Essay, Pages 8 (1859 words)
Stereotypes of Women have been a part of the society and culture, and to this day, they are still present. “Cinematic images of woman have been so consistently oppressive and repressive that the very idea of a feminist filmmaking seems impossibility. The simple gesture of directing a camera toward act.” (Doane)
In this essay, I will be discussing about the film, Thelma & Louise (1991) directed by Ridley Scott. Thelma and Louise was a historically significant film for feminists in a lot of different ways.
As a response to what Susan Faludi discusses as the anti-feminist backlash of the 1980s, Thelma & Louise features feminist content and production context. Specifically, Thelma & Louise demonstrates American feminist film theory’s attention to analysis of patriarchy, positive images of women, the role of women in production, and subjects of gender and genre. (Helford)
Thelma and Louise are two friends who agreed to take on a weekend trip into the mountains. However, it took a turn when in a diner parking-lot Louise shoots an adult male who tries to rape Thelma.
From here, Thelma and Louise go on the tally – robbing a bank and blowing up a gas oiler. Thelma and Louise is fundamentally a router film, which exemplifies the spirit of the crime, thriller and companion film every bit good. As the movie progresses the support become closer, finding more to each other about their yesteryear. The movie ends with Thelma and Louise committing suicide together as an act of insurrection. I believe that ‘Thelma and Louise’ is a feminist movie and within the confines of this essay, I am to research and explicate that position.
One of the elements that make it a feminist film is the portraiture of males being the weaker gender. Within ‘Thelma and Louise’ there are only two male characters who are shown as being ‘good’, Jimmy and the police officer on the hunt for Thelma and Louise. All of the others are shown in a negative evident energy. For illustration, J.D (played by Brad Pitt) is a stealer. Hal (Harvey Kietel) who is always making obscene gestures is only interested in adult female for sex. This also shows that throughout a feminist film is the total number of consistent male characters are in the film and the significance of each male character.
This thought of sexual development is a reoccurring subject within the movie and a vehicle used to show the characters growing. For illustration, when they are exploited at the beginning of the film, they are clearly out of control of the state affairs because Harlan still has the ultimate power. However, as the film progresses especially towards the terminal of the movie, Thelma and Louise are seen to be in control of situations when we (as viewers) see the two characters deal with each occurrence with more composure and head on, keeping every situation contained.
As the movie progresses, the supporters become closer, sharing secrets about themselves and go more dominant as they realize that it is possible to get away the defeat they have experienced in their previous lives. This is established in the terminal dialogue where Louise and Thelma decide to decease instead than give up themselves. It is a realisation that they have the ultimate power and have moved from being weak laden people to strong, powerful and independent adult females in charge of their own life choices.
“When the film was released, there was controversy in the press, particularly related to its connection to feminism. Star Geena Davis, for example, disliked the pressures she felt of having to represent all women, and she decried the idea that a film starring women was necessarily feminist.” (Helford)
For feminist critics, the film features several connections to American feminist film theory from the 1970s through its release:
“Female Authorship. As just noted, the screenwriter was a female, Callie Khouri. Central to feminist approaches to film is the importance of women in production and not just on screen. Stars such as Susan Sarandon, who plays opposite Davis, are also part of “authoring” a feminist text.
Female Friendship. The strongest association to feminism may be its symbol of female friendship. Thelma and Louise are not only the central characters, but their bond and chemistry in the film is the very title of the film. As a duo, they demonstrate women’s lives beyond heteronormative romance imperatives suggested by the opening of the film in which Geena Davis’s Thelma illustrates the repressive life of the old-fashioned housewife, which she escapes with Louise. Retroactively applied, the film certainly passes the Bechdel Test.” (Helford)
Gender and Genre. Thelma & Louise challenges gendered genre norms, offering a rare (to date) female version of the male buddy film. The picture might be compared to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid(1969), for example, for its focus on outlaw life, living on the road, and the inclusion of violence. That one of the key scenes of violence in the film involves one “buddy” defending the other against attempted rape highlights the gendered struggles of women vs. men and potentially strengthens the feminist implications. The film has also been discussed by some critics as a take on the “rape-revenge movie,” offering additional feminist focus on gender and genre.
Resistance to Romantic Closure. While the origins of a female buddy film may be in the traditional woman’s film (precursor to the “chick flick”), Thelma & Louise resists emphasis on heteronormative romance, particularly the closure of the happy coupled ending. That the only option for our heroines is to end their lives rather than be caught and condemned by the (patriarchal) authorities literally illustrates the hesitance of representing female “buddies” as capable of the kind of antiheroic violence of men (such as Butch and Sundance who go down in a suggested blaze of bullets). A familiar refrain for feminists over the film’s ending was “Why didn’t they turn around and head straight for the cops?”
Lesbian Interpretation. Although the film directly references the women’s heterosexuality, their bond and final embrace does suggest to some viewers the possibility of a partnership more intimate than non-sexual friendship. While lesbianism is not inherently feminist, its rejection of heteronormativity has formed part of feminist theory, experience, and film criticism. Nonetheless, if the characters are read as lesbian, this limits the potential feminist resistance to romance of the female buddy film.
Limits. The fact that Thelma & Louise lends itself to feminist interpretation but can equally be discussed in non-feminist or even, in its violence, for example as anti-feminist, suggests that the most significant attribute of the film is its polysemy: its availability for multiple (even contradictory) interpretations. To maintain box office success, the more open to diverse readings a film is, the better, if this limits its potential feminist impact. In addition, the film partakes in typical Hollywood sexism and racism in its emphasis on the tale of two thin, young, white, “beautiful” women.
“Woman displayed as sexual object is the leitmotif of erotic spectacle. Mainstream film neatly combines spectacle and narrative. The presence of woman is an indispensable element of spectacle in normal narrative film, yet her visual presence tends to work against the development of a story-line, to freeze the flow of action in moments of erotic contemplation.” (Kaplan and Mulvey, Feminism & Film) This is because throughout the film, Thelma and Louise are constantly in situations where they are caught in sexual harassment situations. However, as the film progresses with the story revolving around the two characters, we see how female characters, big or small, plays a part in every narrative film.
“The signs in the Hollywood film convey the patriarchal ideology that underlies our social structures and that constructs women in very specific ways – ways that reflect patriarchal needs, the patriarchal unconscious.” (Kaplan, Women and Film) This is where throughout the film, the character progresses according to each male characters they encounter that shapes them to who they end up being by the end of the film.
“But it is significant that in all these films, when the man steps out of his traditional role as one who controls the whole action, and when he is set up as sex object, the woman then takes on the ‘masculine’ role as bearer of the gaze and initiator of action. She nearly always loses her traditionally feminine characteristics in so doing – not those of attractiveness, but rather kindness, humanness, motherliness.” In Thelma & Louise, Louise was portrayed as the dominant one by the way she dressed up and her characteristics itself as Louise. Her outfit portrays a tom-boyish look and she smokes in most of the scene. There was also one scene where Thelma imitated her actions and told Louis “I am Louise now” as she jokes around laughing and pretending to smoke.
In Thelma and Louise, the two lead characters who were females were in control of the representation. The protagonist being Thelma as the film follows her story whereas Louise, if to assign and arch-types, is the “older mentor” as a state of mine despite them being the same age.
In the film, it incorporates elements of the fugitive, the road, the buddy, the tragicomedy, modern western movie and the other insignificant characters involved. The film embodies a strong feminist message, concerning female empowerment and independence not only between characters but in terms of the production design (props), example, a gun that Thelma has but was not daring enough to use it.
“Although feminists have not always agreed about the usefulness of psychoanalysis, there has been general agreement about the limitations of an exclusive focus on sexual difference.” (Smelik) This is where in the film, towards the end of it, Thelma and Louise develops their female character further leaving us viewers, bringing in a factor of sexuality – female and female relationship – being a possible progression of the film ending.
Gender representation as the film puts women behind the wheel of a car, making them the center of a story and making them the story leaving men on the side line, characterised as both a protagonist and antagonist of which leaning more towards being the weaker gender. It also showed two women in roles usually represented by men in mainstream films today.
In the film, both of the characters were actually defending themselves. Louise shot Harlan as he was trying to rape Thelma. It was an act of self-defence. However, throughout the journey, they committed more crimes while they are on the run without a tinge of remorse or guilt showing how the feminist factor is incorporated in the film gradually which now leaves viewers to reconsider the protagonist and antagonist roles played around the two female character.
In conclusion, Thelma and Louise has a stronger lean towards feminism stereotype in terms of the narrative, character development and even the props used on a few occasions throughout the film. From the start of the film where we can see that Daryl is controlling Thelma, to the diner-carpark where Thelma almost got raped, to the sexual harassments they are getting from Hal from the truck. Thelma and Louise brace themselves through the journey and despite all that events, they managed to get out of it by deciding to commit suicide instead of turning themselves in.