In George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) rules a desert stronghold called The Citadel. In post-nuclear war Australia, there is no rule of law, and the people have no rights. According to Geoffrey Walker, a key principle of the rule of law is that “the people (including … the government) should be ruled by the law and obey it.”1 The film serves as a warning: In a word without the rule of law, barbarians will take what they want by force.
Not everyone in the film is barbaric. When Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) and Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) first meet, they try to kill each other, but later become allies, and Max gives his own blood to save Furiosa’s life. Max and Furiosa represent people who have not lost their humanity. Unlike Immortan Joe, they do not murder (or steal from) innocent people.
Under Immortan Joe’s rule, the people live in extreme poverty. There is an unlimited supply of water, but Joe only opens the floodgates briefly. One reason the people are poor is because Joe does not believe in private property rights for anyone except himself. With a barbarian in control of the land’s resources, the people struggle to survive.
Immortan Joe also considers people as his property. The Blood Bags are forced to give blood to keep the War Boys alive; the War Boys are military and work slaves; and the Five Wives are sex slaves to bear children. When Furiosa leaves with the five women in search of freedom, Miss Giddy (Jennifer Hagan) rebukes Immortan Joe: “They are not your property. You cannot own a human being.” But Joe does not agree. He rides with his War Boys to get his property back.
The War Boys are willing to die for Immortan Joe. They believe that if they die in battle, they will enter Valhalla, similar to how Islamic jihadists believe they will go to Paradise if they are martyred.2 Because of their religious beliefs, the War Boys feel justified in trying to kill Furiosa and Max.
Immortan Joe has taught the War Boys the doctrines of a neo-Norse religion. Joe is both a spiritual and military ruler, and there is no separation between religion and state. It is unlikely, however, that Joe actually believes in Valhalla. He uses religion as a means to an end, indoctrinating the War Boys, so that he can manipulate them to do his will. Joe uses religion to increase his power and property.
Immortan Joe is a barbarian because he rejects Judeo-Christian morality (e.g., love thy neighbor, do not murder, do not steal). In contrast, Furiosa and Max, who have no spiritual beliefs, live by a moral code. The film reminds us that a peaceful society is dependent not only on everyone having food, shelter, and clothing, but also on each person’s beliefs about right and wrong. In a world without the rule of law, people can still live according to a higher law: the law of conscience.
- Rule of Law Institute of Australia,” accessed October 24, 2015, http://www.ruleoflaw.org.au/principles/
- Sahih al-Bukhari Book 53 Hadith 352. https://muflihun.com/bukhari/53/352