When news of the all-female reboot of Ghostbusters (2016) first hit, the internet exploded. There was a clear divide on opinions ranging between women who were excited to see themselves cast as the hero and a very vocal, predominantly male population who adamantly declared that their childhoods were forever ruined. Although the film opened to mixed reviews from critics, female fans readily embraced their own Ghostbusters with relish, making the film a moderate box office success and even bumping up toy sales higher than expected. At the end of the day, the vital importance of representation, even in the face of ugly pushback, was highlighted once again.
Sound familiar? It should. When Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) was released last year, moviegoers were surprised to discover that the film centered around Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a woman rebelling against a tyrannical leader, Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), by rescuing his imprisoned wives and escaping with them across post apocalyptic Australia, in search of her matriarchal homeland. Although Tom Hardy was cast in the title role of Max and his picture dominated billboards for the film, his character certainly shared the plotline and spotlight with Furiosa, which seemed to enrage a majority of male fans who had expected the film to center on Max. In the end, the female-centered film dominated the box office and cleaned up at the 2016 Academy Awards, winning six of its ten Oscar nominations.
But the impact of Mad Max: Fury Road goes beyond how badass Furiosa is or how stunning George Miller’s vision is. The film often features multiple women on screen at the same time and, unsurprisingly, it passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors. The Bechdel Test, named after cartoonist Alison Bechdel, measures whether or not two females converse about something other than a man. While it might seem simple enough, the majority of films fail the test, including films with strong female characters. Although Captain America: Civil War (2016) features two powerful female super heroines with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olson), the two never have a conversation outside of a two-line exchange regarding one of the film’s male villains.
But with the surprise success of Imperator Furiosa and the mostly male backlash against her comes a new test: The Furiosa Test. Fans of Mad Max: Fury Road coined the term to gauge how angry people on the internet get over a film because it is feminist. So, those childhood snatching female Ghostbusters? They definitely pass the Furiosa Test. Disney rebooting The Rocketeer (1991) with a Black female lead? Absolutely.
While on the surface, the Furiosa Test might seem like trolling at its finest, it’s also an indicator of the very real demand for inclusion in Hollywood. It’s no longer enough to simply cast a female character, fans are becoming increasingly vocal about the dire need for strong and diverse female characters. With actresses like Scarlett Johansson proving their bankability at the box office, with a history-making female candidate for President of the United States and with women comprising the majority of the earth’s population, Hollywood’s persistent inequality problem seems woefully antiquated at the very least. But, no matter how slow, change is coming and more and more films will pass the Furiosa test. While this change won’t happen overnight or without resistance, it will bring a diverse range of stories and experiences to the big screen. And hopefully, a new slew of kickass women to look up to.