses to "Mad Max: Fury Road" and "Bad Blood" are pretty positive. Unsurprisingly, people enjoy seeing beautiful women in skimpy clothing shoot guns and blow things up - and not just for the big bazookas. People like to watch women assert power in a way that is traditionally male, and violent women definitely blur a gender norm of hyper-masculinity that is usually expected of boys and rejected for girls. It's refreshing and empowering for even fictional women to beat men at their own games, because it happens so infrequently in real life. That's why it's called a revenge-fantasy.
However, blowing stuff up is not what makes "Mad Max: Fury Road" or Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood" examples of feminism. Feminism, as we can all recite from memory at this point, is about believing in the "social, political, and economic equality of the sexes." Which means that violence, which is in essence one person asserting physical power over another, is not very feminist at all.
The true feminist moments in "Mad Max: Fury Road" and "Bad Blood" are the parts when individual strengths are privileged over gender - or when gender is a non-issue all together. It's the parts in "Bad Blood" where each of Taylor's friends has their own valuable skill-set, and the part in "Mad Max: Fury Road" when Furiosa realizes she and Max will be stronger if they work together.
That's why the joke about misandry and "kill all men" is just that -- a joke. Feminists know it's too simplistic and reactionary, and doesn't take into account the potential for all individuals to be greater than whatever insidious gender expectations are slapped on them at birth. "Mad Max: Fury Road" seems to imply that, as Laci explains, "extreme masculinity will certainly be the end of what’s left of the world," because it values extreme violence as a way to attain power. That means that if we try to use even more violence to fight it, we'll only make the problem worse.
"The call for humanity is what makes ["Mad Max: Fury Road"] so feminist to me," says Laci. "It manages to be humanizing of men and women in an extreme post-apocalyptic world...The final scenes show us an alternative: working together, equality, personal agency, and selflessly giving. [George] Miller seems to be suggesting that there is, indeed, another way. A world where it’s okay for women to be leaders, and where people are treated equally."