Science Fiction Film & Television

The American Mad Max

The Road Warrior versus the Postman

Science Fiction Film & Television (2017), 10, (3), 307–327.

Abstract

Beginning with the incredible success of The Road Warrior, the Mad Max franchise became a foundational US post-apocalyptic fantasy. That film’s rusted wasteland aesthetics and heroic lone-wolf ethos proved enormously influential, affecting the very possibilities for imagining such future scenarios. This article examines Mad Max’s impact by looking to a post-apocalyptic alternative in The Postman (both David Brin’s novel and Kevin Costner’s screen adaptation). Despite their Australian origins, the Mad Max films have now been long established as iconic American expressions. But The Postman’s awkward, community-driven, patriotic vibe establishes the fulfilling future that George Miller initially sought – yet failed – to create. The harrowing narrative of The Postman both competes with and complements Mad Max’s nightmare world, offering a significantly different account of post-apocalyptic mayhem and renewal.

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Filson, John. The Discovery, Settlement and Present State of Kentucke. New York: Corinth, 1962. The Discovery, Settlement and Present State of Kentucke Google Scholar

Gallagher, Winifred. How the Post Office Created America. New York: Penguin, 2016. How the Post Office Created America Google Scholar

Gibson, Ross. South of the West: Postcolonialism and the Narrative Construction of Australia. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1992. South of the West: Postcolonialism and the Narrative Construction of Australia Google Scholar

Hall, Peter C., and Richard D. Erlich. ‘Beyond Topeka and Thunderdome: Variations on the Comic-Romance Pattern in Recent SF Film’. Science Fiction Studies 14.3 (1987): 316–25. ‘Beyond Topeka and Thunderdome: Variations on the Comic-Romance Pattern in Recent SF Film’ Science Fiction Studies 14.3 316 25 Google Scholar

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Mathews, Sue. 35mm Dreams. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984. 35mm Dreams Google Scholar

Michener, Charles. ‘Shane in Black Leather’. Newsweek (31 May 1982): 67. ‘Shane in Black Leather’ Newsweek 67 Google Scholar

Newman, Kim. Apocalypse Movies: End of the World Cinema. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2000. Apocalypse Movies: End of the World Cinema Google Scholar

O’Flynn, Siobhan. ‘Epilogue’ to Linda Hutcheon, A Theory of Adaptation, second edition. London: Routledge, 2013. 179–206. ‘Epilogue’ A Theory of Adaptation 179 206 Google Scholar

Ouellet, Lawrence J. Pedal to the Metal: The Work Lives of Truckers. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1994. Pedal to the Metal: The Work Lives of Truckers Google Scholar

Rabkin, Eric S., Martin H. Greenberg and Joseph D. Olander, eds. The End of the World. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1983. The End of the World Google Scholar

Rayner, Jonathan. Contemporary Australian Cinema: An Introduction. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2000. Contemporary Australian Cinema: An Introduction Google Scholar

Scheib, Richard. ‘Mad Max 2’. Moria: Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review. http://moria.co.nz/sciencefiction/mad-max-2-the-road-warrior-1981.htm. Accessed 18 May 2017. Google Scholar

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Shapiro, Jerome F. Atomic Bomb Cinema: The Apocalyptic Imagination on Film. London: Routledge, 2002. Atomic Bomb Cinema: The Apocalyptic Imagination on Film Google Scholar

Sharp, Patrick B. Savage Perils: Racial Frontiers and Nuclear Apocalypse in American Culture. Norman: U of Oklahoma P, 2007. Savage Perils: Racial Frontiers and Nuclear Apocalypse in American Culture Google Scholar

Slotkin, Richard. Regeneration through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600–1860. Middletown: Wesleyan UP, 1973. Regeneration through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600–1860 Google Scholar

Specter, Michael. ‘Myths Shape a Movie from Australia’. New York Times (15 Aug 1982): 13. ‘Myths Shape a Movie from Australia’ New York Times 13 Google Scholar

Sponsler, Claire. ‘Beyond the Ruins: The Geopolitics of Urban Decay and Cybernetic Play’. Science Fiction Studies 20.2 (1993): 251–65. ‘Beyond the Ruins: The Geopolitics of Urban Decay and Cybernetic Play’ Science Fiction Studies 20.2 251 65 Google Scholar

Stam, Robert. ‘The Theory and Practice of Adaptation’. Literature and Film: A Guide to the Theory and Practice of Film Adaptation. Ed. Robert Stam and Alessandra Raengo. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005. 1–52. ‘The Theory and Practice of Adaptation’ Literature and Film: A Guide to the Theory and Practice of Film Adaptation 1 52 Google Scholar

Stentz, Zack. ‘Au Contrarian’. Metro (6–12 Feb 1997). http://www.metroactive.com/papers/metro/02.06.97/cover/brin2-9706.html. Accessed 18 May 2017. Google Scholar

Turan, Kenneth. ‘Aw Shucks, He’s Just “The Postman”’. Los Angeles Times (24 Dec 1997). http://articles.latimes.com/1997/dec/24/entertainment/ca-1655. Accessed 18 May 2017. Google Scholar

Turner, Frederick Jackson. The Frontier in American History. New York: Holt, 1962. The Frontier in American History Google Scholar

Vizenor, Gerald. Darkness in Saint Louis Bearheart. St. Paul: Truck Press, 1978. Darkness in Saint Louis Bearheart Google Scholar

Wegner, Phillip E. Life between Two Deaths, 1989–2001: U.S. Culture in the Long Nineties. Durham: Duke UP, 2009. Life between Two Deaths, 1989–2001: U.S. Culture in the Long Nineties Google Scholar

Weigel, David. ‘Apocalypse Never’. Slate (28 Oct 2011). http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2011/10/deficit_hawks_ask_what_will_it_take_to_get_washington_to_care_ab.html. Accessed 21 Sep 2017. Google Scholar

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Adams, John Joseph. ‘Interview: David Brin, Author of The Postman.’ Wastelands 2. http://www.johnjosephadams.com/wastelands-2/2015/02/10/interview-david-brin-authorof-the-postman/. Accessed 18 May 2017. Google Scholar

Albrecht-Crane, Christa, and Dennis Cutchins. ‘New Beginnings for Adaptation Studies’. Adaptation Studies: New Approaches. Ed. Christa Albrecht-Crane and Dennis Cutchins. Madison: Farleigh Dickinson UP, 2010. 11–22. ‘New Beginnings for Adaptation Studies’ Adaptation Studies: New Approaches 11 22 Google Scholar

Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, rev. ed. New York: Verso, 2006. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism Google Scholar

Barra, Allen. “A Road Warrior Is Still on a Roll.” New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1999/08/15/movies/film-a-road-warrior-is-still-on-a-roll.html. Accessed 18 May 2017. Google Scholar

Brin, David. ‘Metaphorical Drive: or, Why We’re Such Good Liars’. Mindscapes: The Geographies of Imagined Worlds. Ed. George E. Slusser and Eric S. Rabkin. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1989. 60–77. ‘Metaphorical Drive: or, Why We’re Such Good Liars’ Mindscapes: The Geographies of Imagined Worlds 60 77 Google Scholar

Brin, David. The Postman. New York: Bantam, 1994. Broderick, Mick. ‘Surviving Armageddon: Beyond the Imagination of Disaster’. Science Fiction Studies 20.3 (Nov 1993): 362–82. ‘Surviving Armageddon: Beyond the Imagination of Disaster’ Science Fiction Studies 20.3 362 82 Google Scholar

Bryan, Daniel. The Mountain Muse, Comprising The Adventures of Daniel Boone; and The Power of Virtuous and Refined Beauty. Harrisonburg: Davidson, 1813. The Mountain Muse, Comprising The Adventures of Daniel Boone; and The Power of Virtuous and Refined Beauty Google Scholar

Canby, Vincent. ‘Post-Nuclear Road Warrior’. New York Times (28 Apr 1982): 24. ‘Post-Nuclear Road Warrior’ New York Times 24 Google Scholar

Cheyfitz, Eric. ‘The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country’. The Columbia Guide to Indian American Literatures of the United States since 1945. Ed. Eric Cheyfitz. New York: Columbia UP, 2006. 3–124. ‘The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country’ The Columbia Guide to Indian American Literatures of the United States since 1945 3 124 Google Scholar

Chute, David. ‘The Ayatollah of the Moviola.’ Film Comment 18.4 (1982): 26–31. ‘The Ayatollah of the Moviola.’ Film Comment 18.4 26 31 Google Scholar

De Los Santos, Oscar. ‘Of Dystopias and Icons: Brin’s The Postman and Butler’s Parable of the Sower’. The Utopian Fantastic: Selected Essays from the Twentieth International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. Ed. Martha Bartter. Westport: Praeger, 2004. 109–21. ‘Of Dystopias and Icons: Brin’s The Postman and Butler’s Parable of the Sower’ The Utopian Fantastic: Selected Essays from the Twentieth International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts 109 21 Google Scholar

Denby, David. ‘Endgames’. Rev. of Snowpiercer, dir. Bong Joon-ho, and Begin Again, dir. John Carney. The New Yorker (7 and 14 Jul 2014): 94–5. ‘Endgames’ Snowpiercer 94 5 Google Scholar

Denson, Shane, and Julia Leyda. “Perspectives on Post-Cinema: An Introduction.” Post-Cinema: Theorizing 21st-Century Film. Falmer: REFRAME Books, 2016. 1–18. “Perspectives on Post-Cinema: An Introduction.” Post-Cinema: Theorizing 21st-Century Film 1 18 Google Scholar

Ebert, Roger. Rev. of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Chicago Sun-Times (10 July 1985). http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/mad-max-beyond-thunderdome-1985. Accessed 18 May 2017. Google Scholar

Filson, John. The Discovery, Settlement and Present State of Kentucke. New York: Corinth, 1962. The Discovery, Settlement and Present State of Kentucke Google Scholar

Gallagher, Winifred. How the Post Office Created America. New York: Penguin, 2016. How the Post Office Created America Google Scholar

Gibson, Ross. South of the West: Postcolonialism and the Narrative Construction of Australia. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1992. South of the West: Postcolonialism and the Narrative Construction of Australia Google Scholar

Hall, Peter C., and Richard D. Erlich. ‘Beyond Topeka and Thunderdome: Variations on the Comic-Romance Pattern in Recent SF Film’. Science Fiction Studies 14.3 (1987): 316–25. ‘Beyond Topeka and Thunderdome: Variations on the Comic-Romance Pattern in Recent SF Film’ Science Fiction Studies 14.3 316 25 Google Scholar

John, Richard R. ‘How the Post Office Made America’. New York Times (8 Feb 2013): A19. ‘How the Post Office Made America’ New York Times A19 Google Scholar

Kael, Pauline. Taking It All In. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1984. Taking It All In Google Scholar

Kitses, Jim. ‘Introduction: Post-modernism and The Western’. The Western Reader. Ed. Jim Kitses and Gregg Rickman. New York: Limelight, 1998. 15–31. ‘Introduction: Post-modernism and The Western’ The Western Reader 15 31 Google Scholar

Lane, Anthony. ‘Only Human’. Rev. of 9, dir. Shane Acker. The New Yorker (14 September 2009): 114–5. ‘Only Human’ The New Yorker 114 5 Google Scholar

Lewis, Glen. Australian Movies and the American Dream. New York: Praeger, 1987. Australian Movies and the American Dream Google Scholar

Mathews, Sue. 35mm Dreams. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984. 35mm Dreams Google Scholar

Michener, Charles. ‘Shane in Black Leather’. Newsweek (31 May 1982): 67. ‘Shane in Black Leather’ Newsweek 67 Google Scholar

Newman, Kim. Apocalypse Movies: End of the World Cinema. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2000. Apocalypse Movies: End of the World Cinema Google Scholar

O’Flynn, Siobhan. ‘Epilogue’ to Linda Hutcheon, A Theory of Adaptation, second edition. London: Routledge, 2013. 179–206. ‘Epilogue’ A Theory of Adaptation 179 206 Google Scholar

Ouellet, Lawrence J. Pedal to the Metal: The Work Lives of Truckers. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1994. Pedal to the Metal: The Work Lives of Truckers Google Scholar

Rabkin, Eric S., Martin H. Greenberg and Joseph D. Olander, eds. The End of the World. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1983. The End of the World Google Scholar

Rayner, Jonathan. Contemporary Australian Cinema: An Introduction. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2000. Contemporary Australian Cinema: An Introduction Google Scholar

Scheib, Richard. ‘Mad Max 2’. Moria: Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review. http://moria.co.nz/sciencefiction/mad-max-2-the-road-warrior-1981.htm. Accessed 18 May 2017. Google Scholar

Scheick, William J. ‘Continuative and Ethical Predictions: The Post-Nuclear Holocaust Novel of the 1980s’. North Dakota Quarterly 56.2 (1988): 61–82. ‘Continuative and Ethical Predictions: The Post-Nuclear Holocaust Novel of the 1980s’ North Dakota Quarterly 56.2 61 82 Google Scholar

Shapiro, Jerome F. Atomic Bomb Cinema: The Apocalyptic Imagination on Film. London: Routledge, 2002. Atomic Bomb Cinema: The Apocalyptic Imagination on Film Google Scholar

Sharp, Patrick B. Savage Perils: Racial Frontiers and Nuclear Apocalypse in American Culture. Norman: U of Oklahoma P, 2007. Savage Perils: Racial Frontiers and Nuclear Apocalypse in American Culture Google Scholar

Slotkin, Richard. Regeneration through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600–1860. Middletown: Wesleyan UP, 1973. Regeneration through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600–1860 Google Scholar

Specter, Michael. ‘Myths Shape a Movie from Australia’. New York Times (15 Aug 1982): 13. ‘Myths Shape a Movie from Australia’ New York Times 13 Google Scholar

Sponsler, Claire. ‘Beyond the Ruins: The Geopolitics of Urban Decay and Cybernetic Play’. Science Fiction Studies 20.2 (1993): 251–65. ‘Beyond the Ruins: The Geopolitics of Urban Decay and Cybernetic Play’ Science Fiction Studies 20.2 251 65 Google Scholar

Stam, Robert. ‘The Theory and Practice of Adaptation’. Literature and Film: A Guide to the Theory and Practice of Film Adaptation. Ed. Robert Stam and Alessandra Raengo. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005. 1–52. ‘The Theory and Practice of Adaptation’ Literature and Film: A Guide to the Theory and Practice of Film Adaptation 1 52 Google Scholar

Stentz, Zack. ‘Au Contrarian’. Metro (6–12 Feb 1997). http://www.metroactive.com/papers/metro/02.06.97/cover/brin2-9706.html. Accessed 18 May 2017. Google Scholar

Turan, Kenneth. ‘Aw Shucks, He’s Just “The Postman”’. Los Angeles Times (24 Dec 1997). http://articles.latimes.com/1997/dec/24/entertainment/ca-1655. Accessed 18 May 2017. Google Scholar

Turner, Frederick Jackson. The Frontier in American History. New York: Holt, 1962. The Frontier in American History Google Scholar

Vizenor, Gerald. Darkness in Saint Louis Bearheart. St. Paul: Truck Press, 1978. Darkness in Saint Louis Bearheart Google Scholar

Wegner, Phillip E. Life between Two Deaths, 1989–2001: U.S. Culture in the Long Nineties. Durham: Duke UP, 2009. Life between Two Deaths, 1989–2001: U.S. Culture in the Long Nineties Google Scholar

Weigel, David. ‘Apocalypse Never’. Slate (28 Oct 2011). http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2011/10/deficit_hawks_ask_what_will_it_take_to_get_washington_to_care_ab.html. Accessed 21 Sep 2017. Google Scholar

Williams, Paul. Race, Ethnicity and Nuclear War: Representations of Nuclear Weapons and Post-Apocalyptic Worlds. Liverpool: Liverpool UP, 2011. Race, Ethnicity and Nuclear War: Representations of Nuclear Weapons and Post-Apocalyptic Worlds Google Scholar

Wilmington, Michael. ‘“Postman” Just Doesn’t Deliver’. Chicago Tribune (25 Dec 1997). http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1997-12-25/features/9712250313_1_postman-abbygen-bethlehem. Accessed 18 May 2017. Google Scholar

Ziser, Michael G. ‘Home Again: Peak Oil, Climate Change, and the Aesthetics of Transition’. Environmental Criticism for the Twenty-First Century. Ed. Stephanie LeMenager, Teresa Shewry, and Ken Hiltner. London: Routledge, 2011. 181–195. ‘Home Again: Peak Oil, Climate Change, and the Aesthetics of Transition’ Environmental Criticism for the Twenty-First Century 181 195 Google Scholar

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