Movies I Love: Thelma & Louise-The Last Great Frontier for Women Protagonists

25 Nov

I first viewed Thelma & Louise in a screenwriting class I took in college. I became immediately enthralled with the production because I had never become so emotionally attached to any character in a film before. But why? What makes this movie so unique?

I found that it was much more than a female version of the classic road film. Thelma & Louise really takes on a feminist perspective as the two women (played by Susan Sarandon & Geena Davis) leave behind their daily lives in order to find adventure and freedom from societal and patriarchal constraints. The actual road in this film along with their quintessential Barbie convertible represents their ticket to freedom. Both women find themselves in unhappy relationships and depend on each other for the only good and solid relationship yet experienced.

Gaining authority throughout the film through the unfortunate, yet encouraged use of guns and violence, these women take charge and enter what normally on the screen is viewed as male behavioral characteristics. Thelma and Louise become confident, assertive, and fearless for the first time.  This sharply contrasts the other road films where men narrate,and women are visual stimuli, or sexual objects the merely meet along the way. I think feminism in relation to this film presents itself in the spacial equality between men and women in terms of what both genders are able/expected to do, in personal characteristics, actions, and lifestyles. Feminism give women agency to step outside their culturally created gender roles and perhaps take on a job or activity or lifestyle that is not traditionally “female”, and thus allows for the freedom of choice, which is what I think is the core of this film.

However, the film also recognizes them as outlaws who must be punished  in someway for their deviant behavior–that  the “wild” woman” will not be met without consequence. Some critics think this counteracts the freedom and feminist ideals that the film was promoting all along.However, the suicide is the women asserting their freedom and claiming themselves; Thus they are no longer bound to submit to the law, to men, to their suppressors. I find this so empowering.

Since the original release  in 1991,the 20th anniversary of the film was met with a panel discussion of how far women had come twenty years later. “This movie would never get made today,” sighed one of the panelists, and the audience members murmured their assent. It’s shocking enough that it was distributed in 1991, but at least back then American women were experiencing something like momentum: Anita Hill stood up for herself at Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearings, Callie Khouri won an Oscar, and, when four women were simultaneously elected to the United States Senate, 1992 was dubbed the “Year of the Woman.”

Thelma and Louise 2

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