I joked to magister
upon leaving the cinema that Mad Max
I've got "accessibility" on the brain lately. It's a relatively recent addition to my working vocabulary, actually, arriving only a few years ago after a previous few years of hearing friends I thought of as "properly" disabled use it about events, places, communication and institutions. Since I've expanded my definition of "disabled" to include myself, despite my upbringing encouraging me to be "normal," I've found myself using it a lot more, too.
Just at the moment I'm in the middle of trying to apply for disability benefits and access other services for partially-sighted people like me (just tomorrow I have a follow-up consultation at Manchester Eye Hospital's low vision clinic, someone from Henshaws
calling me about their hiking group because I've shown an interest in it, and I have to chase up some paperwork with the council's sensory team so I can get training on using the white cane they supplied me with.
So perhaps this gives you an idea of why such language permeates even my time at the cinema.
I remember the then-poet laureate of the U.S., Billy Collins, giving an interview in which he said that he doesn't like it when his poetry's called "accessible"
(unfortunately I think his explanation of this at the time involved an ableist comment about not wanting his poetry to sound like it needed a wheelchair ramp, and I'm really not sure what's so bad about being anything like an inclined plane in any way!) and that he prefers the term "hospitable." Poetry websites like the one linked above gush that "the experience of reading his work is indeed akin to being invited into the home of a cordial and considerate host." While the last thing I want is to perpetuate any negativity about accessibility or particular things like wheelchair ramps which foster it, I do like to ponder on the overlapping connotations of these two words. I ponder to what extent Mad Max: Fury Road
Having read those tweets a week or so ago, I was even more excited about magister
's and my plan to go see this movie today. He was one of the first people I knew who watched it, and immediately afterward he said he wanted to see it again.
Since then, the praise for this movie has poured in; the only criticism I've heard of it is that the post-apocalyptic world is thoroughly, implausibly white
, something that really did bug me while I was watching the movie (I also found just enough time for my mind to wander to the bigots' easy argument if they wanted an in-universe justification for their bigotry: white people would start from a pre-apocalypse advantage in health and access to resources that might contribute to them surviving preferentially...but then I thought by that logic, people of color and other impoverished and disadvantaged groups are already
used to surviving on little or nothing in an environment hostile to their survival, so they should damn well survive and continue doing badass things!).
Feminism can't ignore race if it is to be worth anything. Precisely the things that made me feel so positively toward Fury Road
are keeping others from feeling that way. It was easy for me to identify with Furiosa, loving as I do to imagine myself as smart and tough and capable even as I know that really the only thing I have in common with such a character is that I've sometimes had my hair cut like that. Even though she kept her (sensible!) clothes on all through the movie and didn't even snog anyone, it really affected my experience of the film to have her, and so many of the other main characters (Bechdel-test fans keep pointing out that at one stage there are twelve named women on the screen who are having a conversation that is nothing to do with men), played by a woman.
It actually had a surprisingly emotional effect on me, seeing this movie full of women who were for the most part not calling attention to their gender but fulfilling the old cliché about feminism being the radical notion that women are people too.
I don't even know if the story about Alien
being written with the expectation of a man as Ripley but nothing changing when Sigourney Weaver was cast instead are true or not, but when you watch the movie they feel true. And it feels true for Fury Road
too: most of the the parts played by women could very easily have been cast as men (with I suppose the exception of the "breeders" but c'mon, futuristic dystopia; surely the nuclear apocalypse could've given us seahorse-like male-incubation genes, right?) with no apparent detriment to the movie.
But there would
have been some detriment to the movie. I can tell because I had this weirdly emotional reaction to just the sheer number and qualities of the women in this movie. I felt good
. I felt...like I was "being invited into the home of a cordial and considerate host"! If this is what the cis white straight able-bodied dudes get to feel like whenever they consume practically any
cultural artifacts, no wonder they don't want to give this up! Or even share. It's a rush, to feel that something has been tailored to suit you. This "hospitable" is some powerful stuff!
Even more powerful, perhaps, was the realization that I got to enjoy this action movie the way most people get to enjoy most action movies
. I was actually stupidly grateful for this.
At the James Bond exhibit magister
and I went to last week at the London Film Museum, I noticed I got a lot more out of the clips of the older James Bond movies than I did of the newer ones, even though I like the new ones, just because they're easier for me to follow. The quick cuts and close-ups more common in modern filmmaking just mean that I'm presented by a series of contextless colors and shapes that my brain can't process quickly enough to make much sense out of them. magister
said that even he couldn't follow something like the beginning of Skyfall
completely well, and then when I saw this tweet saying something similar about the new Avengers movie a few days later I started to realize that even though this was a problem I'd never heard anyone talk about before and had only recently started articulating myself, this isn't just one of my Blindy McBlinderson problems.
Which is great! Because it gives me hope that something will be done about this. Like all the people who hate 3D and won't pay for it, they're helping my cause of removing this scourge from movie theatres and leave room for more 2D showings so I can actually go see stuff I want to!
I expected to enjoy this movie, but I didn't expect a car chase to elicit such emotional responses! Between the ease of following a two-hour car chase (I was so cheerful at the end because this movie had been no work at all for me
, visual-processing-wise, which is so weird
you have no idea) and all the women making me glad I'm a woman (magister
pointed out that the old lady who, upon examining one of the "breeders" exclaimed "this one has all her own teeth!" is probably the Granny Weatherwax of the Mad Max
universe), this was really a remarkable movie for me.