Thelma and Louise (1991) The story includes the Journey of two best friends who find comfort in each from their dreary and mundane domesticated lives. The need for escape and freedom is introduced right from the beginning when Thelma has to ask her husband to go away for the week. The desire for pleasure and escapism overwhelms them when they are away from the domestic sphere. They feel as if something is missing and want to have time by themselves to really fgure out what that is. Thelma is a housewife under the control of her husband of many years, submissive nd sheltered. Louise is an independent, unmarried, low-income worker.
Both women are unfulfilled. Louise seems to have a liberation that Thelma yearns for and admires, and we get a sense that Louise feels maternal and protective towards her friend Thelma, who hasn’t been out in the wide world like she has. Identity/Butch Femme Thelma and Louise (1991) was the pro-feminist buddy movie which probably came closest to reproducing the generic narrative coding of “a road movie, a western, a buddy movie, an outlaw movie, all of which are recognised as ‘masculine’ genres that ave particular resonance as popular myths of specifically American identity” (Arthurs, 1995, p. 9) Road Movie/Freedom Literal and emotional Journey Transgressing gender boundaries Seeking fulfillment and escape Rebellion against the patriarchy The road brings transformation Thelma: “l feel really awake… You feel like that? You feel like youVe got something to live for now? ” Buddy Movie Cathy Griggers talks about Thelma and Louise losing their valuables as women of a lower middle class. They sacrifice security, their home, car, clothes and protection of heir bodies by their men and the law, in exchange for each other. To me, the ending was symbolic, not literal We did everything possible to make sure you didn’t see a literal death. That you didn’t see the car land, you didn’t see a big puff of smoke come up out of the canyon. You were left with the image of them flying. They flew away, out all the shackles that restrain them have no place in this world. The world is not big enough to support them I loved that ending and I loved the imagery. After all they went through, I didn’t want anybody to be able to touch them. ” (Callie Khouri) Western
Cowboy Iconography Traditional Ideologies Derogatory attitudes to women Performing masculinity and semiotics Taking control of their bodies in the face of crime We are now going to look at the women and their bodies’ in the film. We can discuss what makes them transgress gender boundaries – the crimes committed against them by Men (mainly Harlan’s mistake) forces them to commit further crime to gain control of their bodies. Bitches from Hell & Semiotics Semiotics shows how Thelma and Louise internalize their idea of masculinity; they dress male and accumulate male possessions along their Journey.
The cars, guns, dirty denim, tough boots, men’s t-shirts and hats, with a touch of lipstick construct a butch-femme identity with multiple gender codes and signs to develop meaning. Performing their idea of masculinity, the clothing they wear mirrors their emotional states. The gestures and expressions that they perform reflect the sense of control and self-confidence associated with men in the traditional Western Male figures The film uses social satire to convey negative stereotypes of men (the men that are trying to keep Thelma and Louise trapped within their femininity, as subservient.
The patriarchy they take to the road to escape from. Feminine revenge is the ultimate drive of the narrative – the men end up getting what’s coming to them! ‘These stereotypes include the piggish and domineering husband, the non-committal and narcissistic lover, the rapist (socio-path, woman hater), the irresponsible but sexually attractive adolescent outlaw (the good time boy) the infantile but aggressive truckdriver (the public sexual-harrassment offender)… and the paternalistic Detective Slocom (the Good Father who’s so god he can break he law without hesitation, entering Louise’s apartment illegally with a credit card). (Cathy Griggers 1993, p. 137) This links to the power of the gaze and control over their bodies. Do Thelma and Louise ever have the gaze fully? Is the gaze in the film flipped to portray the female characters in a role of power and control… Thelma: ‘l Just like to look at him’ Are they more masculine than the male fgures because they have control of their bodies and gained confidence and power because of this? The Car as the Gaze. Are Thelma and Louise Heroes or Victims? Are they victims of patriarchy? Can women be heroes?
Do they successfully transgress the confines of gender? Can they only become heroes through borrowing masculine traits? Bibliography -De Lauretis, Teresa (1984): ‘The Mythical Subject’, in Alice Doesn’t: Feminism, Semiotics, Cinema (London: Macmillan), pp. 113-134 -Creed, Barbara (2007) ‘The Neomythin Film: The Woman Warrior from Joan of Arc to Ellen Ripley. In Andris, S. and Frederick, U. (eds. ), Women Willing to Fight (Cambridge Scholars Publishing) – Thornham, Sue (2012) What if ‘had been the hero? , Chapter One of What if I Had Been the Hero? Investigating Women’s Cinema(BFl)