Thursday, May 15, 2008

Thelma and Louise

Thelma and Louise (Scott & Gitlin, 1991) is the story of a weekend road trip gone horribly wrong, leading to the double suicide of best friends Thelma and Louise. The two women leave behind their relationships and commitments to enjoy a couple days by themselves. At home, Thelma suffers burnout from living as a housewife with a chauvinistic husband, while Louise is often left behind to work as a waitress by a non-committal musician boyfriend. On their way to a cabin, they decide to stop at a bar for a few drinks. Thelma lets down her hair a little too much, dancing closely with troublemaker Harlan. Harlan takes Thelma outside to get some air when she is visibly drunk. He roughs up her and begins trying to rape her when Louise appears on the scene, putting a gun to his head and telling him to leave her alone. Harlan backs off, but as he is walking away, he tells Louise that he still wishes he had raped Thelma. Louise, who the audience later discover had been raped previously, shoots Harlan and begins the trouble that will only continue to snowball as the movie continues.

Thelma’s attraction to young males gets the women into further trouble when she sleeps with J.D., a self admitted robber. Thelma leaves him alone in her hotel room, where she is supposed to be safeguarding Louise’s entire life’s savings. As one would expect, J.D. takes off with all their money, but left Thelma with some tips for committing robbery. Following Louise’s breakdown over their loss of hope without money, Thelma uses tips from J.D.’s past to rob a market. She develops a knack for crime quickly. When Thelma and Louise are pulled over for speeding, Thelma shoots the police radio transmitter and car tires, and sticks the police officer in his trunk. As they continue on their way, in hopes of making it to Mexico, the women repeatedly encounter a trucker who catcalls and makes obscene gestures at them. When they get sick of it, they persuade him to pull off to a roadside stop and try to convince him to apologize for his rude treatment of women. When the trucker refuses to do so, they shoot his tanker truck and drive away to leave him with the explosion.

With the police on their tail, Thelma and Louise face fewer and fewer alternatives, despite their previous cleverness. A large squadron of police cars and helicopters chases them. Cornered, the women realize that they have lost everything; the future holds only misery. While sitting in a car surrounded by officers with guns pointed at them, Thelma and Louise decide that they do not want to get caught. They want to keep going, the only way they can. Taking off in their green Thunderbird, Thelma and Louise hold hands in a symbol of unity as the car launches off of a cliff into the Grand Canyon.

The independently minded women do not seem to have a place in their society. They resist male domination. However, when sexually victimized by men, they face skepticism as the predominant viewpoint stands that they must have brought rape on themselves. In their southern communities, women are viewed as weak, though Thelma and Louise are anything but fragile. Once they leave behind their repressive homes, they discover that the world has little else to offer for them, so they choose (somewhat impulsively) to leave it behind.

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