Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Mad Max: Maybe I Should Watch It

I follow a few writing blogs and various internetty things. Some days I spend more time procrastinating on the internet than others. And then I feel guilty. But other days I learn fun stuff.

mad max car
Image from Rene Kisselbach

Mad Max on the Blogophere

I've read a few really interesting blog posts about Mad Max: Fury Road. Three to be exact. Two of them were from Chuck Wendig, and one was from a movie critic who got his 70-year-old mother-in-law to review the movie. She's both funny and insightful. I definitely recommend her post.

Mad Max Fury Road pixel art
Pixel art from Gwendal Uguen

A Mother-in-law's Review

I'll start off with the writing insight I gained from the 70-year-old's post. She says:
Old women were treated very respectfully in this film. I liked that too. They weren’t ridiculed at all, they played important and strong roles, nurturing yet powerful.
She also says, "The band kept things lively." An awesome, old-timey statement.

But back to her point about how older women were treated in this movie. You know, this isn't something I think about. I try to be respectful of my characters and not fall into stereotypes. I think about what races and orientations I have portrayed. I try to keep things varied.

But even with all these considerations floating around in the back of my mind I never thought specifically about how older women can fall into categories instead of having unique characters. You've got your malicious witch type who is working (and lurking) against your protagonist. You've got your crazy mystic who pops in to tell you something mysterious that only makes sense in hindsight. Sweet, batty grandma. And I'm sure other stereotypes as well. The point is that it's easy to fall into these stereotypes unless you consider each character: their goals, motivations, feelings, backgrounds, etc.

This review was a good reminder to step out of the shoes of my intended audience and really take a good look at my book. Especially my characters. Because it'd be cool to have somebody read my book and say, "I like that she treated --- respectfully." Whoever --- might be.

Another take-away: It's sad that she found it noteworthy that Mad Mad: Fury Road treated old women respectfully and didn't ridicule them.

Mad Max Fury Road poster, NYC
Photo by Robert S

Chuck It, Max

Then comes Chuck Wendig's commentary.

First was his Game of Thrones vs. Mad Max post. Chuck Wendig's position is that nothing in writing should be ruled out. People should be able to not-read (or read) whatever they want. But authors shouldn't ever have to say, "No. I can't write about that. That's off-limits."

However, if you are going to do something horrific, there had damn well better be a very important, character-building/plot-essential reason for that horrific act. (And, of course, an author should decide what he/she is not comfortable writing about.) He specifically looked at how Mad Max and Game of Thrones treat both women and, more specifically, sexual assault.

He argued that Mad Max: Fury Road used the horrific situation of the women in this world as a obstacle that allowed them to show their strengths and rebel against anyone who considered them objects rather than people.

And then he argued that, especially in its most recent controversial scene, Game of Thrones took the lazy way out and, even more offensively, used a woman's assault purely as a means to motivate a male character. Allowing this woman's suffering to be a lazy plot device rather than allowing her to be a person in her own right who suffers and (hopefully) overcomes.

I thought it was a really interesting article.

Then comes his post on how Mad Max not only defied a ton of the conventional wisdoms about writing, but it successfully blew them out of the water. And aren't we all jealous?

Furiosa pixel art, mad max
Pixel art from Gwendal Uguen

An Awesome Quote:

I'll end with one last quote from the very entertaining 70-year-old lady:
One thing I can say for the new Mad Max, Mad Max Fury Road, is that it didn’t put me to sleep. I usually find a few moments to nod off during movies now that I’m older, but Mad Max Fury Road kept me wide awake the whole time. And I like the new guy, Tom Hardy. Mel Gibson was always so grubby. I don’t like grubby.

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