Lately the concept of “Good Guy Ace” has come up in discussion.
The Ace is a good guy. He works hard; he is diligent, professional, and respectful. He is extremely skilled and competent (competency porn! What a great term!). He seems like the kind of man we would want to know in our own lives; he could be easily someone’s father, uncle, grandfather… The Ace is an older man secure in his strength and abilities; a man who sees people for what they can accomplish and thus does not resent a woman’s leadership, a man who lives the meritocracy he believes.
The Ace is compassionate and caring; he is concerned when Furiosa is cold to him, he bows deepest at Morsov’s death (in contrast to Slit who mocks Morsov’s sacrifice). He is intensely loyal; he shields Furiosa from Nux’s sawed-off shotgun (and Nux in turn is unwilling to shoot a fellow War Boy out of hand). And as aforementioned, the Ace is not the kind of man who would be sitting in the back of the War Rig with the other War Boys, saying, “Women drivers, amirite?” These values make him a good man in our world, and as far as we’re concerned, in any world.
But the Ace, no matter how much of a good guy he is, is still complicit in the system of the Citadel, an oppressive system with a foundation in dehumanization. He is trusted with protecting valuable commodities. The War Boys are literally giving their lives for commodities, because in this world, those things have more value than their labor or even their lives. The Ace also appears as one of the most pious; he bows his head the lowest when saluting Immortan Joe, and again when he Witnesses Morsov.
Uncritically, the Ace has no idea that the accumulation of these actions mean that he implicitly supports an oppressive system that strips him of individuality, adulthood, self-determination, and even procreation. After all, those chastity belts are meant to hurt people on both sides of the iron. As intensely manly as the War Boys are, they are essentially eunuchs, drones, interchangeable parts no more individual that a factory-produced bolt, emasculated by a cult of toxic masculinity. Immortan Joe doesn’t just control the water and with it their lives; he controls all the means of production too, even the reproduction of human beings.
So how do we know for sure that the Ace is complicit in the system? After all in a fiercely male-dominated, patriarchal world, he trusts Furioa and she trusts him in return. It is obvious they have experience working side-by-side. They move as a well-rehearsed team and know each other’s minds. But when Furiosa betrays their system, the Ace takes her by the throat. This is not the action of a man who is good in the context of our world; this is the brutal action of a man who is good in the context of their world. A man who is protecting the assets at the cost of friendship and mutual respect, profit above all else. Even though we know the Ace doesn’t necessarily think “profit before friends”, by attacking Furiosa and doing what he thinks is responsible, he is supporting that toxic worldview.
As much as we love the Ace, the Ace is sick like the rest of the War Boys, not only physically, and unable to see it. He has not had his eyes opened by the Splendid Angharad as Furiosa and the other Wives had. He’s carved out a little bit of goodness in an ugly world, but the Ace, like everyone else, is a product of his environment and the system they live in. It doesn’t stop him from being a good guy; it’s just that in their world, no one’s hands are clean. Everyone is complicit, no matter how good they are and how much one wants to like them. This best example is the Keeper of the Seeds, whose last planted seed is an Anti-Seed, a rifle bullet, in Furiosa’s assailant’s eye. Even she whose mission is to give life to the wasteland is a killer, many times over, and mostly unapologetic about that, though her seeds are a chance to redeem herself.
It is important to judge characters and people by the context of their world and their society, not ours.
So in sum: Ace is a good guy. Hell, even a great guy, in the context of his world. We still love him. But one may not want him over for dinner.
I agree with…most of this. But as a former soldier, I’d like to slap down some ethos here, and, in fact, as an interrogator, I have to say, you probably wouldn’t want to have ME over for dinner, either. ^_^
I’d like to point out that it’s clear the Furiosa is ALSO complicit in this system? She likely didn’t get her rank by being nice or even rebellious. She got Joe’s trust by, uh, playing the game. In fact, if you take it that she knowingly played the game in order to serve her own ends, it makes her, in a sense, morally WORSE than Ace or any of the War Boys, because she knowingly used/manipulated them. She claims agency and her first act of agency is betrayal. And that she must have done things she did not quite square with either. He might have a misguided or misaimed honor, but she is seriously crippled in the integrity department.
I’d like to also point out that fighting in an army does not mean 100000000% supporting the ideology of that army. A little research into the ‘comitatus’ would probably do some good here–military units coalesce around a homosocial code, so you tend to fight for your guys, rather than for that abstract idea. In other words, when I was in a firefight, I wasn’t like YO BALD EAGLES FREEEEDDDDDOOOM, or even YAY PRESIDENT, I was like, SHIT they’ve got Smitty pinned down. When someone betrays you in that system, FUCK YEAH you take it personally. Ask Bowe Bergdahl’s old unit how they feel about him. Be prepared for profanity.
When you live close to death (which most people who can fart around on Tumblr probably don’t) you DESPERATELY want meaning. You desperately want to believe that there’s some sense or logic–if not in a sort of ‘magical thinking’ ritual you follow, then at least in the sense that when you do lose your buddies, you want to believe that it was…for something, or that they went some place other than a plastic bag. Because if you can’t…it crushes you.
Think how much death Ace has seen. That might explain his faith.
Ace is really clearly the very common war movie trope called the ‘Immortal Sergeant’. You see this type in just about every war movie/novel ever, all the way from Kat in All Quiet on the Western Front. The Immortal Sergeant is good at combat. He’s at home there. He can’t quite fit in anywhere else, and he knows that. Because war is uncivilized, and once you get really good at crossing that line, you can’t really come back. Unlike a character like Rambo, the IS is not an isolated loner who can’t function in any society: he can function in his structured society. Why do most vets today try to make other vet friends?
I like both Furiosa and Ace, but I like them because they’re flawed. I think it’s a good reminder to everyone that hey YOU TOO are complicit in a system whose values might be systemically destructive of your agency, freedom, and self determination, which likewise ALSO participates in the oppression of other groups. YOUR SOCIETY TOO views you as less than human–your boss views you as a source of labor, and the drive in education toward ‘workforce development’ additionally institutionalizes the shift from ‘free human’ to ‘worker’ as the primary focus of education, your society too seeks to police and limit your sexuality and self-expression, (even tumblr where you MUST FIT INTO ONE OF THESE LABELS or else), and every place that takes your money views you as a mere consumer.
Saying that this is just something in his world, or that he’s doing the same damn thing you probably are…somehow makes him bad? WOW that’s really dangerous. That’s alterity to the point of self-annihilation.
Sorry for the posthumanist theory rant there at the end. Not really.
Thanks to both of you for offering interesting perspectives.
I think the Ace’s actions toward Furiosa, and in particular his last action toward her, are more complicated than that. Someone posted about this a while back; I apologize for having lost track of who it was. A lot of this is repeating that person’s previous comment.
Ace is loyal to Furiosa. He questions her three times (about diverting from the road, continuing despite the flares from the Citadel, and taking on the Buzzards rather than running them into their backup), and each time he accepts her evasive response at face value.
It’s only the last time he questions her, when the Buzzards have been defeated and she’s continuing to drive toward the dust storm, that he escalates. “Why can’t you stop?” When Furiosa doesn’t answer Ace is left with no possible explanation but the actual one: she’s betraying Joe. He shouts at her, “What have you done?” Again she doesn’t answer.
At this point, if Ace were merely “a brutal man who is good in the context of their world”, he could have incapacitated Furiosa. He could have punched her, or attacked her with some other weapon he presumably had access to. He could also have followed Nux’s shouted instructions to get out of the way, so he (Nux) could shoot her. He didn’t do any of those things. Instead, he continued to shield her from Nux while grabbing her by the throat and repeating his question, “What have you done?”
In the context of the kind of violence we’ve seen the war rig’s crew dishing out, I don’t think this constitutes an attack. Instead, it feels like a minimal escalation of force intended to compel her to answer. Ace still is motivated by his loyalty to Furiosa. He can’t let her continue unimpeded. But neither is he willing to attack her. Instead, he uses a minimally violent means to compel her to answer, while leaving himself open to the counter-attack that she actually makes.