7 Things in Mad Max: Fury Road that make it way more feminist than the original

Many of us remember the old Mad Max movies with Mel Gibson. But now, the franchise has totally reinvented itself and we like it. Yes, good-old Max (Tom Hardy) is still in the picture, but he’s met his match: Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). Furiosa is a new kind of heroine and just what we need for the 21st century.

The first three Mad Max movies from the 70s and 80s were anything but feminist. They were testosterone-fueled, bloody tales of death and carnage in a post-apocalyptic car culture. Well, in Fury Road, there’s still lots of blood, violence and cars, but the franchise has wisely added a feminist heroine, Imperator Furiosa, a woman who’s fighting on behalf of other women. Here are seven estrogen-fueled aspects to the new movie that have women revving their engines and cheering.

1. An alpha female called Imperator Furiosa

Charlize Theron inhabits the role of Furiosa, a woman who’s suffered greatly in her own life and is now committed to protecting the lives of five enslaved women. About Furiosa, Theron said, “When George [Miller, the director] told me he wanted to create a female Road Warrior who can stand next to this very iconic character as his equal, I believed him and he didn’t let me down.”

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2. Furiosa is a protector of women’s reproductive rights

Furiosa goes on a mission to save the enslaved Five Wives from their captor, Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), who’s been forcing the women to bear his children, hoping to get a son capable of taking over his position. We think this plotline sends a message that women’s bodies are not property.

3. Feminist playwright Eve Ensler consulted on the film

If you’ve ever seen The Vagina Monologues, you know the work of the outspoken writer/performer, Eve Ensler. Ensler has previously worked with rape survivors in the Congo and was hired to work with the actresses playing the Five Wives to help them understand the consequences of bringing to term a baby that resulted from a rape.

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4. Furiosa has no superpowers

We certainly enjoy seeing female superheroes on the big screen, but seeing an average woman like Furiosa being put into extraordinary circumstances and then rising to the occasion makes for the most inspirational role model of all.

5. Furiosa drives the war rig

It’s rare to see a woman in charge of a large and powerful vehicle, such as a plane or a tank, on screen. As an elite Imperator, or commander in the military sense, Furiosa drives the war rig, which is a battle machine and the most valuable vehicle owned by Immortan Joe. The fact that she commandeers the war rig for her own purposes makes her even more powerful.

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6. The power of blood and those who bleed

In the post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max: Fury Road, pollution has devastated the environment, turning their world into a wasteland. Cancer is rampant and the men employed by Immortan Joe rely on the blood of prisoners, like Max (Tom Hardy), to keep their feeble bodies alive. But even more important to the future of their society is the ability to reproduce — a feat only a fertile woman can accomplish. To emphasize the women’s ability to bleed every month, the Five Wives are all dressed in white, gauzy garments that evoke images of bandages.

7. No “prince in shining armor” trope

Furiosa and Max meet as adversaries at the beginning of the film, but soon form a bond. Their relationship is not romantic in any way. For them, teaming up is all about survival and each is as valuable as the other. Furiosa would never want or expect a man to rescue her — she, herself, is the rescuer, the way women in real life need to be for themselves.

Mad Max: Fury Road opens Friday, May 15.

Images: Warner Bros.