Model/actor Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who stars in the Mad Max: Fury Road revival, recently gave an interview with Esquire in which she mentioned that Eve Ensler — the writer of The Vagina Monologues — was hired as a consultant for the project.
she was asked to come in for a week to help actors out in portraying abused female characters such as Huntington-Whitley’s Splendid, who’s pregnant through rape.
The actor said:
“We were so lucky that George arranged for Eve Ensler, who wrote the Vagina Monologues, to fly in and work with us girls for about a week. We did extensive research with her. Eve herself has had a very intense life. She’s spent time in the Congo working with rape victims and women who have had unthinkable things happen to them through the power of men’s hands. We were able to pick her brain for a week. She told us the most tragic stories I’ve ever heard in my life, which gave us so much background to our characters. We really wanted to kind of showcase that. It was a privilege to have her around to make these characters something more than just five beautiful girls.
This decision on director George Miller’s part is undeniably smart: as A.V. Club points out, the alternative of a ‘mansplanation’ of female trauma for an action movie really wouldn’t cut it. Apart from The Vagina Monologues, Ensler has written numerous feminist books, plays and films, and co-edited A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and A Prayer, which is an anthology about violence inflicted on women; bringing her in was clearly a very pointed choice. Still, it’s always a little strange thinking of someone coaching people on how to seem the most tragic — based on real-life tragedies — for Hollywood blockbusters and whether or not those tragedies will just result in accolades for stars over heightened awareness of, say, the people in the Congo whose tragedies fueled these stellar performances.
Overall, this is a seeming step forward and an interesting way of sidestepping male directors dictating what female pain is like — it’s just that it’s accompanied by a bit of discomfort, generally, over the whole juxtaposition of action film and studied trauma.
Meanwhile David Perry writes that:
Fury Road is also an explicitly feminist movie, with Furiosa and Max joining forces to take down a literal patriarchy. While the point of view largely centers on Max, the protagonist is clearly Furiosa, who with her deadly aim, prosthetic hand, and iron will pulls Max, the other good guys, and all of the many and varied villains in her wake. Later in the movie, we encounter a matriarchal society of badass older women who provide deadly sniper fire and heirloom seeds.
Naturally, it easily passes the Bechdel test, although one of my favorite conversations among women is technically "about" men, when an older woman discusses her ability to only use one bullet per kill. In a movie era making when the portrayal and marketing of "strong female characters" is increasingly a topic of conversation, especially when it comes to action and superhero flicks, Fury Road stands out as exceptional.