The recent article from a “men’s rights advocate” calling for people to boycott Mad Max: Fury Road got more attention than it should have, probably. Writing at Return of Kings, Aaron Clarey suspected an ideological tint to George Miller’s reboot of the 80s post-apocalyptic franchise, saying, “if [men] sheepishly attend and Fury Road is a blockbuster, then you, me, and all the other men (and real women) in the world will never be able to see a real action movie ever again that doesn’t contain some damn political lecture or moray [sic] about feminism, SJW-ing, and socialism.” This was just a rant from some guy who hadn’t seen the film, but the post went viral, in large part because it seemed hilariously unhinged. The main complaint: “Charlize Theron sure talked a lot during the trailers.”
The existence of someone who finds the notion of a woman as action-film hero threatening or offensive helps go a long way to explaining what the heck is happening in Taylor Swift’s video for “Bad Blood.” Before premiering Sunday night at the Billboard Music Awards, it had a real claim to being the most pre-hyped music video of all time, due to the fact that Swift had spent days teasing the Internet about its horde of celebrity cameos. Lena Dunham, Cindy Crawford, Jessica Alba, and more than a dozen others got poster treatment, announcing them as futuristic-crimefighter characters with names like “Slay-Z,” “Knockout,” and “The Crimson Curse.” The video lives up to its advertising, offering a hodgepodge of tropes from spy, superhero, and sci-fi movies featuring a bevy of famous women—plus Kendrick Lamar, rapping newly penned verses for the remix—toting bazookas, nunchaku, and in one case, a throwing star disguised as a compact.
As a work of audiovisual filmmaking, it’s kind of a flop. With so many co-stars, the editing becomes so hectic that even the barest bones story here is indiscernible and you’re never quite sure who’s doing what. But the point of the video was already made with those posters. This is a fun imagining of an action-movie universe where women rule, a corrective to the Smurfette syndrome that, for example, forces Black Widow into being defined almost entirely by her entire gender while the men of The Avengers enjoy a diverse set of storylines. All the “Bad Blood” women have their own signature powers, gear, and personas—imagine that!