Smegma Crazies, Gayboys, and The Golden Youth

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On the surface, The Road Warrior is a fine action movie that defined the post-apocalyptic genre and put everyone involved on the map. If we put aside the action and go a little deeper, we start to see some interesting clues about the Humungus tribe. As we already saw with Lord Humungus and especially Fury Road, George Miller loves adding cryptic details into his films. Perhaps the most discussed and yet mysterious of these details revolves around the Humungus tribe’s not-so-subtle homoeroticism.

At the beginning of the film, we see Wez, his companion, and a few mooks engaged in a fast-paced pursuit. When the scene slows down to give Wez his fist close up, the audience immediately notices Wez’s companion, a young man credited as The Golden Youth, wears a black leather bondage harness. What I’ve always found more interesting is the chain and padlock dangling from his neck.

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While Wez is removing the crossbow bolt from his arm, the camera is positioned such that both The Golden Youth and Wez share the frame. In fact, The Golden Youth remains shares the frame throughout the shot, even as the camera pans up to focus on Wez’s twisted expression. George Miller could have done a simple close up of Vernon Wells followed by a reverse reaction shot of Max, but it seems he wanted the viewer to take notice of The Golden Youth, especially since this is the opening scene and the audience’s first encounter with the Humungus tribe.

Early drafts of The Road Warrior suggest The Golden Boy was originally meant to be female, but the writers (Miller, Hayes, and Hannat) wanted to demonstrate that gender roles were meaningless in the post-societal world. This motif comes through with another character who is practically The Golden Youth’s opposite and was originally supposed to be male. The Warrior Woman has agency and character, while The Golden Youth remains silent and submissive until his sudden death.

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Would Wez arm a slave?

Some have suggested The Golden Youth was a sex slave, but I think there’s more to it than that, especially since he can be seen wielding a baseball bat. The Golden Youth’s death adds another layer to Wez’s character, who would otherwise be a mass murderer without motivation. Alarmed at his partner’s death, Wez erupts into a violent rage. The focus of the scene switches from Humungus’ speech to Wez’s outburst. Humungus knows something about the relationship between Wez and The Golden Youth as the bandit king calls Wez’ name while he kneels next the corpse.

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When Wez screams for the murder of Papagallo’s entire tribe, Humungus tries to sooth him, saying “We all lost someone we love.” I believe Lord Humungus’ immediate concern for Wez combined with that additional line provides a little extra insight into the relationship between these characters, particularly since The Golden Youth’s death serves as the motivation for Wez’s unrestrained (and later physically restrained) hatred of Papagallo’s tribe.

The Golden Youth isn’t the only homoerotic aspect of Humungus’ tribe, but it is the most obvious. While Max is eating dog food and watching the warring tribes from the ridge, Humungus can be heard commanding “Smegma Crazies to the left. The gate! Gayboy Berserkers to the gate.”

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These two lines, barely audible in the movie, provide a little extra context when set against costume design. The Road Warrior’s costume department divided Smegma Crazies and Gayboy Berserkers into two distinct styles. Smegma Crazies wear tan jumpsuits, hides, and masks. Gayboy Berserkers wear police outfits, like Max’s uniform. Other members of the Humungus tribe wear black leather bondage gear.  Additionally, while the main Humungus force drives muscle cars, Smegma Crazies drive carts and Gayboy Berserkers drive looted police cars.

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What does this little detail add to the story? That depends on how you look at it. Some have theorized Smegma Crazies and Gayboy Berserkers are two separate tribes dominated by Lord Humungus. Others say they’re just ranks within the tribe. George Miller is a stickler for little details. The script could have had these characters listed as anything (Wallabeaters, Madboys, etc), but ultimately, we got Gayboys and Smegma Crazies. This tiny detail, combined with Wez’s relationship to The Golden Youth, raises the question as to whether the entire Humungus tribe is homosexual.

I tend to think that, following the post-societal deterioration of gender roles, the Humungus tribe will probably act on any sexual gratification they can get. For example, when Papagallo sends scouts into the wasteland, the couple are immediately captured and raped by the marauders. Similarly, although it may seem that Humungus’ tribe is made entirely of men there’s a handful of female marauders in the background of Humungus’ introduction.

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If there was any doubt, there’s also the infamous “tent scene” where the presence of women in the Humungus Tribe is undeniable. These details might lend some credibility to the theory claiming Gayboys and Smegma Crazies were added to Humungus’ fold after the initial founding. Since gender roles only fell apart after the fall of society and since Gayboys and Smegma Crazies are based on military and police, it stands to reason those tribes would be exclusively male and (as their name implies) homosexual.

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Standard Humungus Marauders

So what about the bondage gear? While it might serve to subtly separate Humungus’ main force from the sub-tribes, it seems to be a product of the costume designer, rather than the writers. As the story goes, costume designer Norma Moriceau got her inspiration for the Humungus Tribe’s costumes by living next to an S&M shop. Because of that anecdote, whether these outfits say anything about the tribe or if they’re just an odd piece of inspiration seems a little ambiguous, especially since Papagallo’s mechanic also wears studded leather. However, because The Road Warrior defined a genre, it led to the rise of fetish clothing and homosexual marauders in the post-apocalyptic setting.

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As I’ve often said, The Road Warrior spawned a slew of b-movies trying a cash in on its success. We recently looked at Warriors of the Wasteland, where the antagonists were an explicitly homosexual tribe of nihilist men bent on ending all human life. This twist on Humungus’ tribe adds an abstract element of decay to idea of post-apocalyptic raiders.

By their nature, raiders only destroy. They are vultures, feeding off the old world without putting anything into it. Once the last can of dog food is gone, once the last settlers are tortured and killed, once the last can of guzzolene used up, they will have nothing left. This specific type of raider, first popularized by The Road Warrior, actively seeks to eliminate any chance of human reconstruction. If, as in the case of Warriors of the Wasteland, these raiders are also incapable of reproduction, they become symbolic of horsemen (or motorcyclists) of the apocalypse, looting and murdering until the entire planet is dead.

Do the Smegma Crazies and Gayboy Berserkers matter? Why include such a small detail? Tell us in the comments!

We Are Not Things: Commodities of the Citadel

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Mad Max: Fury Road had a lot of memorable catchphrases, but one of them transcended becoming a meme and instead appealed directly to one of the film’s overarching themes. Written inside Five Wives’ vault was “WE ARE NOT THINGS”.  The audience immediately relates this phrase to the wives’ role as breeders. However, by looking at the whole of Immortan Joe’s society, as well as some small details from the Fury Road comics, it can be seen that this phrase applies to every resident of The Citadel.

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War Boys are the heart of Immortan Joe’s society and exist solely to die for their leader. War Pups are seen powering The Citadel’s elevator and the comics show that parents must give their children away to be raised solely by full grown War Boys. Reinforcing their utterly disposable nature, the majority of these warriors have cancer and will “kamakrazee” themselves in grim situations. Like their iconic thunder-sticks, War Boys are merely weapons to be thrown away.

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Immortan Joe’s religion, The Cult of the V8, keeps his men in check. Because the religion revolves around reaching Valhalla (traditionally a warrior’s paradise), War Boys are not only willing, but encouraged to die in an exciting manner. This raises the question as to what Immortan Joe meant when he claimed he would personally carry Nux to the gates of Valhalla.

mad-max-fury-road-nux-scars-v8-engine-230x300Interestingly, Nux (and others like him) could be identified as a mechanic without speaking a single line, due to the engine block engraved on his chest. Immortan Joe doesn’t need to know the names or proficiencies of his men as they have already been marked for convenience. All these aspects combine to demonstrate at War Boys are designed as things, inevitably doomed and easily replaceable.

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Because the focus of Fury Road is the action, it is easy to overlook the background details that brought The Citadel to life. Although mother’s milk is mentioned several times and gets a few minutes of screen time, its larger implication is left to the audience. Milkers are effectively high profile slaves, enjoying the luxury of the Citadel’s throne room, but always attached to their machines. Immortan Joe uses these women as factories, a thing that convert vegetables and water into high calorie nutrients, nothing more.

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Expanding on the theme of Immortan Joe’s followers being things is the Organic Mechanic. Merely the title of The Citadel’s only doctor demonstrates that War Boys are no different than a car: a tool that can be broken, fixed, and refueled. Although we don’t see much of the Organic Mechanic, we do see his methods. In Immortan Joe’s society, even enemies are recycled into resources. Road warriors and ferals being transformed into living blood bags once again reflects the theme of people becoming things; not just specialized workers, but actual commodities to be used up.

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The History Men are intriguing, but rarely used. Miss Giddy, Five Wives’ teacher, had several of her scenes removed. Although the History Men serve as a framing device for the Fury Road comics, it is worth mentioning that they were not present at all in the Mad Max video game. The History Men reflect a breakdown of the self to preserve humanity, wearing hundreds of permanent tattoos to remind themselves about the old world. History Men tell stories and serve as teachers and advisors to the powerful, but despite their wisdom they have become a thing as well. The difference between Miss Giddy and the others in Immortan Joe’s realm is that the History Men are willing participants sought all across the wasteland while War Boys and Milkers are victims of conquest.

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Finally, there are the five wives themselves. Similar to a fairy-tale, these women have been trapped in a tower, far away from the sick and irradiated wasteland peasants. According to the Furiosa comic, Immortan Joe affords his wives entertainment, books, and Miss Giddy. Already, we see that the wives are not specialized in the same manner as The Citadel’s other denizens. Indeed, Five Wives are taught Greek, a language which would otherwise be lost in post-apocalyptic Australia. Although each of these women hold the title of Breeder, they are far more than that. They sing, they play piano, they speak forgotten languages, they know of past failures and dream of creating a better world from the ashes of the old.

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Despite being more well rounded than the other servants, Five Wives are still things within The Citadel’s society. The Immortan even goes so far as to say that Angharad’s child is his property. Outwardly, it appears that Joe is merely using the wives as a means to his ultimate goal of having a healthy male heir. However, one line from the Furiosa comic has always stuck with me. Toast the Knowing says “Not like me. Where he puts it, there’ll be no babies.

No matter how you look at it, Immortan Joe uses the wives for more than just breeding. Indeed, one panel of the Furiosa comic includes the wives collectively playing music for him. Again, this distinctly separates these women from becoming their title. Whether Joe has any deep feelings towards his wives or merely cares about the child is left ambiguous.

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There was another odd statement from the Furiosa comic. The narrator states that “He [Immortan Joe] gave them…knowledge and knowledge has a way of igniting dissent and inciting revolution.” The Immortan is not stupid. His entire society is built around appearing as a God and keeping his subjects in the dark. In the comic, Joe outwardly states his suspicion of Miss Giddy, but does nothing to stop her. It raises the question as to why he would give the wives Miss Giddy when it would certainly lead to his own downfall. Had Joe merely treated the breeders as he treats the Milk Maids or the War Boys, he would never have faced betrayal or death.  Yet neither the comics nor the movie have a good answer to this question, despite that both were written by George Miller.

Immortan Joe turns everyone he meets into a thing, specializing each person until they become a commodity. Wasteland peasants dream of ascending to The Citadel’s barracks, but they don’t realize that they will be transformed into cogs (albeit well-fed) in the Immortan’s great machine. Five Wives were the exception; they were allowed to be more than specialized cogs, yet that allowance ultimately caused the Immortan’s downfall.

Why did Joe give Five Wives the History Woman despite being suspicious of her teachings? Tell us in the comments!

Edit: I want to thank Evan (@fromthewastes) for helping me give this article direction. At first it was just a jumbled wordburger, but with a little help it raises some interesting questions.

The Complexity of Lord Humungus

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 The Lord Humungus is a perfect example of how an outwardly one-dimensional villain can become human through small details. Looking at The Road Warrior’s script, one would get the impression that Lord Humungus is just a means of creating conflict, but the visual medium of film allows this character to become two dimensional. Cleverly, director George Miller planned for this from the beginning and wrote backstories for all of the characters in the Mad Max franchise.

The complexity of Lord Humungus shows itself in four key ways.

  • Appearance
  • Personal Effects
  • Minions
  • Speech Patterns

The best ways to make a villain memorable is in their appearance. The best way to make an appearance memorable is to obscure someone’s face. This simple act does two things: It makes the viewer want to know what’s under the mask and the viewer more easily recognizes a specific mask than someone’s face. These are just a few of the reasons why Star Wars’ Darth Vader instantly became a culture icon.  Lord Humungus is instantly recognizable as well. Humungus’ hockey mask is iconic and noticeably different from Friday 13ths Jason Voorhees.

Humungus’ mask serves a purpose. It is hiding something. Director George Miller went out of his way to get a shot showing Lord Humungus has no ears, his head is sickly (with visible veins on the scalp), and his hair is wispy (outwardly looking like radiation sickness). Notice we see Humungus’ scars just as he says “We all lost someone we love”. This leads the audience to wonder if the two are connected, if somehow Humungus got his scars while trying to rescue someone he cared about and it is because he failed that he became a monster.

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From the standpoint of art direction, the genius of Humungus’ appearance is more than a mask, it is also his clothing and physique. Notably, Humungus wears a large rubber collar which enhances the size of his neck, giving him a more masculine and intimidating appearance to match is already intense muscle-mass. It is also worth mentioning that during the final battle, Humungus wears a fur cloak. A large fur coat in a post-apocalyptic setting is an obvious sign of wealth and power, solidifying Humungus as the marauder king.

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They say you can tell a lot about a person by the contents of their wallet. In Mad Max 2, you can tell a lot about a bandit by the contents of his gun case. In a world where everything is decaying, Lord Humungus has a beautiful case for his .44 revolver. The chest contains a few pins of the Australian army, a WWI-era military photograph, many missing bullets, and most interestingly, a Prussian Totenkopf (more on that later). Just by looking at this case we know a lot about Humungus. Primarily, we are led to believe he was once a soldier (which may explain why he has so many cops in his tribe). In a 1984 interview, George Miller confirmed these suspicions, saying that Humungus was written as having been a “military man.”

When Humungus actually uses his revolver, notice he fires into the engine block, rather than taking aim at Max. This seems to reinforce the idea that Humungus is willing to compromise and wishes to avoid violence and pain in possible. It’s a subtle touch, but an important one.

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Humungus’ vehicle also says a lot about him.  The marauder king’s truck is like a mobile throne, adorned with tritons, nitrous, and hides. The two prisoners strapped to the front of the vehicle have always captured attention and been a landmark of the Mad Max franchise. It is especially interesting that Humungus singled out Pappagallo (the leader of the opposing tribe) and killed him personally. A killing spear thrown from a moving vehicle shows Humungus’ immense strength and demonstrates why he is in charge.

The minions of Lord Humungus are reflections of the man himself. Toadie (the herald) shows his leader’s dramatic side, building him up as a prophetic figure of the wasteland. Wez (the warrior) represents the insanity of the post-apocalyptic world, where men chase their desires without any forethought to their consequences and devolve into animals.

The relationship between Humungus and Wez is perhaps the most interesting. Wez is his master’s Id, desperate to slaughter and get his revenge, but he is physically kept in bondage by Humungus’ chains once he is revealed to be too bloodthirsty.  Wez is Humungus’ last resort, a true dog of war who is unleashed only for the most desperate situation.

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Finally, there is Humungus’ speech style. Whenever Humungus speaks, the audience gets a glimpse at an educated man in great pain. Though his followers are primarily ruthless vultures, Humungus offers Pappagallo a chance to “just walk away”, stating that there has been too much violence and too much pain. Whether or not this was a genuine offer or a trap only George Miller knows, but it shows that Humungus is cunning, intelligent, and perhaps even merciful.

Also noticeable about Humungus’ relationship to his soldiers is the use of homoerotic undertones. In once scene, the warlord can be heard calling to his “Gayboy Bereserkers” and “Smegma Crazies.” This throwaway line combined with Wez’ relation to the Golden Youth raises questions about the tribe’s role in a post-society world. Certainly the marauders aren’t exclusively gay as there is the infamous”tent scene.”

Finally, in Lord Humungus’ gun case we find a Prussian Totenkopf which is combined with a small detail that greatly expands the bandit king’s character. During the night torture scene, where the marauders wave fire sticks and rev their motorcycles, Humungus can be heard reciting “Mein Sohn, mein Sohn” and “Mein Vater, Mein Vater”. These are lines from the Prussian philosopher Goethe’s (pronounced Ger-ta) poem “Der Erlkönig”. The poem describes a child who cries to his father that he is being attacked by unseen forces. The father ignores the boy and when he finally looks down, the child is dead (perhaps Humungus is using this is a metaphor for the collapse of society). What’s more impressive is that Humungus (presumably an Australian soldier) delivers this in the German tongue. From this tiny quote, we know Lord Humungus is tremendously well educated as he is able to recite an 18th century Prussian poem without any scripture to read from.

The character of Lord Humungus shines through in the visuals and movements. The little details about this antagonist tell the audience everything they need to know about the marauders without any exposition. Subtle characterization is best achieved by knowing your characters before putting them in a situation. For over 30 years, George Miller has been a master of this subtle character development starting with The Road Warrior and showing that he still has it with the characters of Fury Road.

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How Mad Max 2 Defined a Genre

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How can you talk about post-nuclear fiction without talking about Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior? Director George Miller set the tone of an entire genre with his high octane sequel, but the truth is that Mad Max 2 is not a post-nuclear film. The first two films showcased crumbling and inevitable downfall of society, but it was not until Beyond Thunderdome that the theme of post-nuclear survival came into play.

The original Mad Max chronicled the downfall of society. Gang members from the dying cities fled into the Australian outback, feasting on their fellow men while cops tried to uphold some semblance of law.  There was no mention of radiation, mutation, or fallout.  Likewise, the opening narration of Mad Max 2 did not include any mention of nuclear weapons either, but rather, “Without fuel they (the great tribes) were nothing. They build a house of straw. The thundering machine sputtered and stopped”.  Originally, the world of Mad Max was about an energy crises that caused all cities to stop and fall apart. The Road Warrior follows up on that, telling what happens when society has collapsed and those who escaped the cities form tribes just to stay alive.

The factions of Mad Max 2 forever changed how writers approached post-apocalyptic fiction. The Road Warrior normalized four distinct archetypes that would appear in the majority of other post-apocalyptic works. Those are:

  • The Peaceful Settlers
  • The Sadistic Bandits
  • The Lone Wanderer
  • The Feral Future.

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Pappagallo represents the peaceful tribe. He and his people are the common settler’s seen in the majority of post-nuclear fiction. These archetypal factions don’t try to rebuild an image of the past. Rather, they carve their place out of the new world. What separates this archetype from scavengers is that they grow a community and build with what they have. The opening narration of Mad Max 2 says that food became scarce, but we see chickens running around Pappagallo’s village. The settlers do not hope to find that last can of dog food, instead they build upward. They are humanity’s last hope.

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The Lord Humungus and his bikers set the tone for all villains in both future post-apocalyptic movies and crime movies. They are like the Harkonnen in Dune or The Empire in Star Wars, villains who are 100% evil (or are they) so that the audience has someone to root against. Despite being an ancient cliché, it works. An audience is far more likely to sympathize with an emotionally distant protagonist (like Max) if their antagonists are utterly monstrous.

The bikers in Mad Max 2 represent something deeper in the archetypes of post-apocalyptic fiction. Humungus and his clan are vultures, feeding off the old world without putting anything into it. Once the last can of dog food is gone, once the last settlers are tortured and killed, once the last can of guzzolene used up, they will have nothing left. The bandits in post-apocalyptic fiction function on a pillage economy. The problem is that -as the Roman Empire feared- once you conquer the whole world, you will collapse.

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Max Rockatansky is the lone wanderer, a self-interested loner who clings to memories of the past. Throughout every Mad Max film, Max begins as little more than a wandering mercenary, but his history as an ex-cop kicks in and he willingly charges into the fray to defeat a great evil. On the surface, there is little difference between the vulture-like bandits and the scavenger. Yet the lone wanderer archetype is something more. Like a mysterious stranger in a western, Max appears at a tribe’s darkest hour and once they are out of harm’s way, he disappears again as though he were never there.

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Finally, there is the feral future. The feral kid is symbolic of the future of mankind after the downfall of society: ape-like, savage, and brutal. Feral kid shows what happens when we abandon all technology and start over; returning to an age of hunting and gathering, living off the fruit of the Earth rather than building upon it. Yet there was hope for this child, he was taken by Pappagallo’s tribe, became a man, and eventually a leader. So long as skills and stories of the old times are passed down, mankind’s fire will never die, even if it is momentarily reduced to embers.

On the surface, Mad Max 2 is a standard action movie with interesting visuals and incredible stunts, but there’s more to it than that. The Road Warrior defined a genre without actually being a part of that genre. It is the story of a man looking for gasoline, but it is more than that. It is a story about the choices we make after the downfall of society. Nearly every post-apocalyptic story travels at least one of these four roads. Do we carve a new life from the old? Do we feast on the world until there is nothing left? Do we help those in need, taking anything they can offer? Or do we return to our roots and start from scratch?