Mad Max: Fury Road has attracted praise for its deft handling of some of the themes that Hollywood normally gets very, very wrong. The way that women take charge, for example, the Gamergate crowd had the rare perspicacity to realize that Furiosa was a new, significant stride in the evolution of female action protagonists.
Given this pedigree, it's understandable that there was widespread, vocal disappointment in the way that the all-male team responsible for the comic adaptation decided to give Furiosa a completely gratuitous and offensive rape backstory.
Another real achievement in Fury Road was the way it handled disability, as a fact and not a problem. This was a source of real joy for people with disabilities who were able to see a rare positive disabled protagonist modeled on the screen.
The launch of the new Mad Max game for PS4 and Xbox One was met with a mixture of anticipation and dread: would this adaptation be as terrible as the comic, or would it maintain some of the special magic that made the movie such a triumph?
Writing in Polygon, Tauriq Moosa settles the question: the Mad Max game is an incredible game, and doubly incredible for the amazing way that it handles disabilities in a matter-of-fact, substantive, and beautiful way:
Almost every major character in Mad Max is a person with a disability: The first person you meet and constant companion, Chumbucket, has a noticeable outward curvature of his spine; the first Stronghold leader you meet, Jeet, lives with chronic pain that he manages through piercing; the second leader, Gutgash, uses a walking aid and appears to have a missing leg; Pink Eye, the third leader, uses a wheelchair. The wheelchair has wheels so, of course, it also has unnecessary pipes to maintain the aesthetics of Mad Max.
What’s remarkable about how the game deals with these characters’ disability is how unremarkable it all seems. They are not defined by their bodies, chronic pain, walking aids or any other property associated with disability. It is a part of their character, yes, but not their central property.
What does define these characters is how each kindles an obsession of escape, of freedom, in a hopeless world. When Max does mock them, he sneers at them for their pointless pursuits.
Even the villains of the game don’t target these characters for their disability, but their refusal to die; they are targeted for their refusal to give in to Max’s new nemesis (and son of Fury Road’s Immortan Joe) Scrotus and his reign of these lands. There are minor comments made about Chumbucket, but one could easily read these targeting his strange beliefs, not his appearance.
What’s amazing is that in this world, people are defined by misplaced dreams, not missing limbs.
Your body isn't your world: The heroes of Mad Max and disability [Tauriq Moosa/Polygon]
Mad Max [PS4]
Mad Max [Xbox One]