Elizabeth Warren, our Imperator Furiosa
Like the fierce heroine of Fury Road, Warren roars on unafraid to continue blazing the trail for women — and towards the presidency.
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert recently debuted a new segment: Fury Road to the White House 2020. The segment opens with a montage of short clips from the Mad Max: Fury Road movie, with the heads of top 2020 Democratic contenders edited on to the bodies of the movies principal characters. Elizabeth Warren is shown as Imperator Furiosa — a perfect metaphor for where we, and she, find ourselves now.
For those unfamiliar: Fury Road takes place in a post-apocalyptic, nearly waterless desert, where the villain Immortan Joe wields power over all. He rules over the Citadel, one of the only places with a source of fresh water. Joe uses access to water along with blunt cruelty to intimidate and control. In his lair, he has imprisoned five women, ‘wives’ who must bear his children.
Imperator Furiosa is one Joe’s commanders, but her fealty is feigned. The movie takes off as the sly Furiosa, a one-armed force of nature, executes a daring plan to rescue the women and escape the Citadel.
Late Night’s Fury Road to the White House 2020 is an extremely funny and clever bit and the ‘casting’ of Elizabeth Warren as Furiosa struck me as incredibly ri,ght on.
The 2020 campaign has been challenging for all Democratics, but much more so for Warren and the other female candidates. Haunted by the specter of 2016, many voters are now afraid to even consider the possibility of a female president. The shroud of electability blinds many to the possibility of women in power and to the excellent vision and qualifications a candidate like Elizabeth Warren would bring to the office. A woman running for president continues to have an automatic disadvantage; like Furiosa she is handicapped, one arm tied behind her back. And that is damn sad for the year 2020.
But also like Furiosa, Warren refuses to give up despite the sand getting kicked in her face every day. Her third place finish in Iowa barely warranted notice as pundits breathlessly covered Buttigieg’s win; indeed, MSNBC and CNN didn’t broadcast Warren’s speech in real time, opting instead to show Joe Biden — the 4th place finisher — instead. Her New Hampshire results were disappointing, but it’s barely mentioned that Warren remains in 3rd place in terms of delegates awarded. Why has the media all but written her out?
With Iowa and New Hampshire under our belts we have now heard from a whopping 1.4% of the electorate in mostly white states. Hardly a tipping point or an accurate indicator of the choice of voters nationwide. Why is the media chomping at the bit to shut this race down? And even more important: why are we listening to them?
Buttigieg faces a very uncertain future in states with a high percentage of voters of color. Klobuchar is at 7th place in averaged Nevada polls. Sanders is just starting to be vetted and unviable candidates continue to drop out, leaving their supporters with a choice to make.
Warren refuses to be written out of the race. She continues to do the work, day in, day out, nose to the grindstone with plans in hand. She will fight to the finish because that’s what winners do — just look at SuperBowl 2020 and the surprising 4th quarter comeback of the Kansas City Chiefs.
In the end, Mad Max: Fury Road is about women never giving up, even in the face of soul crushing odds. Near the end of the movie Furiosa discovers that the ‘Green Place’ she’d hoped to escape to with the women is no longer habitable. After a moment’s deep grief she revises her plan and decides to return to the Citadel and take on Immortan Joe. She is aided by the Vuvalini, a group of older women who escaped capture and live hidden in the desert. Against impossible odds Furiosa and her team vanquish Joe and distribute water to the people living in the Citadel. In the final scene the people adopt Furiosa as their new leader.
In a recent interview Warren was asked, what if she doesn’t win? What will all her persistence and hard work mean without results? Warren answered:
“Look,” Warren begins. She is quiet for a long moment, leaning forward in her plastic chair with the intensity of someone who wants to make sure she gets this right. “We have to show that we’re willing to take the risk,” she says slowly. “Because if we’re not, then women will never win.”
Post Script: Mad Max: Fury Road received ten nominations at the 88th Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director for Miller, and Best Visual Effects. It went on to win the most awards at the ceremony, with six, including Best Film Editing, Best Production Design, and Best Costume Design.
Camille J. Gage is a Minneapolis artist and writer.