Max Rockatansky is of course famed for his madness. In fact it's right there in the title.

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So why the heck is he mad? Is he mad (insane) or mad (angry) or is it a mixture of both?

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    Bonus question; Is "Mad" Max merely an out-of-universe nickname? – Valorum May 23 '15 at 19:41
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    Bonus question II; With counselling and appropriate therapy, could he become "well-adjusted Max"? – Valorum May 23 '15 at 19:44
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    I think Max is mad because you have more rep than he does. – Major Stackings May 23 '15 at 23:53
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    I think "Mad Max" has AddedAlliterativeAppeal – Andrew Grimm May 24 '15 at 2:30
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    He’s mad as hell, and he’s not going to take this any more. – Paul D. Waite May 25 '15 at 18:10
up vote 49 down vote accepted

In the first Mad Max movie, he is named thus by the last remaining member of the motorcycle gang that killed his wife and son, shortly before Max kills him in revenge.

As Max casually walks away, Johnny started pleading, then laughing, calling Max "...mad! Yer MAD!"
Wikipedia

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    So, in-universe the descriptor (by Jonny) relates to Max's mental health, not his state of anger. Interesting. – Valorum May 23 '15 at 20:11
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    @Richard I disagree. He's not suffering from a mental health problem. He's angry and premeditated in his actions. He's so angry that he's shifted into a cold, calculating mode. He knows exactly what he is doing (like Jigsaw in the Saw movies). He didn't need to know or care whether the other guy was mentally disturbed or not and didn't need to care whether he was going to saw his leg off or not. Either way, the guy would die, and never hurt anyone else again. Premeditated mission accomplished. Many non-medical persons say, "You're crazy", which is not a valid diagnosis. – killermist May 24 '15 at 17:43
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    @killermist - Oh, I don't doubt for a second that the death of his family has made him very angry, just that his nickname (at least as given by the character who names him thusly) relates solely to his mental health. – Valorum May 24 '15 at 17:46
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    @Richard Again, I disagree. A very angry person can act in a plenty calm manner with people that haven't caused him reason to be specifically angry at them. A person may be angry (hateful even) with society at large, but be cordial and friendly with friends, family, and even strangers... until they do some specific thing that flags them as an enemy. And even then, there may not be a straight-forward attack, but some other side-band attack that is unexpected. For some, anger is a way of life that doesn't relate to mental disorder. – killermist May 24 '15 at 17:54
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    @killermist I think your missing the point. Nobody is arguing that the nickname was the result of a proper medical diagnosis. As you point out, Johnny believes Max to be insanse, and so he called him Mad. The nickname stuck, but not because it was true. Nicknames don't have to be true. The question was still "did the nickname accuse him of rage or insanity" and the answer is clearly "insanity". It doesn't matter at all that it wasn't a medical diagnosis. The question wasn't "did max actually go insane", it was "which meaning of 'mad' is intended by the nickname". – Tyrsius May 25 '15 at 17:11

In the original Mad Max (Mel Gibson) movie:

A biker gang kills his wife and child pretty horrible. Through the rest of the movie he hunts down and kills the members of that gang in pretty awful ways.

IMO, the "mad" means both angry and insane.

By the events of the movie Road Warrior, Max has mostly recovered from the events of the first movie.

He is once again willing to help people survive the awful mess of post-apocalyptic world - even to the point of potentially sacrificing himself.

  • Spoiler tags are ">!" (minus the quotes, obviously) – Valorum May 23 '15 at 19:54
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    @Richard "Slightly vexed Max - Road Warrior" would make a stupid title so it might be a continuity thing. – Eike Pierstorff May 23 '15 at 19:59
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    @Jim2B IMDB thinks different and gives "Mad Max 2" and "Mad Max Beyond The Thunderdome" as "Official Title". – Eike Pierstorff May 23 '15 at 20:23
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    and my vague memory of the period is that the second movie originally was simply called "Road Warrior" and did not use the "Mad Max II" appellation. But that could just be flawed memory on my part. – Jim2B May 23 '15 at 20:23
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    Erm, the original title for the second film was just Mad Max 2, whereas the Road Warrior title was only used in the United States. This isn't as common these days with instant, cheap communication, but it was reasonably common in the 1980s and earlier. – Ben May 24 '15 at 19:44

One of the first moments in the movie where Max assumes a "crazy" attitude, is when facing the Nightrider (not a movie quote, just used the spoiler tag):

Max races directly towards the Nightrider's car, without any fear, in a way that I could only describe as... madness!

There are a few other references* to madness in the film, such as when his wife says:

Crazy about you.

and he later replies with the same phrase, or when they hurriedly leave the mechanic, which shouts:

Crazy people!

to him and his family, but these are minor elements. There's one that could actually be meaningful, when he complains to his boss:

I'm scared, Fife. One more minute out on that road and I'm one of them, ya know? Terminal crazy.

Besides the ending, as mentioned by SQB, if there would be any reason for Max to be called mad, it would be due to his fearless attitude.

* These quotes are taken from the unofficial movie script. I'll try to update them from the original video audio.

  • Are you quoting above? – Valorum May 23 '15 at 22:12
  • Not inside the spoiler tag, but the other phrases are quotes, so I fixed that. – anol May 23 '15 at 22:36

Is he mad (insane) or mad (angry) or is it a mixture of both?

Max is crazy

I'd bet on mad meaning crazy rather than angry.

He's a little deranged because of the murder of his wife and child.

Here's a little speculation:

"Mad Max" is an Australian film.

The use of the word "mad" to mean angry is primarily a US usage. In the UK, for example, the word "mad" is almost invariably only used to mean crazy, not angry - though the inexorable effect of Hollywood is doubtless gradually changing this.

Australian English was, of course, originally based on British English and so may still retain this difference from US usage.

Historically it may be that the American usage was derived from a now-obsolete British usage. This sort of thing has happened for other words. In which case Australian usage might have long been similar to US usage. We need an Aussie to tell us.


Translations

According to IMDB In Russia the film was named Безумный Макс, in Turkey Çilgin Maks, all of which Google translates as "Crazy Max". The Chinese title 疯狂的麦克斯 is, I think, also associated more with insanity than with anger.

  • Yup, 疯狂 means crazy, wild, savage, violent; not angry. – MissMonicaE Jul 6 at 13:19

Max is angry. For anyone that doesn't know the circumstances that went into why he is so angry, the anger is confused for insanity. A sufficiently angry person can act in ways that appear to be reckless abandon, and that appearance of reckless abandon could be assumed to be insanity. From the perspective of an observer, the outcome of behavior sourced either by insanity or anger is very similar. The methods may just be significantly different.

A very angry person can act in a plenty calm manner with people that haven't caused him reason to be specifically angry at them. A person may be angry (hateful even) with society at large, but be cordial and friendly with friends, family, and even strangers... until they do some specific thing that flags them as an enemy. And even then, there may not be a straight-forward attack, but some other side-band attack that is unexpected. For some, anger is a way of life that doesn't relate to mental disorder.

It is mentioned that Johnny, which Max sets up to die horribly, screams at him and calls him mad. In the context, it is assumed that he means that Max is insane. Lots of people say, "You're crazy." or nuts or insane. In retort, Johnny is not a reliable source. In addition, Johnny is not qualified to make a medical or mental diagnosis of Max. To his credit, from Johnny's perspective the distinction between Max being insane or just so angry that he's shifted to a cold, calculating, and premeditated manner is meaningless. Johnny knows he's going to die. It wouldn't have made any difference for him to ask "Why are you so angry?" and try to negotiate with Max. Max had decided Johnny was going to die, and die badly. No negotiation was going to solve it, so the distinction was (in that circumstance) meaningless. Then, setting aside that I don't credit Johnny with an abundance of smarts, if he thought Max was really crazy, he would have thrown out some totally illogical stuff to try to shift Max's craziness to his benefit... possibly even letting him go. At that point, regardless whether Max was angry or insane, the gambit of "use the crazy" was Johnny's only possible chance for survival, and he didn't do it.

Maybe he did earn the nickname because people thought he was crazy. He sure didn't make much effort to prove them wrong. The misdiagnosis would work in his favor because a crazy person is less of a threat than a coldblooded methodical angry person because a crazy person is simply unpredictable but an angry person is predictably lethal. (in the dwindling state of civilization he's in) Maybe when the movie was made, the ambiguity was intentional.

  • How do you know that Johnny isn't actually a mental health professional? – Valorum May 25 '15 at 15:04
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    Wasn't Johnny earlier in the movie declared by some court-like thing to be "not guilty" for something horrible because he was mentally incompetent and/or insane? There's also not many (if any) mental health professionals in biker gangs. The long and short of it is that Johnny is not a credible source. – killermist May 25 '15 at 15:07

Throughout the original film we watch Max become disillusioned with his life. He doesn't trust the justice system and he just wants out. He attempts to talk to his boss who just tells him that he's the best, yada, yada, yada.

Also, when Goose (who is Max's closest friend) is mutilated, We see something change in Max. His sanity is being tested and he can't handle it. He goes for some time off and his family gets killed. I think he is insane.

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    Welcome to SFF! This is a nice first answer but could be improved if you could edit in the supporting evidence directly into your answer. As for if the game is canon or not I'm not sure but you could always add a section in about the game with a disclaimer stating you don't know it's canonicity. – TheLethalCarrot Jul 6 at 13:09

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