I have no especial feeling about the passing of a pop legendess, but for the role Tina Turner played in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome; one of the most Hobbesian films ever screened.
The genius of George Miller has been to portray a world which is in its surface a fantasy dystopia but which is reality in the raw: this post-apocalyptic Australian outback wilderness is the universal ancient age portrayed in terms the modern mind can appreciate.
As Tina Turner sang in the concluding theme song:
Living under the fear, ’til nothing else remains
That is the world of the natural man: ‘continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.‘ That is the world of Mad Max encapsulated.
In the midst of the Stone-Age brutishness of the film stands Bartertown: a single point of civilisation, rough, primitive and vicious though it may be. It is ruled over by Aunty Entity, brilliantly portrayed by Tina Turner. Aunty Entity? Titles must from somewhere:
Brutus and Caesar: what should be in that ‘Caesar’?
Why should that name be sounded more than yours?
In a new foundation over people, there will be new titles because a common power to keep them all in awe requires it.
This is as civilisation should be: it is a town living by trade, not subsistance farming; it has manufactures and division of labour and it has commerce, as the first towns must have. George Miller, the director, knew how such a town should be: it has laws, and a lawmaker, and a crude system of criminal justice, at the peak of which is Thunderdome: this is combat and murder run as a public entertainment, just as was the Coliseum in Rome, as were the Tyburn gallows, and in many other cultures. Crucially, there is more than criminal justice – as this is a trading town, it need dispute resolution, and there is punishment for breaking contracts (‘Break a deal and face the Wheel’).
Commentaries have said that Aunty Entity is a brutal ruler. She is exactly as she must be: to keep a lid on such a town, and prevent ambitious men form overthrowing the state which supports them.
Aunty Entity is the true hero of the tale, were we but to recognise it. She has created a state in the wilderness and ensured its prosperity – a state providing relative peace for its inhabitants, security and certainty of consequences, and a militia army to defend it.
Maybe there is something to want beyond Thunderdome – “love and compassion; Their day is coming ” as the song puts it – but Thunderdome is a necessity for the first civilisation to start to grow into something which will allow such castles in the air,