Thelma and Louise: A Feminist Perspective

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The 1991humorously tragic movie Thelma and Louise is a metaphor on the life that women have led throughout centuries. Neither a litany of how the world is run by men nor a vigorously feminist way of looking at things, the movie still manages to leave the audience gasping for breath and short of words to express that gulp in the throat that threatens to choke at every new twist of the plot.

Producer-Director Ridley Scott and Writer Callie Khouri’s brilliant rendition of the rebellion of the outlaws has been given a feminine perspective in the movie, without explicitly being too feminist. The media reacted provocatively to the film, with Time’s cover story “Gender Bender” published on June 24 in 1991, going on to say that” A white-hot debate rages over whether Thelma and Louise, celebrates liberated females, male bashers-or outlaws” (Schickel 52).

A celebration of the free spirited soul, Thelma and Louise played by Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon also ropes in the only male person in the entire drama who has an empathetic bend of mind towards the pair who romp out on this road to freedom throwing all reservations to the wind as they brandish their gun at men who cross their path to threaten their freedom- not only of their own physicality but also of their soul. The soul that is set ablaze by the words of the rapist in the parking lot who says” I should have fucked you”. The fact that the gun went off in the face of the rapist for the words he uttered when both women were at a safe distance from him, springs the question of what is the meaning of self-defense and when is it alright to say enough is enough?

A brilliant direction coupled with above average cinematography interlaced with the artistic use of the camera gives the movie a character and presence that has bagged Adrian Biddle the Oscar nomination for the Best Screenplay and Ridley Scott a nomination for Best Director, in 1991. The film is interlaced with some memorable scenes but the best one perhaps happens to be the leap of the T20 Thunderbird that the girls rode, off the cliff with the majestic Grand Canyon as a backdrop. The wide-angle shots show the choppers rising above the view as the women look at it from their car, which was till moments ago their haven, an instrument of their freedom. The shot is taken from a low angle and could well be a depiction of the feelings that the women have of the crumbling of their power just at that moment; when everything seems to be ending, the freedom, the self-confidence and the hold they have over their own decision as the choppers rise above them, larger than life blowing a gale in the serenity that the women had just shared looking at the beauty before them. Their caps blow off in the wind. Is it another way to signify the blowing away of their own authority on their immediate situation?

The shifting images in the last scene replay the theme of the entire movie. More in the eye kind of metaphor are the ones that are evoked by the clouds billowing out behind the car as the women speed on towards the edge of the cliff and running off it only to be suspended instead of falling to their death. Before, they finally take the decision to “Let’s just keep going” as Thelma says to Louise, there is a moment of indecision as the women control to take charge of the situation in their own strong ways. While Louise fumbles with her gun and says “I’m not giving up”, Thelma reasons with her and offers her the solution to “let’s not get caught” and  “go” ! As they speed out there is the dust billowing into clouds again but this time it leaves the cops with their guns clueless and incapable of catching them. The background score plays a music that is far from sad or melancholic. The moment is not about death. The moment is about the freedom from the double standards of a world that has nothing to say to the man who leers at them from the truck and makes lewd comments but is on the lookout for the women who act against it.   It seems to celebrate the life that the women lived for the few days that they were on the highway sealed with the kiss and the clasped hands that is shown as a close-up. The last scene where the car remains suspended in the air before the screen goes white is to me the most beautiful scene in the movie as it symbolizes the spirit of the women who have discovered themselves through this road journey.

September 25, 2023




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