By Sennah Yee
Illustration by Aidan Jeans
BEGINNING: “Exist[ing] in this Wasteland. A man reduced to a single instinct: survive.”
ENDING: “Where must we go, we who wander this wasteland, in search of our better selves.”
THE WASTELAND: A post-apocalyptic world of fire, dust, rust, chrome. The man in question: rogue, parched, drifting. The hunters and the hunted in question: machines who need humans, humans who need machines. A landscape that is physically kinetic, and yet mentally at a standstill. “Exist[ing] in this Wasteland". Note how he says “existing” instead of living. There is a difference.
CYBORG: First coined in an article from 1960, Cyborgs and Space. The heading reads: “Altering man’s bodily functions to meet the requirements of extraterrestrial environments would be more logical than providing an earthly environment for him in space[.]”
One can read into all this metaphorically—it does not leave only man free to explore, but also woman— especially woman. In reconstructing the self in an oppressive environment, that environment must adjust and react accordingly. There is a power, an autonomy to this self-regulation.
The cyborg is a hybrid—not either/or human and machine, but rather neither/both. The characters of Fury Road all operate as such. Their physicality is crucial, emphasized—skin branded and scorching blood, sweat, and tears running. And yet, they also all survive and thrive on machines—whether a weapon, vehicle, mechanical arm, or flaming guitar. It is difficult to distinguish where the human begins and where the machine ends. I am reminded of A Cyborg Manifesto by Donna Haraway: “Why should our bodies end at our skin?”
What is particularly transgressive about a woman-machine is its paradoxes—we are raised being told that women are soft, emotional, linked to nature. In other words, not at all like technology: cold, rational, objective.
But recall that there is not only Mother Earth, but a Motherboard. Recall Fury Road's Vuvalini of Many Mothers. Motherhood manifests in women in different forms. It can be projected, earned, forced. A clan of like-minded leaders. An infertile mother with many children. A woman whose fertility is exploited, whose body is reduced to a vessel. And sometimes it does not manifest at all. A cyborg, like a woman, encompasses a multitude.
SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIPS: Recall that high school biology lesson: mutualistic, commensalistic, parasitic. We were taught these as if they only occur between wild animals in faraway ecosystems and kingdoms: invisible bacteria, sea anemones and Nemo, toothy bugs. Not once did teachers warn us about forming parasitic relationships with our fake friends and gas-lighting sweethearts. Not once did we think of ourselves as wild, living organisms. Note how I say “living” instead of existing. There is a difference.
BLOOD: Is just another salvageable property. Max begins as a human blood bag for Nux, a War Boy. Nothing but a source of nutrients, muzzled and pinned to the front of Nux’s vehicle like a mermaid figurehead. Max ends as a human battery, too—though this time it is by his choice, and this time, it is no loss. To revive Furiosa, he offers his blood. There is no grand declaration of love to wake her up, no conveniently romantic-looking CPR kiss. He does not tell her that he loves her; he tells her his name.
WAR RIG KILL SWITCH: First switch. Second and third switch (same time). First switch. Red switch. Black switch. Ignition switch. To prevent any unwanted drivers from taking the wheel, Furiosa pre-set this herself. I think of Haraway again: “This is the self feminists must code.”
V8 INTERCEPTOR ENGINE: Is salvaged, tattooed, deified. George Miller says that the War Boys worship it because “an engine is much more permanent than the human body.”
Still, there is one similarity between an engine and a human body: both can run on their own, but only for so long.