MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015, Directed by George Miller)

M. Keith Booker

University of Arkansas

Mad Max: Fury Road might well be the greatest postapocalyptic science fiction film ever made; it is certainly one of the most acclaimed science fiction films of the twenty-first century. In a feat rarely achieved by a science fiction film, it scored ten Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, and won the most awards of the ceremony with six, for Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing. Visually, Fury Road is dominated by its over-the-top action sequences, but it is far from a mindless film. In fact, it addresses a number of important issues, centered on the fundamentally destructive nature of capitalism as a threat to the environment and to the survival of the human race. Several aspects of the film—including the important role played by Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa—also add a feminist element. Indeed, Fury Road might best be described as an exercise in intersectionality whose most important political point is a demonstration of the close interconnection among capitalist exploitation, catastrophic climate change, and gender inequality.

A Note on the Franchise Background of Fury Road

The first Mad Max film, released in 1979, is a combinationpostapocalypticfilm and revenge fantasy in which a young (and then unknown) Mel Gibson plays Max Rockatansky, a young highway patrolman whose wife and young child are brutally killed by a biker gang that has a grudge against Max. Unhinged, Max sets out on a violent quest for revenge, traveling the roads of a postapocalyptic Australia with a murderous determination. A low-budget film with lots of rough spots, Mad Max was nevertheless a hit, especially in Australia, leading to a much more elaborate and expensive sequel, Mad Max 2 (1981), released in the United States as The Road Warrior. This film extends the themes of the first, as Max continues to be a loner, traveling the outback with only his faithful dog for a companion. Nevetheless, he is drawn into a conflict between a vicious gang of killers and a basically good group who happen to have possession of a large amount of gasoline, the most valued possession in this blighted world. Indeed, one of the central themes of the entire Mad Max series is our obsession with gasoline-driven vehicles; not only does the collapse of reliable oil supplies play a central role in the apocalyptic downfall of civilization, but the survivors in the postapocalyptic world seem to have learned nothing, maintaining their quest for petroleum-based fuels at all costs. Max helps the good guys win, escaping the desert (with their fuel) to Australia’s northern coast, where conditions are a bit less dismal. Max himself, however, remains in the outback, still a lonely and tormented soul.

Mad Max 2 was a major hit that propelled Gibson to Hollywood stardom. It also helped to trigger an important cycle of violent postapocalyptic films that became one of the key cinematic phenomena of the 1980s. Still another sequel, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, was released in 1985, featuring the same basic scenario but filling in additional details about the original apocalypse, which now seems to have involved a nuclear war triggered by an energy crisis. Max again helps others escape the desert (this time to a ruined Sydney) while himself remaining behind. This third film was also a hit. Plans for still another sequel, also to be directed by Miller, did not immediately come to fruition. However, a major new entry in the franchise did appear in 2015 with the release of the widely acclaimed Mad Max: Fury Road, set in the same world as the original films in the Mad Max sequence and still with Max Rockatansky (now played by Tom Hardy) as the title character but essentially independent of the earlier films in terms of actual narrative.

The Feminism of Fury Road

The feminist message of Fury Road is neither simple nor entirely clear, partly because it performs a delicate balancing act that associates women with nature and, by extension, suggests that the same patriarchal attitudes that have led to the exploitation of women have also led to the exploitation of nature and, ultimately, to climate change. This proposition, though, is a dangerous one that has contributing to some critics reading the film as anti-feminist. For example, Eileen Jones, in a review that drew considerable attention, delivered a furious, sarcastic assault on the film’s attempts at what she calls “faux-feminism,” based on what she sees as several fundamental failures. I believe, however, that the film does deliver a strong feminist message, which I will try to demonstrate by answering Jones’ criticisms.

First of all, Jones notes that the group of “Breeders” rescued by Furiosa in the film look “exactly like supermodels posing for a Vogue shoot in the deserts of Namibia.” She’s certainly right about that, but I don’t think Miller cast these women in order to serve as eye candy to feed the male gaze. Instead, I see their tendency to look like a collection of supermodels as delivering a feminist message—as the chosen mates of super-patriarch Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), they look the way they do because they conform to the unnatural standards of beauty that such a man might be expected to have, standards that seem even more extreme, given the nature of the film’s postapocalyptic world. I also think Jones is being unfair when she turns her sights on the women playing the roles of the Breeders. She notes that Rose Huntington-Whiteley, who plays The Splendid Angharad, has credentials primarily as a model, rather than as an actress, as if that somehow makes her an object of contempt. Then she goes on to claim that “the other women are even less impressive performers. None can act in the least.” It is true that two of the other performers—Abbey Lee as The Dag and Courtney Eaton as Cheedo the Fragile—have strong modeling backgrounds, but both (especially Lee, who had a key role in the recent Lovecraft Country television mini-series) have growing portfolios as actresses as well. And the two American actresses in the group—Riley Keough as Capable and Zoë Kravitz as Toast the Knowing—are both excellent actresses. One could argue, in fact, that Keough is one of the finest and most versatile American actresses of her generation, even if the character she plays in this particular film does give her much of a chance to exercise her acting abilities to their fullest.

Whether Keough and Kravitz can act or not might not seem terribly germane to the question of whether the film is feminist, but Jones apparently wants to imply that they were cast strictly for their looks with no regard to their acting abilities, which is simply unfair and clearly inaccurate. The same can be said for Jones’ criticism of Theron’s performance as Furiosa, which basically comes down to a complaint that Theron is too conventionally beautiful to play the role, based on the evidence of her previous appearance in a series of Dior perfume ads, the “legacy” of which, for Jones, disqualifies her from playing the role[1]. That doesn’t seem like a valid point to me in its own right, but it is especially not valid given that Theron had also played many roles in action and science fiction films before Fury Road, including Æon Flux (2005), Hancock (2008), and Prometheus (2012)—and has since starred in such action films as Atomic Blonde (2017), The Fate of the Furious (2017), and The Old Guard (2020). Jones fails to mention any of Theron’s acting credentials, including the fact that Theron won an Academy Award for Best Actress by playing an extremely unattractive woman in Monster (2003) or that she had another Best Actress Oscar nomination for playing a strong, independent woman in North Country (2005). The same might be said for Theron’s Oscar-nominated performance in the 2019 film Bombshell, though Jones could not have known about that one at the time. Meanwhile, Jones contrasts what she sees as Theron’s inadequacy for this role with the positive counter-example of Sigourney Weaver in Alien (1979), largely on the basis of the fact that Weaver is six feet tall and doesn’t look like a model. Weaver’s performance in Alien is impressive and historically important in terms of the roles available to women in film, but I would also point out that Weaver is really more like 5’ 10” tall, the same height as Theron, and that Theron in Fury Road looks considerably less like a model than Weaver does in Alien[2].

Finally, in a point that really has little to do with whether the film is feminist or not, Jones claims that Furiosa’s statement in the film that she is seeking “redemption” by helping the Breeders escape is just dumb and should have been implied, not overtly announced. I’ll admit that there are moments in the film where the dialog sounds a a bit clunky, but I would argue that the references to “redemption” do a great deal of narrative heavy lifting that would have been extremely difficult to do by implication only. In particular, given Immortan Joe’s apparently extreme sexist view of women, it seems quite surprising that he would have made a woman like Furiosa one of his chief lieutenants. Indeed, while the film never makes it unequivocally clear, she may well be his second in command. A little bit of thought, combined with her stated desire for redemption, makes it clear that Furiosa has almost certainly done some truly reprehensible things (some of them possibly to women) in order to reach her high position in Immortan Joe’s command structure. Making it clear that she is seeking redemption serves as a stark reminder of this fact and thus adds considerable depth and complexity to her as a character. In addition, though Jones does not mention it, the film makes it clear that Max is also seeking redemption, and the quest for redemption plays a much bigger role in the film than Jones appears to believe.

Another criticism that Jones levels at the feminist credentials of Fury Road concerns the depiction of the Many Mothers from the Green Place. For one thing, Jones complains that portraying elderly women as “unexpectedly and amusingly badass” is by now a mere cliché. For another, she insists that the entire notion of the matriarchal Green Place as the last place where nature was able to survive partakes of “essentializing Earth Mother nonsense about women.” On the first point, I’m not sure that depicting the old women as tough and deadly is amusing or even really unexpected. Granted, I’m not sure making them so formidable and fierce really serves that much of a feminist purpose, but it is necessary according to the narrative logic of the film. With the Green Place now in the same state of environmental collapse as everywhere else, the women are the last survivors and have been living in very harsh conditions for quite some time. In this world, they would have been unlikely to survive this long if they weren’t pretty resilient and formidable.

Jones also finds it very hokey that one of the old women carries around a satchel full of various kinds of seeds, which she hopes she will someday be able to plant under conditions that will allow them to sprout and grow. In response to that criticism, I might note that, as far as the women know, there appear to be no living plants on earth (and no nonhuman animals, except for an occasional lizard and a flock of ominous-looking crows). Of course, those crows have to eat something, as do the surviving Mothers, but it is not clear where their food comes from.Meanwhile, there are living plants growing back at the Citadel, the stronghold of Immortan Joe, so the seeds being so lovingly protected by this old woman are probably not as crucial as she seems to think. But Fury Road is not a realist film, and Miller has made very little attempt to create a literally believable postapocalyptic world. Instead, the various elements of this world are included for their symbolic value. The seeds are a good example of this, signaling the survival of hope in this grim world. Indeed, seeds have been used in this way many times before, perhaps most notably in Émile Zola’s classic naturalist novel Germinal (1885), which centers on a coal miners’ strike in Montsou, France. The strike fails, leaving the miners in dismal circumstances. However, the book ends on a hopeful note. At the end of the book, the protagonist Étienne leaves Montsou in defeat, but he is walking toward Paris, where he will join the important labor organizer Pluchart to continue the fight. In a final metaphor that refers back to the book’s title, the men who head this movement are depicted as an emerging organic force, “germinating slowly in the furrows, growing towards the harvests of the next century, and their germination would soon overturn the earth” (558). I think the literal seeds in Fury Road play much the same role as markers of hope for a better future, pointing toward the relatively upbeat ending, in which Immortan Joe has proven to be mortal after all, and Furiosa seems poised to become the next leader of the people of the Citadel.

As far as the “Earth Mother nonsense” is concerned, Jones potentially has more of a point. After all, suggesting a link between the exploitation of women and the exploitation of nature is a potentially treacherous enterprise. Feminist scholars have, after all, long pointed out that women and nature have consistently been linked in the history of patriarchal discourse and that this link fundamentally works to the detriment of women. For example, Stacy Alaimo argues this point when she notes the problematic nature of imagery that links women with nature: “Mother earth, earth mothers, natural women, wild women, fertile fields, barren grounds, virgin lands, raped earths … Casting woman as synonymous with nature actually constituted woman as ‘woman’, that is, as a completely sexed being. Defining woman as that which is mired in nature thrusts woman outside the domain of human subjectivity, rationality, and agency” (2).

Citing both Alaimo and Jones, Michelle Yates argues that Fury Road should not be seen as a participant in the essentialist tradition of aligning women with nature. Yates begins by demonstrating that The Road Warrior does suffer from an alignment of women with nature in a way that makes both passive victims who have to be saved by Max, the active male protagonist. It is thus what she calls a “traditional Edenic recovery narrative.” On the other hand, Yates finds that Fury Road does not repeat this mistake, concluding that, “in disrupting the traditional Edenic recovery narrative, Fury Road reconceives the traditional association between women and nature, representing female nature not as passive, but rather as powerful and agentive.” As a result, for Yates, the film recasts nature as a “feminist space” (369).

I think Yates is correct. In Fury Road Max does not rescue Furiosa and the other women from Immortan Joe. Instead, he allies himself with them, with the women proving quite capable of taking action on their own behalf. Indeed, despite the title and the film’s opening scene, which seems to set up Max as the protagonist, I would argue that Furiosa is the true protagonist and the character whose point of view is centered in the film, with Max remaining on the margins, as befits his loner persona. It is not for nothing that, when the women return in triumph to the Citadel, Max turns away and sets off on his own, leaving Furiosa to take the lead in trying to build a new and more just society from the ruins of Immortan Joe’s empire.

Granted, there are many Westerns in which the protagonist, having done his work, sets off alone, leaving the confines of civilization behind. Such prominent films as Shane (1953) and The Searchers (1956) immediately come to mind. And if Fury Road had been a Western, Max probably would have been the protagonist. However, despite many points of overlap with the Western genre, Fury Road is not a Western[3]. It is, first and foremost, a postapocalyptic film in which hope for a better future is restored through political action. Political action, though, is not a game for loners like Max; it is a game for leaders like Furiosa.

Finally, I might add that the alignment of women with nature via the whole motif of the Green Place in Fury Road also serves a positive function by calling attention to the way in which the system of capitalist patriarchy has used this same alignment in a negative way. In particular, this alignment in Fury Road calls attention to the way in which both nature and women have been victimized by capitalist patriarchy. But, by portraying women, not simply as victims, but as strong , capable and independent figures, the film offers a positive response to this victimization.

Fury Road as Critique of Capitalism

The eminent social and cultural critic Fredric Jameson has suggested, in a statement that seems highly relevant to Fury Road, that “it seems to be easier for us today to imagine the thoroughgoing deterioration of the earth and of nature than the breakdown of late capitalism” (Seeds xii). Later, in a widely referenced essay, Jameson elaborates on this point by suggesting that the recent popularity of postapocalyptic narratives comes from the fact that so many people sense the injustice of the capitalist system but are unable to imagine any way a viable alternative to it might arise. So, lacking the ability to envision the end of capitalism and the rise of something better via any sort of normal historical process, we become fascinated by visions of the destruction of civilization itself as the only way to end capitalism. As Jameson ultimately puts it, “Someone once said that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism. We can now revise that and witness the attempt to imagine capitalism by way of imagining the end of the world” (“Future City” 76).

Fury Road envisions a postapocalyptic world in which, as far as we can see, both nature and civilization have been effectively destroyed, though it does leave open the possibility that civilized and/or green enclaves still exist somewhere outside the knowledge of the characters in the film[4]. Meanwhile, by suggesting that many of the worst aspects of capitalism might survive even the end of civilization as we know it, the film seems to go Jameson one better. One could argue that Fury Road simply reinforces Jameson’s point about the inability of contemporary culture to produce representations of alternatives to capitalism, but the film at least gestures toward a vision of a utopian alternative in the form of the matriarchal society that once existed in the Green Place. Of course, that society was unable to survive.

Using the economical, abbreviated style that it frequently uses to convey information, Fury Road begins with a quick explanation of why the world of the film is in such a state, noting that dwindling supplies of both petroleum and water had led to conflicts in the competition for these scarce resources. One shot of a forest of trees being bent by what appears to be the percussive winds from a nuclear explosion suggests a nuclear holocaust, though that is never stated that such a holocaust occurred. What is made clear is that human beings themselves are responsible for the destruction of their environment, immediately giving the film an environmentalist edge. Indeed, the film’s stipulation that the human race essentially went insane in the drive toward self-destruction can be taken as a commentary on the current insanity of the world’s relative inaction in the face accelerating climate change.

Climate change, of course, is a subtle and multifarious phenomenon that is almost impossible to represent visually. Climate change is, to use the now-popular term coined by Timothy Morton, the ultimate example of a “hyperobject.” But the end results of climate change, one of the most important of which is likely to be the desertification of much of the globe, can be represented visually, and it is almost impossible to watch the desert landscape Fury Road without seeing it as a warning of what the world might look like in a few decades if we do not take strong action now to prevent it. Moreover, this landscape is not merely a static image. At one point, Furiosa and her group drive through a powerful sandstorm that also surely suggests climate change, as when Judith Eckenhoff sees the storm as a reflection of the way “extreme weather phenomena, particularly powerful storms, have come to be one of the frames of reference allowing us to directly see the damage done by climate change” (105)[5].

Meanwhile, in the same way the future world of Fury Road comments on climate change in our own world, the future society depicted in Fury Road clearly comments on the capitalist society of our world, thereby subtly linking climate change and capitalism in a way that places the blame for the former squarely on the latter. Actually, the film never gives us any real details about the functioning of the society ruled by Immortan Joe, preferring instead to convey the nature of this society through images that suggest its primitivity and savagery. Most of Joe’s subjects make up a sort of undifferentiated rabble. They don’t seem to do any productive work, but simply stand around dressed in rags, waiting for Immortan Joe to dispense water (“aqua cola”) to them, something he is able to do because it is pumped up from an underground aquifer. Again, the method of distributing water seems extremely wasteful and inefficient, which makes little sense in a world so short of water, but Joe is less interested in efficiency than in theatrical displays of his wealth and power. Fury Road, with its spectacular rolling battle scenes and extreme technologies, is also more interested in theatrical displays than in making real sense. The film, in fact, works very much like satire, presenting us with a number of exaggerated versions of phenomena that are already occurring in our world—as when Joe’s control of the water supply comments on the private ownership of water resources in our own world.

In the case of Joe’s society, the images in the film effectively produce an overall sense of the nature of this society, even if some of the details don’t seem viable. First and foremost, the film makes clear that Joe’s society is fundamentally built on exploitation of resources and spectacular demonstrations of power. Joe’s minions seem to do all the work of the society, though there is little emphasis on their labor, and most of what we see are his “War Boys,” who constitute a sort of paramilitary force that helps protect Joe’s resources and to raid the resources of others. They also live as a relatively privileged elite and clearly have a higher standard of living than does the general population.

Joe’s society does not closely resemble any real capitalist society, nor is it meant to. In some ways, it can be viewed as a sort of obscene parody of the exploitative nature of both capitalism and patriarchy. As Phoebe Wagner puts it, “An environmental justice analysis of the film provides a focus on the violation of human rights, an inevitability when bodies are commodified for consumption, and a new understanding of capitalistic responses to natural resource depletion, particularly water. These issues are inseparable from the capitalist patriarchy represented by Immortan Joe” (47). Joe functions as an absolute oligarch who views everything in his domain as his personal property, including that large supply of underground water, the control of which is the key to Joe’s power. Except for some decorative flourishes, the machinery that we see in the film seems to have been cobbled together from leftover scraps inherited from the old world. And there seem to be no animals in Joe’s realm, except for people, which makes people themselves a crucial resource, kept alive by the produce that Joe is able to grow thanks to his large supply of water.

Immortan Joe feels entitled to use the people under his rule any way he sees fit. His view of people as a resource to be exploited is announced at the very beginning of the film when Max is captured by a group of Joe’s War Boys, then taken back to the Citadel where, after an examination, his various medical characteristics are tattooed onto his back, labeling him for potential use. Indeed, because he is discovered to have type O-negative blood, making him a universal donor, he is immediately put to use as a blood donor, serving as a “blood bag” to provide a continuing source of healthy blood for the “half-life” War Boy Nux (Nicholas Hoult), who, like many of the War Boys, seems to be suffering from radiation sickness (in another sign that a nuclear apocalypse has occurred).

Perhaps the most obvious case of Joe’s exploitation of people is in his deployment of the Breeders as his personal harem. Literalizing his role as patriarch, Joe seems determined to use the Breeders to produce as many offspring (preferably male) as possible, giving him an effective cadre of heirs[6]. There is no evidence in the film that Joe uses people for food, but he does use them to produce other supplies. For example, he has a group of captive women hooked up to milking machines, producing a constant supply of mother’s milk, which is apparently considered to be a valuable delicacy in this world, one of the three commodities (in addition to water and produce) that he uses to trade for bullets and gasoline (“guzzoline”) from two other extant outposts, the Bullet Farm and Gas Town[7].

Joe’s exploitation of his War Boys, the key tool that he uses to enforce his power, is also quite thorough. Though Nux ultimately jumps ship and joins forces with Furiosa and Max, the War Boys in general show absolute loyalty to Joe, whom they appear to regard as a sort of god. Indeed, the key to Joe’s control of the War Boys seems to be an invented religion (sometimes referred to in discussions of the film as the “Cult of the V8”) that involves a dual worship of powerful engines and of Joe himself, with such engines being the key to their success in battle and Joe presumably holding the key to “Valhalla,” which they appear to regard as a paradisical eternal afterlife. And such an afterlife holds special appeal for these men given that their lives are likely to be nasty, brutish, and short (in the famous words used by philosopher Thomas Hobbes to describe the way he felt human life would be in the event of a breakdown of civilization). After all, even if not killed in battle, many of them appear, like Nux, to suffer from radiation sickness, which might also explain their apparent willingness to undertake feats that are likely to lead to their deaths, delivering them to Valhalla.

Joe’s use of religion to secure the obedience of his minions, of course, directly echoes the well-known diagnosis of religion as a key means of social control, or, in the famous words of Karl Marx, as “the opiate of the masses.” We don’t know many details about this sect: as with many other things in Fury Road, we are given just enough information to give us a general idea of its orientation. In ancient Norse mythology, warriors who died nobly in battle were supposedly transported to the hall of Valhalla, home of Odin, where they would prepare in paradise-like surroundings to participate in the apocalyptic event known as Ragnarök, leading to the renewal of the earth. It thus seems clear why Joe (or Miller) might have chosen Valhalla as a key component of his invented religion, though it is also the case that the particular makeup of the Cult of V8 seems to have been cobbled together from key aspects of pre-apocalyptic Western societies. Other than the promise of an eternal afterlife, which echoes most major world religions, the apparent worship of V8 engines would appear to serve as a satirical critique of the longtime Western (especially American) love of big, gas-guzzling automobiles, a love that has made a huge contribution to the degradation of the environment and the warming of the climate that are otherwise commented on by virtually everything in Fury Road.

All in all, Fury Road serves as a sort of extrapolation of the current situation in our own world, a situation that Michael Burawoy has called “third-wave marketization” (352). For Burowoy, capitalism has passed through three different waves of commodification and exploitation, the first two waves involving the commodification of labor and then of money. The third wave is then characterized by “the commodification of nature (land, environment, and body),” a phenomenon that he sees as still developing, He goes on to note that “we are in its grip at the moment and we do not know when it will reach its zenith. Its distinctive trait is the commodification of nature (land, environment, and body), although the commodification of labor and money also reasserts itself” (356). Fury Road shows us the ultimate results of that third wave reaching its zenith at last.

Works Cited

Alaimo, Stacy. Undomesticated Ground: Recasting Nature as Feminist Space. Cornell University Press, 2000.

Burawoy, Michael. “What Is To Be Done?: Theses on the Degradation of Social Existence in a Globalizing World.” Current Sociology, vol. 56, no. 3, 2008, pp. 351–359.

Eckenhoff, Judith. “The Desert Wasteland and Climate Change in Mad Max: Fury Road.” The Apocalyptic Dimensions of Climate Change. Edited by Jan Alber, Walter de Gruyter, 2021, pp. 93–108.

Hughes, Emma. “The New Global West: Redefining the Borders of Genre in the Post-Revisionist Western.” Film Matters, vol. 9, no. 3, Winter 2018, pp. 42-56. 

Jameson, Fredric. “Future City.” New Left Review 21, May-June 2003, pp. 65–79.

Jameson, Fredric. The Seeds of Time. Columbia University Press, 1994.

Jones, Eileen. “Actually, Mad Max: Fury Road Isn’t That Feminist; And It Isn’t That Good, Either.” In These Times, 18 May 2015, https://inthesetimes.com/article/actually-mad-max-fury-road-isnt-that-feminist. Accessed 22 December 2021.

Morton, Timothy. The Ecological Thought. Harvard University Press, 2010.

Wagner, Phoebe. “Mad Max and the Wasteland of Commodification.” Our Fears Made Manifest : Essays on Terror, Trauma and Loss in Film, 1998-2019. Edited by Ashley Jae Carranza, McFarland, 2021, pp. 46–59.

Yates, Michelle. “Re-casting Nature as Feminist Space in Mad Max: Fury Road.” Science Fiction Film and Television, vol.10, no. 3, 2017, pp. 353–70

Zola, Émile. Germinal. 1885. Translated by Havelock Ellis, Vintage-Random House, 1994.

Notes

[1] Jones actually admits that Theron is made to “seem ferociously strong and a better actor than Meryl Streep,” but that is only because, according to Jones, the so-called supermodels are so awful in comparison.

[2] This last judgment is subjective, of course; Jones (in her eagerness to say bad things about Fury Road) claims that Theron’s crew-cut look in Fury Road merely accentuates her “soft, tiny-nosed, blonde prettiness.”

[3] For a discussion of the ways in which Fury Road can be seen as a new kind of Western, see Hughes.

[4] At one point, soon after meeting the surviving Mothers, some of the Breeders see what they believe is a telecommunications satellite streaking across the sky. Toast explains that they used to bounce messages off of them in the old days. Then, in one of the film’s few moments of humor, one of the Mothers replies, “Shows. Everyone in the old world had a show.” Then they wonder among themselves if someone is still out there sending shows via the satellite, but they agree that it is not possible to know what lies on the other side of the “Plains of Silence,” which appears to be a dried-up ocean that lies before them, cutting them off from the rest of the world. Then again, telecommunications satellites are generally in geostationary orbits and do not appear to move, so the object they see in the night sky might not be a telecommunications satellite at all. It is generally not a good idea, though, to demand realistic depictions from this film.

[5] See Eckenhoff’s article for a detailed discussion of the various ways in which Fury Road somments on climate change.

[6] We see at least two of Joe’s sons in the film, both adults and neither likely to be able to carry on his legacy.

[7] Given that Joe seems to have to trade goods from the Citadel in order to get bullets and gasoline, it seems possible that he does not rule over Gas Town and the Bullet Farm but is simply in a triple alliance with them because each of these three outposts has things that the others need. It is, however, possible that he does, in fact, rule over all three outposts. The film provides almost no information about the political situations within Gas Town and the Bullet Farm.