Name: “Mad” Max Rockatansky
Date of Birth: Pre-nuclear apocalypse
Occupation: MFP Pursuit Officer (former)
Road Warrior (current)
Date of Initial Interview: 05/5/2015
Date of Report: 02/01/2017
Therapists: Brandon Saxton, M.S., Katie Gordon, Ph.D.
NOTE: Some information in this report contains chronological gaps and inconsistencies. This information was collected via diagnostic interview (i.e., watching the films, playing the game, and reading the graphic novel) while roaring through the wasteland in Max’s V8 Interceptor: Pursuit Special being pursued by raiders from Gastown. This made for a difficult intake session…
Max was self-referred to therapy with the goal of reducing his distress levels. After the loss of his family and some other traumatic experiences, Max reported having intrusive thoughts and flashbacks that interfered with his everyday functioning.
Max did not disclose much about about his childhood. He mostly responded with grunts when asked about it. In his previous position as a police officer, Max was a highly-skilled driver who often engaged criminals in high-speed chases on the open road. Realizing that he was losing himself in his work, Max retired and moved to the country with his family. Unfortunately, his past followed him. A gang leader took revenge on Max by killing his wife and son in front of him, and he was reduced to a shell of his former self. As a result, he left his life completely behind and became a road warrior in the wasteland.
Max commandeered the V8 Interceptor: Pursuit Special and his old police gear. He was able to locate and take revenge on each of the gang members who took his family from him. For three years after, Max traveled the wasteland with a dog aptly named Dog. Max moved into his car, which was heavily modified for long distance travel. While scavenging, Max was nearly ambushed by a gyrocopter pilot. Turning the ambush around, Max forced the pilot to bring him to a nearby compound where he could obtain fuel.
Once there, Max saved people who were under attack with the hope of being rewarded with fuel. Instead, they detained Max and his car. Eventually, Max made a deal with their leader, offering to retrieve a vehicle that they could use to transport gasoline away from the compound in exchange for his car and fuel. After delivering on his end of the deal, Max left the compound. However, he did not make it very far before being run down by Lord Humongous’s gang. Fortunately, he was saved by the gyrocopter pilot. After being nursed back to health, Max agreed to help the people in the compound escape with gasoline. He lead the escape in the tanker. It was then that Max learned that the tanker was filled with sand, and that it was all a ruse to get the hidden fuel away in smaller vehicles.
Many years later, Max was still wandering the wasteland and found his way to Bartertown. Max was forced into entering the Thunderdome, Bartertown’s gladiatorial arena, where he was pitted against Master Blaster. Max was could not bring himself to kill his opponent, who was an innocent man with a disability.
Because he did not kill Master, Max had to “face the Wheel.” With the Wheel of Fortune deciding his fate, Max was sent into the wasteland to die. Max was saved by a tribe of young children who believed he was their hero of prophecy. Max returned to Bartertown to find Master, who he believed could help the children. He fled Bartertown with Master in tow, which lead to a terrible road war. Eventually, Master and the tribe of children escaped.
Some time following these events, Max was again run off the road and taken captive. This time, Immortan Joe and his war boys took Max to use him as a “blood bag.” Finding his blood being drained while strapped to the front of a car racing across the dessert, Max was able to escape while the war boys pursued Furiosa, one of Immortan Joe’s Imperators.
Max joined with Furiosa who was fleeing the warlord dictator, Immortan Joe, with his Wives. Max and Furiosa were ultimately able to escape with the Wives and find Furiosa’s old clan. Furiosa learned that The Green Place that she had been seeking was no longer there. Furiosa decided to take everyone and flee across the wasteland instead. Max, with his own supplies, went in the opposite direction.
Then, Max experienced a flashback of a young girl. This prompted him to go back to Furiosa and her group. He believed that their best bet for a safe home was to take the Citadel from Immortan Joe while his forces were out pursuing them. After yet another destructive road war, Max, Furiosa, and the rest were able to defeat Immortan Joe and his army. They returned to the Citadel as heroes and liberators. However, Max left them behind to continue his life alone.
Max denied any history of psychiatric treatment. With regard to medical history, Max suffered an injury after being shot in the leg and subsequently wore a leg brace.
Assessment & Diagnostic Impressions
Max’s symptoms appear to be best captured by a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – 5th Edition.
As detailed previously, Max has experienced a variety of traumatic events (defined by the DSM-5 as exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence). Max’s symptoms primarily seem to be related to the people he has been unable to save throughout his life. For example, Max appears to experience multiple intrusive symptoms in Mad Max: Fury Road. These flashbacks consist of a young girl asking Max for help. They appear to be very distressing. Beyond that, Max also appears to engage in avoidance of situations that remind him of the traumatic events. Specifically, after losing his family, Max is seen refusing to get close to others again and again. This is particularly worth mentioning as solitude in the wasteland almost always means death. Additionally, following the loss of his family, Max appears to have negative changes to his thoughts and moods. He goes from being a light-hearted, family man to a dark killer. His life goal becomes revenge. Additionally, Max appears to have suffered from changes in his arousal and reactivity (e.g., irritable mood, angry outbursts, etc.). Max is always on alert for danger. He rarely falls into a trap (such as the one set by the gyrocopter pilot) and is usually on edge.
In summary, Max appears to meet full diagnostic criteria for PTSD. Fortunately, evidence-based treatments are available. Such treatments include therapist-guided processing of traumas (e.g., Cognitive Processing Therapy, Prolonged Exposure) and decreasing unhealthy behavioral patterns without focusing directly on the trauma (e.g., Present-Centered Therapy).
THE GORDON/SAXTON TEST
- Was the portrayal of mental illness accurate?
The changes that Max undergoes after losing his family do appear to be within the realm of possibility for someone experiencing such trauma. Max loses his sense of his former self, exhibits extreme negative affect, avoids getting close to others, and experiences many reminders of those he has lost.
- Was the character struggling with mental health issues depicted with compassion?
Overall, Max was not written specifically to depict mental health issues. That being said, he does appear to be a character who, despite intense trauma, is able to rise above and help those in need. Additionally, Max refuses to harm Blaster, of Master Blaster, while battling in the Thunderdome, as Blaster appears to have a developmental disability. So, not only is Max depicted with some compassion, he also displays some. Nice work, George Miller.
Overall, we rate Mad Max as SHINY AND CHROME! That is, totally awesome. Max is a complex character. He is continually seen trying to shun connections with others, often acting as if he only cares about his own safety and survival. Despite this, he always ends up being guided by his moral compass. Time and time again, we see Max come to the aid of those in need, never able to completely turn away.