I read a really fantastic article about Fury Road that hit a lot of the points I’ve been thinking about, but not heard from others. In particular it does a great job of breaking down the first scene with the wives and explaining how it is a subversion of our expectations for how women are presented in this sort of film.
But what I think they missed, and what I see lacking from a lot of talk about this film, is a proper discussion about the Vuvalini. I’ve read some criticism of the the film because of these old women hording seeds, calling it a trope that reduces women to nature’s chosen fertility guardians. I was a bit bothered by this on first viewing, and found it to be rather lazy compared to the nuanced portrayal of the wives and Furiosa.
On my second viewing of the film I heard a line and saw a moment I hadn’t before that completely changed my opinion. When the wives are counting out their ammunition they refer to it as ‘anti-seeds,’ “Plant one and watch something die.” Later when we meet the Vuvalini one of them highlights her own ability to plant these death givers into men, before showing off her seeds and talking about how she plants them, but none have yet really grown. But the film doesn’t stop there, in the final chase, while in the front seat of the rig, the same Vuvalini takes a bullet and shoves it in a man’s eye with her bare hands, literally planting it into him.
This seemed so intentional to me, and it made me really reconsider the Vuvalini and their role in this film. The first time we see one she is up on a scaffolding, naked and calling for aid. Max sees instantly that its a trap, and from their behavior, one we can assume they have used many times. In a world like this one, what exactly do we think these women are doing with the people they lure into this trap? Stealing at the least, taking what little supplies their victims have and leaving them stranded. But, we also know they ‘shoot everyone they meet out here,’ so probably murdering them as well.
So why aren’t their seeds growing? Well, literally because the ground is poisoned, but figuratively because they are killers. They are survivors who have done what they needed to get by in a world gone mad. But maybe those years surviving, killing, planting death, have left them unable to truly bring any life back to the world. They are not the sort of selfish evil that Immortan Joe is, but they are just as unfit to bring about positive change in the world. Their ‘Green Place’ has died, been corrupted.
So it’s the wives and Furiosa who will pick up the seeds they guarded, and with Joe’s water (I’ve read at least one other person point out how this seems an obvious fertility metaphor, intended or not) to build a new ‘Green Place’ rather than trying to find a spoiled old one.