Progressive movies can foster progressive audiences

Michael Dellapi, Contributing writer

Never in my lifetime would I have expected one of the most gender-conscious movies of 2015 to have been a film centered around Tom Hardy grunting into a muzzle for two hours as he drove monster trucks through flame tornadoes. As a culture, we are taught to believe that the aforementioned synopsis is the definition of testosterone, which is why it was a pleasant surprise to find that “Mad Max: Fury Road” was actually a feminist piece at its core. Now more than ever, we find ourselves in a time of social revolution, with popular culture gradually following suit. However, the typical movie audience is not always intrigued by a movie’s social activism. Any look at this year’s box office, for example, will indicate that a majority of audiences are primarily interested in sequels and book adaptations. Films like “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Straight Outta Compton,” however, prove that social commentary can, in fact, be marketable.

Critical responses to the two aforementioned films have largely been positive, with “Mad Max” receiving a 97 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and “Straight Outta Compton” earning 89 percent. The widespread popularity of these two films provides a crucial statement about the evolution of popular culture as a whole, as it proves that important social issues are becoming part of everyday discourse.

Despite their progressive values, these two films were marketed using common tropes associated with films of their respective genres. “Mad Max” was deliberately advertised as a brainless action film that was light on substance and heavy on explosions, yet it directly contradicts action movie stereotypes. Similarly, “Straight Outta Compton” is more than just an homage to a revolutionary rap group; it is a timely statement about police brutality that is still relevant today. By no means are both of these films perfect, but they still make strides toward creating more culturally significant content for a mainstream audience.

The disparity between advertisement and content is vital in establishing an audience that is consistently aware of issues plaguing modern society. “Mad Max” reminds its audience that there is still an enormous gap in sexual representation in media, in turn encouraging the viewer to take a more active stance in what they see in theaters and on TV. It is entirely necessary for mainstream films to include social commentary to encourage a broader audience to grapple with these difficult social questions.

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This discussion need not be limited to a film audience. Content creators, whether they be writers or directors, can take important cues from films like “Mad Max” or “Straight Outta Compton.” The inclusion of social commentary woven into the fabric of the film adds to the long-lasting relevance and cultural significance of the film itself.

Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, September 14 print edition. Email Michael Dellapi at [email protected].

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