Thelma and Louise are two friends who decide to take a weekend trip into the mountains. However all does not go according to plan when in a diner parking-lot Louise shoots a man who attempts to rape Thelma. From here Thelma and Louise go on the run – robbing a bank and blowing up a gas tanker on the way. ‘Thelma and Louise’ is essentially a road movie, which embodies the spirit of the crime, thriller and buddy movie as well. As the film progresses the pair become closer, revealing more to each other about their past. The film ends with Thelma and Louise committing suicide together as an act of defiance. I believe that ‘Thelma and Louise’ is a feminist film and within the confines of this essay I aim to explore and explain that view.
One of the elements that make the film feminist is the portrayal of males. Within ‘Thelma and Louise’ there are only two male characters who are shown as being ‘good’, Jimmy and the central police officer on the hunt for Thelma and Louise. All of the others are shown in a negative light. For example, J.D (played by Brad Pitt) is a thief, Hal (Harvey Kietel) is only interested in women for sex.
This idea of sexual exploitation is a reoccurring theme within the film and a vehicle used to demonstrate the characters growth. For example when they are exploited at the beginning of the film they are obviously out of control of the situation, because Hal still has the ultimate power. However towards the end of the film Thelma and Louise assert themselves as in control when they blow up the petrol tanker.
As the film progresses, the protagonists become closer, sharing secrets about themselves and become more powerful as they realize that it is possible to escape the oppression they have experienced in their former lives. This is demonstrated in the end dialogue where Louise and Thelma decide to die rather than surrender themselves, it is a realization that they have the ultimate power and have moved from being weak, oppressed people to strong powerful women.
Within the film Thelma and Louise are shown as very attractive women, towards the end of the film many of the camera angles used to show them are low angle shots making them appear bigger and have more stature and command on the screen. This method is subtle and perhaps not noticed by the wide majority of cinema audiences and therefore creates a subliminal effect. However, the males within the film are shot as normal or from a high angle making them appear smaller and emasculated. There is one acception to this, the truck driver. When he is in his truck shouting abuse at Thelma and Louise he is shot from a point of view shot of the girls. This makes him appear larger, however when they stop and he gets out of the truck this effect is reversed making him appear smaller.
To conclude, there are many elements that make Thelma and Louise a feminist film, from the narrative ideals to the way in which it was shot.