Archetypes: Film: ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ Brings On the Matriarchy and the Feminine (2015)

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

The great balancing act in Mad Max: Fury Road isn’t the circus-like, high-pole-dipping soldiers swooping down onto enemy vehicles like birds of prey, or the astounding center of gravity that keeps racing rigs and trucks from keeling over onto desert sands out of sheer momentum. The real equilibrium here is the propulsive paean director and co-writer George Miller delivers in favor of the Matriarchy and the Feminine. (This post contains spoilers.)

Although Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) carries the Mad Max franchise, it’s Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and her women who carry archetypes of Matriarchy, Mother, the Feminine, Warrior Goddess, Redeemer, Home and a Neptunian vision of the future.

The crux of Mad Max: Fury Road – Furiosa’s incendiary motivation to unspool her revolution – is the relentless denigration of the Feminine. Furiosa – she’s one-armed, as if to underscore an even more challenging climb to the top – has become a trusted commander at the Citadel, run by tyrant Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), his henchmen and the war boys who serve the cause. The refuge is a construct operated by a heavy-chain and pulley system, whose factory-production-facility origins belie its external and interior feminine lushness.

The Citadel, which rests below an ample source of water that the rulers minimally dole out to the slaves, generates green growth and, therefore, inherently contains the Lunar Mother archetype and the potential to nurture. It also has the capability to beget male warriors, through the many breeder-wives Joe holds captive, as well as to produce breast milk, arguably this post-apocalyptic terrain’s version of nectar of the gods. That is, until the day Furiosa smuggles a group of these young women into her oil rig to travel to what will be their new, more secure and hopeful home base, “The Green Place of Many Mothers.”

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

The wives, despite their utilitarian function, are all Venusian beauties, singularized by their elegance, diaphanous gowns and names: The Splendid Angharad (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), Joe’s favorite who’s pregnant and due to deliver imminently, as well as Toast the Knowing (Zoë Kravitz), The Dag (Abbey Lee), Capable (Riley Keough) and Cheedo the Fragile (Courtney Eaton). When Max, who’s had his own problems trying to escape Joe’s grasp, spots Furiosa and the ladies for the first time, as though in a mirage, they’re hosing off the sand from their bodies with tank water.

Possibly struck by this indelible image – water is an acknowledged symbol of the unconscious, purification and a necessary element in sustaining life – as well as the haunting visitations of a young girl who serves as a reminder of his failure to protect his wife and daughter from slaughter, Max becomes an equal partner in Furiosa’s mission of restoration, well summarized by Splendid. “Then who killed the world?” she defiantly asks war boy Nux (Nicholas Hoult), who tells her Joe’s people are not to blame for this societal ruin.

The film’s other fine – and brave – balancing device is having the youthful females meet the elder Feminine, served up by a group of older women and other allies Furiosa knew as a child, all of whom, armed and well trained, carry the Mars-infused Angry Goddess archetype. One elder (Melissa Jaffer) – her priceless possession consists of a medicine bag, an apt container, of heirloom seeds – bonds with The Dag, the dreamiest and most priestess-like of the brides who inherits the bounty and likely becomes the de facto healer-guardian of a better future.

In the end, Mad Max: Fury Road delivers a message straight out of T. S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding.” Furiosa, looking for Plutonic redemption, makes peace with the fact she can’t just escape. As Eliot wrote, “The only hope, or else despair, lies in the choice of pyre of pyre – to be redeemed from fire by fire.” Rerouting back to the Citadel, it’s all about culmination: “And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

Early in the film, Joe tells the slaves, “Do not become addicted to water.” However, when Furiosa takes her rig through that canyon pass, it’s like watching life emerge through the neck of the womb. It feels like redemption, not only by old-ways desert fire, but through a gush.

Archetype: Mother. Nurturer. Warrior Goddess. Beauty. Home.

Astrology Archetype: ☽♀ ♂ ♇ (Moon, Venus, Mars, Neptune, Pluto)

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