|Imperator Furiosa and the Five Wives look down upon the Citadel.|
It's a phrase we hear over and over in pop culture, usually in reference to a female character in an action movie who has lots of guns. "Strong female characters" know how to fight, know how to use weapons and they best all the boys in confrontation. "Strong Female Characters" are effectively measured by their capacity for violence and their competence in the theatre of war.
But what does it mean when we equate strength with violence on a cultural level, and especially in relation to women's place in society?
In Mad Max: Fury Road, the "strong female characters" are notable specifically for their aversion to violence. The film portrays its women as emotionally strong people who engage in violence only in self-defense, and only against the system that oppresses them.
The film is set in a post-apocalyptic future desert wasteland where women have been reduced to various forms of slavery and their value is determined by what their bodies can produce. Whether it be breastmilk or babies, women's position in this world is determined by their physical utility to the oppressive system they occupy. Furiosa is the notable exception, an Imperator who has presumably worked her way up the ranks of Immortan Joe's highly patriarchal and hyper-masculine cultish new social order.