The Things We Take For Granted

A little under a week ago I watched Mad Max: Fury Road, a film that can only be described as an absolute spectacle.  Whether it was road warriors spraying chrome pain over their mouths before suicide bombing cars, the main villain getting the bottom half of his face ripped away with a grappling hook, two characters trying to kill each other with a flamethrowing guitar while standing on a wall of speakers traveling at around 70 miles per hour, or an armed convoy driving straight into a mammoth sandstorm complete with lightning and tornadoes, the movie is loaded with moments designed to make viewers sit back and go “damn.” However, the film also manages to fit in a few quieter scenes, and these calmer moments can teach us some important things

First off, conversation is a luxury afforded to us by the stable world we live in. In a world like that of Mad Max, a world where society has fallen apart, conversation becomes a relic of gentler times.  This first becomes evident when Max speaks aloud for he first time, stumbling three times before rasping out the word “water” in a voice that barely sounds human, and obviously hasn't been used in a while. The rest of the movie's dialogue is composed almost exclusively of battle cries, shouts of rage, logistics communication, religious cult rhetoric, and commands. We get incredibly few moments of genuine human interaction, and this rarity makes us see these moments as the precious luxury they are, a luxury afforded us by the stability of our world, and specifically of the first world.

Mad Max also shows us the power of names. Throughout the film we're introduced to multiple characters whose names seem to be more than just identifiers. Immortan Joe, for example, gets the first word of his name by mashing together the phrase “immortal man,” positioning him as the perfect leader of a religious cult. Furiosa is similar, as her name literally means “furious woman” in Spanish, and thus adds to her identity as a badass warrior woman. In both of these cases, names are not just convenient identifiers but sources of power. Anyone saying either of these names is automatically reinforcing their meaning and the position of the name's owner in society. The point in the movie that drives home the power of names most powerfully, though, is the moment when Max finally tells Furiosa his own name. This moment happens in one of the movie’s final scenes, and the fact that Max held out on giving his name for so long (Furiosa asks him it early on in the movie, and he just replies that "it doesn't matter") makes us realize something else about names: sharing them is an act of trust and intimacy. To tell someone your name is to give them a means to find you, to tell them who you are, and this requires a pretty substantial trust. This kind of trust might be easy for us now, surrounded by a society that’s largely peaceful and law-abiding, but that doesn’t make it any less an act of trust, and Mad Max shows us this.

These two lessons, of course, aren’t the only things that make Mad Max worth watching.  The movie is also delightfully fun, wonderfully feminist, and beautifully wild.  But the quieter parts of the movie are worth noticing as well, because they have things to tell us. Our world, especially for those of us in the first world, is a remarkably stable one, and thus we take a lot of things for granted. It’s only when we see a world drastically different from ours that we recognize the precious for what it is, and realize that maybe there are places in our own world where these precious luxuries aren’t so easy to come by.