If Whedon received scrutiny due to his feminist stance, and was limited by a studio system apparently reluctant to engage with gender representation, George Miller was comparatively unconstrained. One may expect a film concerned with male control and female autonomy would be scrutinised for having an all-male writing team, however Fury Road avoided this. (…) Issues of franchise and audience expectation are also relevant: both films were anticipated returns of popular franchises, but arguably Fury Road did not have the ‘baggage’ of incredibly high audience expectation, and the pressure of contributing to an expansive ‘super franchise’. Moreover, the Mad Max franchise is typically considered ‘masculinist’ escapist fantasy, leading to the presumption of a smaller female audience, as well as lowering expectations of female representation, thus creating favourable conditions for a ‘surprise’ feminist film. Seemingly, Whedon’s activism and feminist concerns added to the aforementioned ‘baggage’ making outright critical and fan praise potentially unachievable. Hence, if Whedon’s feminism clashed with Marvel’s sexism, creating ambiguity which invites criticism, Miller’s high-octane tale of emancipation paired with its legitimising feminist consultancy, suffered no such issues.
ROWSON, Emily. 2017. ‘We Are Not Things’: Infertility, Reproduction, and Rhetoric of Control in Avengers: Age of Ultron and Mad Max: Fury Road. Networking Knowledge: Journal of the MeCCSA Postgraduate Network, 10(3) pp. 57-70.
Mad Max: Fury Road and Avengers: Age of Ultron were both released in 2015. MMFR was lauded by feminists (while upsetting “Men’s Rights Activists”) for its exploration of issues of bodily autonomy, while Ultron faced a much colder reception and was critised in particular for its treatment of Black Widow’s infertility. In this paper, Emily Rowson looks beyond the fan and audience reaction to these movies. She combines three different kinds of analysis. She takes into account the audience reception of the films. She also performs a close reading of the feminist themes in both movies. Finally, she looks at the role of the director (and particularly the director as auteur) in shaping both the film and the audience’s expectations of it. Ultimately she argues that MMFR perhaps wasn’t as feminist as we would like to think, while Ultron was somewhat hard done by. This paper may be a good opportunity to revisit both films to see what you think. (Or to watch cars explode in the desert. That’s good too.)