Thelma and Louise debuted twenty years ago, in 1991. The movie received six Academy Award nominations, including Best Actress nominations for both Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon, and won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
Thelma (played by Davis) is a passive housewife married to a controlling husband who isn’t ready to have children. Louise (played by Sarandon) is a single independent waitress. The two friends plan to take off for a weekend and they set off in Louise’s convertible. On their first night away, a man they run into at a bar tries to rape Thelma and Louise shoots him. They then take off in their car, trying to escape to Mexico, have a variety of adventures along the way, and eventually end up [spoiler alert!] driving off a cliff to avoid being aprehended by the police.
The movie was both applauded and criticized by feminists, the media and academia. A Time Magazine article from 1991 looks at two sides of this:
Women cheer the movie because it finally turns the tables on Hollywood, which has been too busy making movies about bimbos, prostitutes, vipers and bitches and glamourizing the misogynists who kill them to make a movie like Thelma & Louise.
As a bulletin from the front in the battle of the sexes, Thelma & Louise sends the message that little ground has been won. For these two women, feminism never happened. Thelma and Louise are so trapped that the only way for them to get away for more than two days is to go on the lam. They become free but only wildly, self-destructively so — free to drive off the ends of the earth.
I was fifteen years old when the movie was released; a budding woman and feminist. Although the movie is fiction, I feel like it taught me a lot about the real world. It taught me that I can run, but I cannot escape. It taught me to be wary of men, both the nice ones and the jerks. It taught me that I have choices, but sometimes none of them are good.
While the film taught me a lot of not so nice things about our patriarchal world, it also motivated me to be part of a movement to raise awareness and fight for change. Thelma and Louise was a part of my journey to becoming a feminist.
Has anything changed in those 20 years? We have not rid the world of controlling men. We still live in a rape culture. Women still face way too many imperfect choices. Are we making progress? I hope so. One day, I would like to show the movie to my daughter as a piece of historical interest, not as a reflection of her reality.
Photo credit: http://www.allocine.fr/film/fichefilm_gen_cfilm=6787.html via wikimedia