We love getting phone calls from our son Ethan who is stationed at an army base in Korea. During his most recent call to us, he made a point of telling us that we should go see the new Mad Max movie. “The female warrior played by Charlize Theron has an arm that looks just like Valerie’s. It’s pretty cool.”
It was actually the lack of an arm that Ethan was referring to. His sister Valerie and Theron’s character in the movie, Furiosa, share a physical anomaly: both are both missing their left arm below the elbow.
But Ethan saw more than just a physical likeness between Furiosa and Valerie. He was also drawing a parallel between their character traits. The movie doesn’t tell us how Furiosa lost her arm, we can only surmise that happened in a battle against some outrageous limb chewing machine. On the other hand (sorry), Valerie’s missing arm was caused by a congenital fluke. But like Furiosa, Valerie has proven herself to be a warrior in her life – competing in gymnastics and martial arts – and that makes him very proud of his sister.
So taking Ethan’s advice, Steve and I went to see Mad Max: Fury Road. I liked it too. Here is one of the most beautiful actresses in the world playing a super-tough, determined warrior who also happens to be missing an arm. Like Furiosa, Valerie doesn’t hide the fact that she doesn’t have a left hand but the movie takes it a step further. Her toughness – a trait that Valerie shares – makes not having a hand seem downright cool. Removing stigmas about differences? That’s a good thing for everyone.
There were also mechanical similarities between Furiosa and Valerie. Sometimes Furiosa wears her super bionic, scary road-warrior prosthesis and sometimes she doesn’t, which is true for Valerie. There is a scene where Furiosa – without her arm – is silhouetted against the horizon and we see her asymmetrical shape. Watching this, I couldn’t help but be struck that this was a physique that I was very familiar with. “Wow, that looks just like Valerie.”
And then like Furiosa, if the task at hand (sorry again) calls for a tool, Valerie wears a prosthesis. But in this aspect, she’s even cooler than Furiosa because she has a wardrobe of prosthetics to choose from – some of which are a little scary in their own way.
If Valerie is going to her Acrobatics class, she wears her “Shroom” arm. The forearm portion of it is made of black aircraft-strength aluminum and where the hand would be, is a flat disk made of super-strong, flexible rubber. She also has a prosthesis that can grip a sword (for her Asian sword fighting class) and one that operates with cables…just in case she finds herself in a situation like Furiosa and needs to drive a War Rig while fending off the Bullet Farmer. With some imaginative art direction and chrome, any of these prosthetics would look right at home in the Mad Max post-apocalyptic world.
Valerie hasn’t seen the movie yet but when we talked about it on the phone, she was clearly enjoying being compared to Furiosa. “Charlize Theron kicking bad guys butts? Sure I’ll take it.” And as Valerie and I laughed about, there’s another benefit for her from the movie. She knows exactly who she can be for Halloween.