Study Guide

Mad Max: Fury Road Themes

  • Visions of the Apocalypse

    The Wasteland is what happens when a civilization squanders all its resources, fights for scraps, and reverts to their most savage and deplorable instincts. Yay? Mad Max: Fury Road asks us to imagine the worst possible version of the apocalypse, in which people survive, but at what cost? The environment is a disaster, and civilization consists of small city-states run by evil dictators who rule with an iron fist. Oh, and everyone is sick and dying from radiation. How are they supposed to get out of this mess? Let's see if Fury Road has an answer.

    Questions About Visions of the Apocalypse

    1. In what ways does Fury Road's apocalyptic vision differ from that of other movies in the genre?
    2. Which characters seem to hang onto their humanity in the brutal world of the wasteland? How do they pull that off?
    3. How does Fury Road visually depict the apocalypse? What are some memorable images that capture this best?

    Chew on This

    The apocalyptic vision of Fury Road is totally unrealistic. No one would allow one man to control such a vital resource as water.

    We are definitely headed for the world depicted in Mad Max, given the way we squander our ecological resources at an alarming rate.

  • Women and Femininity

    Who run the world? In the case of Mad Max: Fury Road, the answer is decidedly not "Girls!". Immortan Joe runs the world, and if you ask the ladies in his life, he killed it, too. His violent patriarchy exploits the female body—and soul—for his own benefit. He uses women as baby factories, milk factories, and…well, not much else. Until the wives and Furiosa learn to stand up for themselves as strong women, they live as pawns in the game of an unforgiving, corrupt, and grotesque despot.

    Questions About Women and Femininity

    1. In what ways are femininity and the environment tied together in Fury Road?
    2. Given the progress culture and society have made in the area of women's rights, does the vision of future society provided by Mad Max: Fury Road seem realistic to you? Why or why not?
    3. Are there ways in which we could consider Fury Road as not a feminist movie?

    Chew on This

    The minute the breeders arrive on screen, beautiful and barely dressed, it's easy to see this movie is really just as sexist as the rest of the action movies that use women as eye candy.

    Max proves that in order for women to succeed in achieving autonomy, they need male allies to help their cause.

  • Violence

    In Mad Max: Fury Road, violence is all about power. As George Miller puts it, "This story is one that has been fairly constant throughout history, meaning that women and indeed other human beings have been basically the goods and chattels of the powerful." See, when one guy starts treating other folks like property, the only way he can hang onto that power is through violence—or the threat of it at the very least. The Wasteland and the Citadel are horrible places, where those in power exercise it by brutalizing their underlings.

    Questions About Violence

    1. Is violence redemptive in Fury Road, or just plain terrible? Do you think Max and Furiosa could have achieved their redemption without resorting to, say, blowing people up?
    2. What are the different women's attitudes toward violence in the flick? Think about Furiosa, the breeders, and the Vuvalini—is their variation in their respective viewpoints?
    3. In what ways is Immortan Joe a violent character? We don't see him fist-fighting or shooting people much, and yet he's responsible for all this destruction. Does that make him violent, despite the fact that he rarely pulls the trigger?

    Chew on This

    Violence is all about necessity for our protagonists. Both Max and Furiosa clearly look forward to the day when they won't have to shoot anyone anymore. Not that that day is likely to come anytime soon.

    Immortan Joe's violence comes from his belief that people aren't people—they're things to be exploited.

  • Man and the Natural World

    Or maybe we should say "Women and the Natural World"? In Mad Max: Fury Road, the natural world seems, well, like a shell of what it used to be. Nux can't even remember the word for tree at first, and who can blame him? There's nary a tree in sight. In fact, the only place plants seem able to grow is at the Citadel. But those plants are simply tools in Immortan Joe's brutal regime. If we are to believe the Vuvalini, who carry with them the seeds of a once flowering planet, it seems like the only solution here is to put women in charge. How's that for some ecofeminism?

    Questions About Man and the Natural World

    1. What's the relationship between the eco-fabulous beliefs of the Vuvalini and the fact that they are women? Cause-and-effect or coincidence?
    2. Seriously, Shmoopers: who killed the world? Is Immortan Joe to blame? Is the past to blame?
    3. What is the Citadel's relationship to the natural world? What kinds of adjectives would you use to characterize that relationship, and why?

    Chew on This

    The ecological apocalypse we see in Fury Road is a direct result of industrialization and globalization.

    The Wasteland would be far less, well, wasteland-y if Immortan Joe shared natural resources, rather than hoarding them.