Hurt, Hope, Humanity, & Mad Max: Fury Road

Entertainment is a weird behemoth of culture for us. It reflects everything in our lives. Our convictions, our fears, our passions. Everything human is rewoven in fiction. So why is it that we're so obsessed with all the horrors of life, weaving every atrocity and betrayal and individual action of harm into so many of our stories? The stories we watch to be entertained, to enjoy a tale, to indulge in an hour and a half of escapism, filled with variations of suffering. Why is that a thing? It's not a question I'm going to answer here, but it's a question that's been pertinent in my mind in recent years.

I understand, of course, that every aspect of existence should be questioned, discussed, and generally thought about. Making and sharing stories is also one of the main ways in which we communicate and make sense of our lives, so cruelty and pain in entertainment and media make sense in that context - as a framework for making sense of the existence of those things.

We're certainly obsessed with our perceptions and feelings. That's why we love fantasy and excitement, and why so many wish-fulfilment romantic comedies are so popular. Maybe the idea of the tortured artist turning their pain into art comes from this, and from the fact that there is a huge amount of media which focuses on human suffering, ideas of alienation, loss, revenge, brutality, abuse, etc. I mean, how many war films exist? It's a lot. Also, the Bridget Jones series, which is pretty much about a sad woman making a lot of truly awful romantic and sexual mistakes. Seriously, I love Bridget, but I clench my teeth most of the way through her stories. I unclench my teeth when Hugh Grant gets punched.

Maybe this stuff all comes from us, as adults, trying to reconcile ourselves and our existences with the knowledge of (and experience of) all the world's harm. Our loss of innocence, our coming of age (also a hugely popular film subject) is our introduction to hopelessness, to the inevitability of not only pain, but the way it is so nonsensically inflicted. You are no longer pure and full of potential when you have grown up and been touched by the full knowledge of what it is to be human, to have the history of humanity inside you and all around you, to have the the naivete you once had buffed off like dry skin on the sole of your foot.

A representation of humanity's chaos and darkness.

When I remember my childhood, I remember a sense of unease and a sense of not belonging. My innocence manifested itself in a lot of confusion. There were too many things that didn't make sense. I had a kind of strange relationship between hope and hopelessness going on in my head. As an adult, and after a while of being one, I am better at accepting the moral confusion of being what I am, and what we all are together. I am better at reconciling the chaos. The sense of unease is maybe still around, but very different. I think that maybe innocence is a similar thing to hope. They cling together. You lose innocence when you realise the true way that everything is, and all too often that hope leaves too, and we plunge ourselves into the chaos and the destructive aspects of ourselves. We focus on them, we relish in them, we dance around the flames.

And this is a big reason why I liked Mad Max: Fury Road so much, because despite its focus on suffering and destruction and how those things mark us, it did so in a way so different from other films - it did so with hope. It is a story very much about humanity, and a story very much about hope, and to me it treats the chaos and the hurt within humanity in a way that uses the pain and suffering to propel the viewer into a place of hope. A place where the victims neither rescind their traumatic experiences, nor are relegated to being defined by them.


I'm not sure what this post was initially supposed to be, but I've been thinking a lot about cruelty, and innocence and corruption, and media focuses, and depictions of violence and abuse and all of that, and I just had to splurge this out here. So I don't know, these were my thoughts. Hope is valuable. We need to hold onto to our hope, I think. I don't think I knew how to do that as a kid and as an adolescent. Growing up was scary. Hell, growing up is still scary, but I know how to hope now. In no small part thanks to Harry Potter and Furiosa (who I promise not to write a crossover fanfic about).

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