The Road Movie Book

By Steven Cohan; Ina Rae Hark | Go to book overview

11

“WE DON'T NEED TO KNOW THE WAY HOME”

The disappearance of the road in the Mad Max trilogy

Delia Falconer

“'Whither goest thou, Australia, in your bumpy car in the middle of the night?' - that's 'Jack Outback.'”

“Rebel” (Max Cullen), Running on Empty

The roads that rifled through Mad Max 1 do not exist in the third film [Beyond Thunderdome]. There are only trails blazed at the moment of wandering.

(Gibson: 173)

In Mad Max (1979), set a “few years in the future” on the outskirts of a decaying city, the policeman Max (Mel Gibson) battles biker gangs on Anarchie Road. In Mad Max 2 (1982), which takes place after a devastating oil war, these asphalt roads have been replaced by dirt tracks as Max, now an embittered wanderer, comes unwillingly to the aid of a commune of desert dwellers. In the third film of the trilogy, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985), in which Max helps a group of feral children find their way home, even these dirt roads have disappeared into a trackless landscape of desert dunes, fertile gorges, and post-nuclear dust.

In this essay, I will examine this progression away from the road as a particular and complex (re)negotiation of Australia's spatial history. In the first film, the road appears as a specific and violently contested site. By the last film it has disappeared into a landscape of mythic “sights.” This disappearance, I will argue, represents both the road's liberation from colonial narratives of empire and its absorption into a deregulated postcolonial spatiality. Beyond Thunderdome suggests that this latter landscape, which is market-driven, corporatized, and globally orientated, holds utopian possibilities, but only, perhaps, for “indigenized” Australians, who are willing to regard land and stories as “resources, ” and to ignore historical inequalities and conflicts in the consensual spirit of “postness” and progress. In

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The Road Movie Book
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Plates ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Works Cited 14
  • Part I - Mapping Boundaries 15
  • 1 - “hitler Can't Keep 'Em That Long” 17
  • 2 - Western Meets Eastwood 45
  • 3 - Mad Love, Mobile Homes, and Dysfunctional Dicks 70
  • Notes 86
  • Works Cited 89
  • 4 - On the Run and on the Road 90
  • Works Cited 107
  • Part II - American Roads 111
  • 5 - Almost like Being at Home 113
  • 6 - Wanderlust and Wire Wheels 143
  • 7 - Exposing Intimacy in Russ Meyer's Motorpsycho! and Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! 165
  • 8 - The Road to Dystopia 179
  • Works Cited 202
  • 9 - Fear of Flying 204
  • Notes 227
  • Works Cited 228
  • Part III - Alternative Routes 231
  • 10 - The Nation, the Body, and the Autostrada 233
  • 11 - “we Don't Need to Know the Way Home” 249
  • 12 - Hom E and Away 271
  • 13 - Race on the Road 287
  • 14 - Revitalizing the Road Genre 307
  • 15 - My Own Private Idaho and the New Queer Road Movies 330
  • 16 - Disassociated Masculinities and Geographies of the Road 349
  • Index of Films 371
  • General Index 375
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