The above image comes from Cracked.com’s photoplasty contest concerning recruitment posters for movie villains, where it landed the #5 spot. I feel it should have won by a landslide. Not only is it a brilliant parody of the WWII era allied propaganda posters (“This man is your FRIEND… he fights for FREEDOM”), it features one of the best movie antagonists of all time. The Warrior of the Wasteland. The Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla. The Lord Humungus.
I have used this gentleman’s image before. I have even started an entire post with a threadbare paraphrasing of his lofty words. The Humungus resonates down through the ages, not only as a great villain but as a great character, period. You may love him, or hate him, but you will remember him. For that matter, the poster above was one of the only ones where I thought, “Huh. Yeah. I’d sign up.” Gasoline is brushing against the $5 a gallon mark this week, and I don’t know that either of the 2012 presidential choices is particularly focused on the subject.
If only his Lordship were allowed to be part of the debates. I am doubtful he was born in the U.S. (we have, after all, never seen his birth certificate), but he could certainly keep things focused as a moderator. And there’s always the chance he might choke someone unconscious.
As Justin is fond of pointing out, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior presents us with a world where a musclebound giant wearing little more than leather bikini briefs and a metal mask is considered a reasonable man. Now in the interest of full disclosure, I must remind the jury that this judgment is voiced in the movie by a senile old man. And yet, is it not true? Is he not willing to provide a peaceful solution to the selfish, selfish denizens of the refinery compound? Admittedly, there are the incidents of torture, murder, and rape inflicted on those trying to escape before an amicable compromise is reached. Perhaps a bit of timely observational comedy would have let people look back on their differences and laugh, and then look forward to the future…
The Humungus is, after all, demonstrably gifted with a knowledge of human nature. He knows the value of patience and wisdom. Why not provide a little radio hour every day, sharing humorous anecdotes and asides in a world sorely needing to relax… like Garrison Keillor, albeit a Garrison Keillor that can break you.
There is an undeniable charisma to the Humungus. He is certainly comfortable in his skin, and proud of his chiseled body. Perhaps you might wonder why he would hide away his face? Because the Humungus does not set himself above us, falling victim to the vanities of identity. In the dull, gritty reflection of his mask, do we not see ourselves? And do we not see the eyes deep within, those sad, sensitive eyes that proclaim there has been too much violence, too much pain? That none here are without sin? That we have all lost someone we loved? We never had the pleasure of hearing the Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla sing, but if he had, would he not tug at our heartstrings with soulful yet gritty ballads reminiscent of Tom Waits?
We must not brush away the idea of the Humungus as a reasonable man as mere irony. True, he is angered by your defiance. What reasonable man would not be, when he has guaranteed you safe passage through the wastes? When he has given his word that there will be an end to the horror? He is no hollowed-out shell of a man as our nominal protagonist is, but keenly feels each death, of ally and adversary alike. Why else would he continue to attempt negotiations, when his men and women certainly seem numerous and capable enough to overwhelm the defenders in a concerted assault? The answer, of course, is that the losses would be unacceptable, not to mention the danger to the precious, precious juice; the danger of the mistakes of civilization being repeated as already scarce resources are destroyed out of petty vengeance and spite, squandered in conflict rather than shared in peace.
We see just this sort of senseless destruction at the climax of the film, where the selfish compound dwellers booby trap and destroy their refinery, one of the last in the world, rather than letting anyone else have it. And why? They were leaving anyhow. The Humungus even allowed them to leave, when he could easily have sent a detatchment of his forces to hunt them down, these women and children and other non-combatants, rather than following the tanker rig. Even in the end, in the face of all their defiance, he did not fight for glory, or cruelty, but for gasoline. And for that I salute you, your Lordship. You were an honorable man. A reasonable man.
You were Humungus.