The case for Mad Max: Fury Road’s Immortan Joe

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By Peter Bean

Mad Max: Fury Road was an amazing spectacle that used practical stunts and understood story better than most action films. In every great tale there is a villain that we can relate to on some level. Immortan Joe was just such an adversary who was almost exactly the leader this post-apocalyptic world needed. Had he changed minor character flaws (one of which was polygamy) we’d be talking about the villain Max Rockatansky and Furiosa that terrorized a vibrant, thriving community.
Let’s start with Immortan Joe’s epic green thumb. Upon learning his wives were taken by the rebellious Furiosa, we see him sprint through a lush herb garden. Remember this is a former biker gang member and someone who wears a skeleton mouth for a breathalyzer. A herb garden? Must have helped reduce that daily stress.

Having a green thumb is an enduring quality, but what makes his garden the envy of the farmers market is the aquifer his Citadel is sitting on. And it’s here we see the politics of Immortan Joe come out. Imagine if you have a large population to rule and a finite water source. You’d probably start a garden high up for protection. Then perhaps splash water on your public in both a gesture of kindness and practical way of getting water to the masses. Remember plumbing wasn’t something Ol’ Morty was capable of in this desert. A better example of this argument is when Furiosa took the Citadel. At this point she can’t just unload the water on these poor people. Even she must realize, in the minutes after the credits start rolling, that the geo political landscape calls for tough choices.

Which is another important point; the good guys come back. Max’s big decision and turning point for the story is to return and take Immortan Joe’s Citadel. This choice by the group is, at the very least, a nod to the community he had built.
Immortan Joe, for whatever reason has an army of “Warboys” that have some form of leukemia. They all knew they had a half-life. Morty did something unique. He gave them hope with a chrome-platted afterlife in Valhalla. Doesn’t matter how far fetched it may have been or how ridiculous spraying chrome on your mouth was. His half-life Warboys believed it and life wasn’t so bleak.

With such a large population of half-life Warboys, one might argue the different choices to be made, but Morty made them. He imprisoned wonderers like our Mad Max who became an unwilling blood donor or as he’s referred to in the film: “blood-bag.” You’ve got to marvel at the detailed tattoos on Max’s back with information on blood type, background, etc. The organization and science it took in a world without much is pretty amazing.

There’s no denying it: Mad Max was taken against his will and put into a form of slavery. In fact, Immortan Joe’s slaves extend to children, milking women, and wives for breeding. It’s these traits that rightly tarnish a man’s good deeds and green thumb. Yet, this is where it gets murky. Do we know if these milking women felt a sense of purpose doing what they did? They were certainly well fed. How happy were the slave children? After seeing them openly rebel and let Furiosa up to the tower at the end, it would seem they weren’t big fans of Joe.

There is only one element of the story that is cut-and-dry wrong: Immortan Joe’s slave polygamy. We can all agree that no woman or women should be held against their will to father children.

Having said that, it is tragic that pregnant Splendid Angharad was killed due to holes in Furiosa’s plan. Leaving Immortan Joe to watch his dead child pulled from her belly, a punishment fit for no man.

It’s also worth nothing that Joe’s taste in women seemed diverse. Morty was many things, but a racist he is not.
We all have our flaws and Immortan Joe was no exception. His green thumbed, political, religious, and scientific ideology wasn’t enough to beat the likes of Furiosa and Mad Max, who thought Morty’s community was so well put together, they claimed it for themselves.

When the apocalypse comes, we can all be so lucky to find a good, compassionate Immortan Joe in us all.

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