Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday Salon: Thelma and Louise: No Wonder...! (20 Years Later)

This is not one of my all time favorite films. In fact, it's not even a true favorite at all. But I was reading Robin Bates' blog post on the 20 Year Anniversary of 'Chicks Who Kick Butt' and liked some points he made and wanted to make sure to share. As usual, with Robin's posts, it is thoroughly thought-provoking and not meant to be read in three seconds or less. Robin's blog is one of those whose names I absolutely love: Better Living Through Beowulf. How Great Literature Can Change Your Life. He talks about all manner of things though and he takes seriously, his blog's tagline. I love how he sometimes equates baseball and football with themes and characters from great literature when he's in a sports frame of mind.

Anyway, I basically agree, more or less, with Robin's views and those of his sources. I just thought I'd add my own two or three cents worth today. When we talk about this film, like it or not, it's the explosive ending we talk about. Since, to my mind, everything that happens before in THELMA AND LOUISE is just impetus driving them to that final flight off the cliff. (Really, any other ending would have flattened the film, as Robin says in a comment response.) That 'leap' is the metaphorical f**k you to everything and everyone - mostly male - who have pissed the two women off in the entire movie (their entire lives). It is also a finger at us - society - but that's understandable. I mean, there comes a time when a woman can only take so much. (Though throughout history, we seem to have 'taken' a helluva lot.) That was my point - in a roundabout way- when I brought up the film at the end of my post about the colorfully named artist Rembrandt Peale's family life and his mother's death when Peale was 8 years old. It was really a throwaway line, but then it made me think maybe I should say a bit more.

I still am amazed it took women so long to take some kind of action against the injustices of a society that, over history, did not seem to value their existence except as sexual objects or brood mares. I'm NOT suggesting we all blow up trucks or shoot anyone or jump off a cliff or even that this action, in and of itself, is devoutly to be wished. Though these actions do occasionally flash through my mind, especially when reading history. Not to put too fine a point on it, I'm sure these actions did flash through many women's minds over the years when faced with little - if any - control over anything important that might, remotely, have have anything to do with their best interests.

But, it occurred to me, while reading about Peale's life, that, of course, 17 children (his mother died when he was 8 after having given birth to 17, only 6 of whom survived) seems excessive to us now. But even then surely there might have been someone who thought that maybe, this was not such a GOOD thing? I don't care how many farm hands you needed in the fields. And in Peale's family's case, there was not even the case. Or did this all come about because medicine was in such an infantile stage (which it really wasn't if you check out the medicinal knowledge abroad in the land in ancient Rome, not to mention, in the Middle East, but that's a story for another day), it was expected that some women would just have to give their lives to populate the earth? And if they didn't like the whole idea - oh well, tough. Jeez, it's a wonder any woman in her right mind ever married.

(Though I'm sure that even now AND throughout history there have been women who thought giving birth to 17 kids or more was/is a good idea. I'm not saying that ALL women must have felt the oppression this implies. I am not speaking for ALL women.)

Thelma and Louise were two characters whose ending was pre-ordained by the depth of outrage the males in their vicinity experienced when affronted by women who dared take offense at the treatment received at their hands OR who dared, occasionally, to laugh at men. (So in a way, the plot is actually driven by the reactions of men.) But Thelma and Louise's understanding of that simple fact is the spur at the end. Most male anger directed at the film appears to have taken affront at the whole idea of women daring to dish men. So as a 'wake-up' call I don't know how successful the thing was. But the film came at a good time, I think. Only because it actually showed women DARING. Not putting up with any more crap than they had to - though in the end of course, it means their destruction anyway. But the film became part of our vernacular and the object of many satirical jabs and pretensions of wit.

Driven by inclination, perhaps even by tunnel vision and by history, these two particular women had no choice but to do what they did: learn to fly. But gravity was against them. Despite what we know happened to that car and those bodies dashed to pieces on the rocks below, the ending does have a sort of dignity and graceful nobility. (After all, we're not actually shown the car falling.) Yeah, women are capable of l'esprit de gare. Maybe that is what rankled men in the audience. That and the unpalatable fact that Thelma and Louise preferred death to being dealt with by the men and the system which held power over them at that particular point in time. I mean, what was wrong with those bitches!?


  1. I love this bit: :...these two particular women had no choice but to do what they did: learn to fly. But gravity was against them."

  2. Thank you, Jacqueline. I do my best around here to come up with nice bits now and again. ;)

  3. As I said elsewhere on this blog, my mother, a fountain of wisdom, told me to look at this movie alagorically, but not literally, the hidden meanings, the possibilities, the questions one ponders. And, as we know, our mothers were often right!

  4. I completely lost interest in this movie once Brad Pitt was no longer in it! Seriously, I don't remember thinking, at the time this came out, that these women had no other choice--that thought is something that has come to me more as I've thought about it.

  5. You're very kind in your comments, Yvette. By the way, I'm interested in how women respond to the Harvey Keitel character, who was the one man I thought was handled at all sympathetically. Or do women viewers see him as too paternalistic? My favorite line of his, by the way, is delivered to Brad Pitt--basically telling him that, if he doesn't come clean, "your misery will be my life's mission." I think he wants to do anything do wipe the smirk off Pitt's face.

    He succeeds.

  6. Kathy: Your mother was a very wise woman. As always, Kathy, thanks for your comments on all and sundry. We have good conversations around here. :)

  7. Lisa: Possibly, that's the power of an idea. A little bit of a spark at first, nothing much, then later it grows as you fan it. The fact that we're still talking about this film in this way 20 yeas later, means 'something happened.'

  8. Robin: I went back and cruised the first part of my post and edited out all the bumps. I must have written it when I was half-asleep. My only excuse. Pardon my flubs.

    Harvey Keitel always brings a little craggy-faced empathy to most parts he plays.
    I have a feeling he was cast for that effect. If I'm remembering correctly - I only saw this film once, years ago - wasn't he one of the few characters in the story who gave the impression of being, more or less, 'centered'? And also, not thoroughly obnoxious? Though he didn't seem inclined to want to want to really help the two women. Probably thought they were spinning their own web and didn't want to get caught up in it.

    A man, I think, who will probably spend a great deal of his life regretting stuff.

    Now this is off the top of my head without any visual prompts. Maybe I'm remembering it wrong.

    But this film, really, doesn't leave much opportunity to sympathize or appreciate anyone but the main characters. In this respect I think it really was a 1950's cartoon of a movie. Tom and Jerry jump off a cliff. Except with girl mice.

    I'm sorry. Obviously it's early and I must need coffee. Ha!


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