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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Gayboy Berserker

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!

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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