When I first saw Mad Max: Fury Road, I had not seen or even heard of the previous three films, but everyone in my feminist circles told me I needed to see it, so I proceeded to the theater and was hooked. For weeks, I spoke excitedly to anyone who would listen about the critique of the military industrial complex, the way women are portrayed as baby making machines, the water as life both literally and as metaphor, and the idea of toxic masculinity hyping up young men to be seen as disposable in the off chance of being immortalized as a warrior. Most importantly for me, I was full of hope for having a disabled character (though unfortunately not portrayed by a disabled actress) as a strong lead, wherein her impairment is not to be pitied, but rather is simply a part of who she is. While others often nodded along, eventually, I gave up on my deep reading of this now beloved film.

In reading Trauma and Disability in Max Max: Beyond the Road Warrior's Fury, all of these thoughts have suddenly come flooding back, but this time, strengthened by the well written and clearly laid out discussion offered by Mick Broderick and Katie Ellis in this attention-grabbing book. Once I made it through the introduction and to Chapter 2: Trauma, I could barely put it down. They do an expert job of weaving examples from the four movies in (often along with screenshots) to support their suggested understandings of the films, while also building on a strong history of writing, both about media and about trauma. As a social work professor (rather than a media studies scholar), I really appreciated the connections made between Mad Max's (and others') trauma, how this trauma influenced their character development and actions, and the results of this process. I could absolutely see this chapter assigned to my Master's of Social Work students to help them understand the lived experience of trauma through popular media.

Chapter 3: Disability had me pouring back through the films and Mad Max wikis online, as I found almost every nuance discussed here elicited a deep "oooooh" from me, and a desire to more deeply explore these examples and understandings of the films. The authors put forth an incredible number of examples from the film (again, with supporting images) to explore in-depth, both those that show disability in a positive light, and those that reinforce extant stereotypes of disability and impairment. As with the previous chapter, I appreciate the focus not being solely on Mad Max himself, but across characters of all levels of relative importance.

I moved onto Chapter 4: Gender and was looking forward to the exploration of both gender and sexuality. While this was a chapter that I was particularly excited about, I felt that it missed its mark a bit, especially in comparison to the previous two chapters. To write a chapter about gender and sexuality that completely leaves out transgender identity (or the lack of representation of such) in this day and age is a huge gap, and to refer to the gay biker gang as homosexual feels completely out of place. Moreover, I feel like there is a lack of acknowledgement about all the gay biker gangs that did exist, as well as the creation and long sustainability of gay men's leather communities, which are incredibly empowering. Rather, the S/M themes are barely noted and only in reference to Neale's previous writing, leaving much to be explored. Similarly, toxic masculinity is only mentioned in the Monsters, Freaks, and Metaphors sub-section, though I feel this is a concept that undergirds all four films, and should be centered in any discussion of gender as relating to Mad Max.

The following Chapter 5: Mythology offered a lot of new information to me, particularly about the role of disabled people in mythology, something I had no prior idea about, even with such a ubiquitous example of Oedipus. This only further reinforces how pervasive ableism is in our society that such a popular story often erases the role his father's injury (resulting in disability) played for this character's arc. Although interesting, this chapter feels at odds with the rest of the book. Each previous chapter has focused on an identity (disability, gender) or experience (trauma, disability), while this one feels as though it comes out of nowhere. Given that race is discussed, particularly the lack of aboriginal Australians in the films, a chapter on race, and especially the intersection of race and disability (or lack thereof) in these films would have been a much better fit, and flowed better. This chapter felt jarring, and could have been a separate article, or even expanded into its own book.

In Chapter 6: Fandom, the authors get back on track more, as this chapter feels like an extension of Chapter 3, discussing how disability is not inherently seen as a disadvantage through these films. In fact, at times, disability and impairments are advantageous, such as in the case of the Doof Warrior (full disclosure, this may be my favorite character from Fury Road, or at least tied with Furiosa). However, this chapter may be mistitled; perhaps naming it as Impact would have been more accurate. The discussion here focuses on how meaningful it has been for disabled people to see themselves in mainstream films, in non-tragic roles, and how whether through playing these characters in video games, or through dressing up in cosplays that use their existing impairments (rather than trying to work around them), the impact of this series has resulted in the films' critical approach to disability replicating itself in the real world.

Overall, this book is incredibly interesting and a very enjoyable read. While some chapters are not as strong and/or feel a bit disjointed as part of the whole, the authors do an excellent job combining existing writing, examples from the films, and their own interpretations of how these films model trauma and disability. Moreover, it is a fairly accessible read, not relying on too much jargon, as sometimes happens in these types of analyses, making this a book I feel I could share with students, and even friends of mine outside of the academy. From a personal perspective, I feel that my own delightful reactions to the movie were validated, and now have a strong citation to offer when I go off on a lecture about disability in these films.

Accessibility: At least in the electronic version of the books, images had short descriptions to help with access, and the virtual version was digitally searchable, increasing accessibility in this way as well.

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Copyright (c) 2021 Shanna K. Kattari

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