From ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ to ‘Mad Max,’ prof explores feminism in dystopias

From ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ to ‘Mad Max,’ prof explores feminism in dystopias

On Oct. 24, Dr. Ana de Freitas Boe, professor of English, gave a lecture in Ritter Library as part of Baldwin Wallace’s “Dystopias: Prophecies, Predictions & Paranoia” event.

Boe focused on three main works: Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Janelle Monae’s “Metropolis: The Chase Suit,” and George Miller’s “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

Boe focused on each of these works, in turn, breaking down the ways that each work illustrated feminism in a dystopic setting.

Atwood focused on several different issues women face, among them, “should women be in the workplace?” said Boe. “Issues about sexuality get wrapped up in [the novel] as well. Obviously, the fight about abortion is really flaring up…We see these issues percolating through Atwood’s novel.”

Monae’s work dealt with environmental and social devastation while also dealing with feminism.

“If we don’t deal with environmental devastation—if we don’t deal with the zombie apocalypse—we won’t have a civilization,” said Boe.

The zombie in Monae’s work “is the way in which we all look away from social problems,” said Boe. “We are the daydreamers who need to wake up and really try to deal with the problems of the world we live in.”

Miller’s film illustrated a new dynamic between the male and female hero’s.

“Gone are the stereotypes about the male hero and the female damsel in distress,” said Boe.

She also said that the film “is a distinctly feminist action movie” in the way it portrays the female characters as independent and strong.

“Dystopia is not an excuse for escapism. It is a call for action,” said Boe. “Dystopia shows us the devastation that awaits us in the future if we don’t respond to the social and environmental injustices of today.”

Boe decided to give the lecture after participating in the Frankenstein Festival on campus last year. Her lecture this year is based on her class on Dystopia and contemporary fiction.

“My chair, Denise Kohn, really encouraged me on teaching that course on dystopian, contemporary fiction next semester,” said Boe.

Her lecture focused on the three specific works of Atwood, Monae, and Miller because Boe thought they
had thematic overlap, yet they all focused on slightly different issues.

“I wanted to talk about issues about race, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, issues about environmental devastation,” said Boe. “Those three together allowed me to hit all of those points. They’re similar, but they’re not so similar that it would be boring.”

Ritter Library still has ongoing events for the “Dystopias: Prophecies, Predictions & Paranoia” event. For more information, visit Ritter Library, or