Disability Images in Mad Max

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It’s important for some context when discussing Mad Max – and these images will show three secondary characters who are featured in both the third movie and a comic book prologue to said movie. It is set in a dystopian future where genetic mutations have rendered some people visibly disabled. It is interesting to see because these disabilities usually indicate that these people are villains in some way.

The Mad Max: Fury Road comic features the three physically deformed sons of the tyrannical warlord, Immortan Joe. It is made apparent through the text and the images of the comic that their characteristics directly correlate to their gruesome behavior. Their physical traits are marks of evil – the embodied results of their father’s acts of terror.

The lack of text for the three brothers is notable. In essence, the three disfigured men are put on display for the viewing pleasure of the reader. Labeled as being intrinsically heinous in their own peculiar ways, they are then not granted the ability to speak for themselves. The provocatively named Scrotus, appears to have his lips sewn shut, rendering him further incapable of speech. Similarly, Rictus’s mask seems as though it may impede his ability to speak.

Within the comic book panel, they are quite literally defined by their appearance, reduced to essentialized caricatures which link physical difference with deviance and malignancy. Their bodies are on display for the reader’s consumption. Each occupying roughly one-third of the panel, the three brothers are ordered from right to left corresponding to the accompanying text boxes. This almost clinical categorization further works to subsume the humanity of the three men into the comic’s narrative, equating disability with horror and inhumanity.

Again, as with many displays or exhibitions of people with different bodies in the past, their images are used as spectacle, to be viewed as objects of the reader’s gaze. It seems telling that none of the men’s eyes are looking back to meet the gaze of the reader. Scrotus’ glare lingers off to the side, while Corpus Callosum has his eyes completely shut. Even Rictus Erectus’ eyes, although facing us, appear skewed to the sides. The quality of the images themselves seems to further distort the brothers into something other than human. For instance, the shadowing on Rictus’ face contributes to the visual rhetoric promoted through the narrative which suggests that such distorted features are directly tied to some innate flaw within people who have disabilities – an innate flaw which has been extended on a moral level to represent immorality and evil. The harshness of the lines and cross-hatching serve to reinforce the disquieting characters of the three men.

 

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