Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek TV shows and movies and
George Lucas’s Star Wars films, we saw one version of
futuristic style. They offered us future fashions that were
sleek, clean, bold, and colorful. Picture Captain Kirk’s gold
and black V-neck and Princess Leia’s pristine white gown. Even
Han Solo, that scoundrel, had shiny black boots and
fresh-looking attire. No holes, patches, or frays on that
dashing young smuggler.
Enter 1979’s Mad Max, followed by 1981’s The Road
Warrior and 1985’s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.
These wildly popular movies made a star of Mel Gibson and
introduced younger moviegoers to that beautiful badass, Tina
opposed to the futures imagined by Roddenberry and Lucas, in
which a noble core of democracy exists to counteract
lawlessness, and laundry facilities are plentiful, Mad Maxshowed
us a dog-eat-dog, gritty sort of world. We hadn’t gone off
boldly in search of new adventures. We weren’t cruising around
in gleaming, roomy spaceships. Instead, some sort of apocalypse
had killed off all the tree huggers and literary types, leaving
grizzled, bitter, and violent biker dudes to roam freely. It was
a tough scene.
The vehicles of Mad Max were
nutso. Tanks, motorcycles, dune buggies, trucks, and cars tricked out
with weaponry and custom bits of flair. Bizarre hybrid armored rides
with handy gun turrets. The scene in the Thunderdome body shops must
have been intense for those dudes. I picture them drinking, like,
moonshine made from antifreeze and knocking each other’s teeth out in
between careful soldering jobs and engine enhancement. The rides were
labor-intensive, weird, intimidating, and way cool.
The fashions they wore were, of course,
equally tough. Mad Max would have been laughed right out of the
Thunderdome if he’d shown up in one of Luke Skywalker’s beige tunics or
Kirk’s tight mustard tops. Nuh-uh. Instead, think biker gear embellished
with choice accessories from the Orc troops of Lord of the Rings.
James Dean blended with Sid Vicious and spiced up with some extra
piercings, metal mesh, and infrequent bathing.
We saw very different post-apocalypse
attire in 1999’s The Matrix, where the unplugged denizens
sported grubby taupe and gray lounge wear (and, of course, those creepy
holes in their heads for Matrix booting-up sessions) and the
bleaker post-apocalypse flick, The Road. These desperate
survivors would never take the time to, say, match their enormous spiked
earrings to their metal bustier. Residents of Mad Max’s world might be
violent and uncultured, but they sure put some consideration into their
Tina Turner totally wowed us in Mad
Max Beyond Thunderdome.
In addition to her defiant vocals in the
title song and her scandalous slit-to-there hemline, she had enormous
shoulder pads, a metal dress, and hair and jewelry that were
clearly not just thrown together for a quick trip to the corner market.
Was she, like, welded into that thing? Scary hot.
Speaking of scary, check out this guy
(pictured at left). Heh. I love the expression on his biker babe.
She’s all, Yeah, baby. I got me the LEADER OF THE PACK.
And let’s not forget Mel. This, of
course, was pre-scandal Mel. Before we were introduced to
WHAT offensive thing did you just say?? Mel, we were way into
WHO is this hot Australian guy in black leather? Mel.
Mel. If I come across a time machine, I will be SURE to let you know. I
think we’d all be happier with the mid-eighties version of you.)
We had a lot to be scared of in the
1980’s. Nuclear war, aids, and the War on Drugs had us one edge.
Pollution and over-crowding weren’t helping matters. Maybe we liked to
think of ourselves as tough-guy survivors, like Mad Max, instead of
genteel Captain Kirks. After all, in the grim future we feared, fierce
strength would guarantee our survival more than calm discretion. And, if
we couldn’t be as gritty-tough as Mel Gibson’s or Tina Turner’s
characters, we could at least dress with a nod to their wild style.
Mad Max took early punk style
and upped the ante. I’ll see your black leather biker jacket and
Mohawk and raise you feathers, chains, mesh, shoulders-to-there, and war
paint. The look was tough, scary, and oddly flattering.