Mad Max: Fury Road’s War Boys made quite an impression; here’s their Cult of the V8 explained, as well as the religion’s real-life origin.
In Mad Max: Fury Road’s the War Boys worship the Cult of the V8, but what does their strange car-based faith entail and what was the fictional religion’s real-life origin? Director George Miller knocked it out of the park with Fury Road, the fourth entry in the Mad Max franchise – enriching the Wasteland with a startling new array of characters and culture. The nightmarish Citadel, ruled over by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and defended by his War Boy army, became a lesson in worldbuilding – with the Cult of the V8, a frightening new religion, at its heart.
While not explicitly mentioned during Fury Road, the Cult’s presence can be felt in the wild War Boys, who worship V8 engines and view Immortan Joe as their god: the only one able to grant them access to Valhalla (the Norse afterlife, and one of the few remnants of pre-apocalypse society). The Cult’s purpose in the film is twofold, providing clear and numerous enemies for the protagonists to face, while also standing in for various real-world extremist groups throughout history.
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Within Mad Max: Fury Road, various cult practices can be seen – most notably, War Boys spraying their teeth with chrome spray paint; replicating the shiny cars that they idolize; before racing to their deaths, high on the toxic paint fumes. Many of these War Boys refer to themselves as “half-lives”, owing to nuclear radiation, and live only to honor the Immortan. For the Cult of the V8, dying in combat is the preferred way to go and they lean on suicidal practices as a result, not unlike several real-world terrorist groups. Each War Boy has his own steering wheel, which they store in a big altar when not in use, that supposedly “connects” them to the power of the V8 engine. They regularly perform the Sign of the V8 – a hand gesture, not unlike a gang sign, that signals their devotion to both the V8 and Immortan Joe; literally branded as his property and more than willing to die for his cause.
Speaking with MH, George Miller stated that the terrorist connection was unintentional, though other real-world influences were certainly in his mind: “We started writing this script in 1999, so the Wild Boys were actually inspired by Viking warrior lore and the concept of Valhalla. The fact that now we have suicide bombers and terrorists doing the same thing is just proof that history always repeats itself […] You end up making these connections to things that are constant throughout human history, but they rise organically out of the story. You don’t go shopping for them.” Fury Road‘s themes are fairly universal – showing that, while the Earth might be decimated, human nature doesn’t really change, and the Wasteland’s Cult of the V8 is therefore analogous for any number of real-world organizations.
Miller’s genius lies in giving the audience just enough visual information to understand the story and its characters while keeping expositional dialogue to a minimum. The details of his worldbuilding are clear, but the context of each detail remains vague – allowing the audience to imbue Fury Road‘s narrative with as much or as little meaning as they desire. For some, it’s an adrenaline-fuelled chase movie and nothing more, while others interpret the film more thematically. As a result, the Cult of the V8 could be said to stand-in for Vikings, terrorists, Trump supporters, the Manson family – or, indeed, any extremist group, depending on the lens through which the film is viewed.
There is also another more specific real-world origin for the Cult, as during the 1970s, street racing youths established the earliest version of car modding culture, obsessing over modifications to their V8-engined cars. The problem was that the V8 engines weren’t economical and required high-octane fuel that simply wasn’t available at the time widely. As such, the V8 in Mad Max‘s world could be seen as a status symbol reflecting the requirement of premium gasoline, something that was a precious resource in that universe. Whoever holds the Guzzoline, holds the power, as with water supplies. It is currently unknown whether the Cult of the V8 will re-appear in the upcoming Mad Max: Fury Road prequel Furiosa, though – given the title character’s history with Immortan Joe and the Citadel – their inclusion seems fairly likely.
Next: Is Fury Road A Sequel Or Reboot? Mad Max Continuity Explained
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