How Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga leans into the franchise’s queer traditions

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is the prequel to 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road, and contains a gender fluid plot-line that isn’t a radical departure from the franchise’s unexpectedly queer (if problematic) traditions.

(Warning: Spoilers for Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga follow)

2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road followed Tom Hardy as the angry wasteland inhabitant as he teamed up with Imperator Furiosa to defeat Immortan Joe, and free his wives from captivity.

Furiosa is set many years earlier and features Peaker Blinders star Anya Taylor-Joy in the lead role. But while the franchise is full of hyper-masculine warlords, and bombs, cars and explosions, the latest offering leans into the films’ less-than-straight history with a gender-fluid plot and queer allegory.

Is Mad Max a queer franchise?

Before the Australian character was played by Hardy, Mel Gibson starred in three films, from 1979 to 1985.

Even a cursory glance at the first two films, 1979’s Mad Max and 1981’s Mad Max 2, reveals that the story has never been entirely straight – although its view on homosexuals isn’t favourable.

You may like to watch

In the original film, Max goes up against Lord Toecutter and his flamboyant gang, all of whom are (pretty obviously) meant to be seen as gay and sexually deviant, representing the downfall of Australian society.

Toecutter himself refers to a younger male crew member’s “sweet, sweet mouth” and places the barrel of his gun in the latter’s gob. There’s also a scene in which the gang sexually assault a man off-screen.

The bad guy in Mad Max 2 is The Humungus, who looks much like a post-apocalyptic go-go boy, inspired by the queer leather biker sub culture made popular in the late 50s – if not gayer. Who knew they had Veet in the apocalypse?

The character’s right-hand man Wez loses his mind when his right-hand man (read, boyfriend), Golden Youth, is murdered.

Wez doesn’t stop crying until Humungus puts him in a sleeper hold. Kinky.

There’s also the little matter of Humungus keeping Wez on a leash for most of the film, and having lieutenants called “gayboy beserkers” and “smegma crazies”.

The films are fairly problematic in their portrayal of these individuals – the plot is very much heterosexual policeman Max defeats degenerate baddie homosexuals – but their presence is undeniable.

The late Tina Turner appeared in the third film, Beyond Thunderdome, as Aunty Entity (what’s gayer than that?), and in the source material comic books, there are hints that Mad Max: Fury Road‘s baddie Immortan Joe has a closeted attraction to men, prompting his gang of War Boys to call him daddy.

How is Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga queer?

While there are fewer oiled-up thighs and wasteland-dwelling go-go boys in the new film, Anya Taylor-Joy’s Furiosa spends a large portion of the story pretending to be a boy, to escape the advances of a character called – don’t laugh – Rictus Erectus.

The gender-fluid plot-line may seem surface-level, but it harks back to a long history of the Mad Max stories, and what “good” and “evil” look like when it comes to gender, and demonstrates how swapping between male and female is vital for survival.

Autostraddle says that Furiosa’s latest turn is a clear trans allegory, with the heroine having to mask her true gender expression simply to stay safe.

“[Director George] Miller’s plot concerns Furiosa presenting as a man for many years just to stay alive. In these sequences, the focus, thankfully, doesn’t shift to questioning Furiosa’s genuine identity,” the site’s review writes.

“There also aren’t awkward stabs at comedy centered on the character’s breasts or genitalia. Instead, Miller’s camera focuses on Furiosa, specifically the concentration remains on how she must remain aloof from her true self to potentially return home one day.”

While there’s no explicit reference to Furiosa being queer, some LGBTQ+ viewers will recognise the daily fight for survival in a society not designed for them.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is in cinemas from today (24 May).

Please login or register to comment on this story.