Lessons From Mad Max
I haven’t seen an action movie like Mad Max Fury Road in a long time. Several years ago, I decided that watching crashed cars, pummeled bodies, and full blown world annihilation added little value to my life. As a result, I’ve consciously stayed away from films that promote themselves that way. But it was Memorial Day and my husband really wanted to go, so I gave in.
Mad Max Fury Road is no different from other movies of its genre. In the first several minutes, characters get shot, maimed, chopped, and hot-branded. The action is so omnipotent that when actual dialogue was spoken, I guffawed loudly to the consternation of other movie-watchers. The soundtrack, a combination of death metal guitar licks and Japanese Taiko drums, pounded my ears numb.
Underneath all the panic and noise was an urgent plea from the writer: climate change will wreak havoc on mankind; the top 2% —or in Mad Max’s case the top family—will continue to suck up all money and resources leaving the remaining 98% destitute; the misogynist and predatory war on women is diametrically opposed to what’s needed to heal our world. We need to wake up and smell the decay!
When teaching yoga for anxiety, I seek to meet students where they are: first by teaching movement, and then by moving to quieter and quieter poses. In other words, you don’t put an anxious person immediately into Savasana because they won’t be able to stay in the position with attention.
I realized that the makers of Mad Max Fury Road were doing the same thing with violence. They know that our society has become so violent (think about the recent shootouts in Waco) that the only way to get their message heard by an audience confronted with such assaults every day is to meet them with strong destructive images.
It’s an honorable attempt to get a world that increasingly expresses itself more like the Middle East than Switzerland to correct a disastrous course
Perhaps their remedy will work, but I don’t think so. While I might not always meet a violent impulse with a cream puff, I also know that if I meet violence with violence, I just become angrier. This is also what Patanjali suggests. According to Edwin Bryant’s translation of his Yoga Sutras, “Ahimsa must be followed in thought, deed, and word.” In other words, violence must be met with nonviolence.
Films like Mad Max Fury Road just propel our rage and bring us closer to ultimate destruction. So for July 4th, the anniversary of the birth of our nation, I’ll try to resist any temptation to go to an action movie despite its likely (spoiler alert) positive planet-saving ending. Instead, I’ll enjoy a quieter revolution by resisting popular culture’s allure and hope we can regain our sensibility through peace.