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Even in today's growing world of feminism, young girls, as well as grown women, are being taught by the media to organize their lives around men. Their needs, expectations, work schedules, ideas, and interests become second to the men in their lives. All too often the media associates power and status to men, only to strengthen the barriers between the male and female genders. Take for example Hollywood, where "women get only about a third of all movie and TV roles, and last year earned less than male actors in all age categories..."(Eby, 1). And even though gender should not be used as the determining factor of what one can and cannot do, Hollywood, as well as everywhere else, has proven that the old habits of gender discrimination die hard, if at all.
Luckily, there exist screenwriters and filmmakers who aren't afraid to step outside the limitations of gender, stirring up some controversy. Callie Khouri, creator of "Thelma and Louise" is the exception to this rule. Awarded "Best Original Screenplay", the film challenges our preconceived notions of gender limitations by "giving a feminine twist to a pair of all too familiar Hollywood genres, the road picture and the buddy picture"(NY Times, 1991). The "road and buddy movie" usually calls for men in the lead roles, whereas "Thelma and Louise" called for Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon. A film such as this one allowed for two women to get into dangerous trouble, enjoy themselves, and "unmask the other sex"; actions normally reserved for men (NY Times, 1991).
According to Ms. Khouri, the script of "Thelma and Louise" was infact, "a conscious effort to counter what [she] sees as Hollywood's tendency to limit women's roles to easily identifiable types such as bimbos, whores, and nagging wives"(NY Times, 1991). She therefore uses the characters in the movie not so much to prove a point, but instead to make a point. At the same time that Ms. Khouri is making her point, the movie becomes somewhat of a catharsis for women.
"Thelma and Louise" is supposed to be "about what every woman knows"(Eby,4). Though rape is a major issue that is used in the movie, it is not supposed to be the only issue women relate to. The general comparison between the women on screen and the women in the audience should be the feeling of at one time or another having been threatened, having been treated as inferior, or having found oneself in situations where a woman's voice is never louder than a man's. One example of a cathartic, yet controversial scene would be that in which Louise kills Thelma's assailant, Harlan. This scene itself carries a great deal of symbolism. Harlan, the rapist who is eventually shot, becomes a representation of all things that hold women back. He becomes the wall which holds back women from fulfilling their "wishes, ambitions, pleasures, and impulses"(NY Times, 1991). Thelma is who we are, a prisoner behind this wall and Louise is who we want to become... the prisoner who breaks free and confronts those who held her back.
Another cathartic scene is that in which Thelma and Louise confront the truck driver who has been harassing them the entire distance of their road trip. That truck driver is someone almost every woman has dealt with at some time or another. "There is not a woman in the world who has not dealt with that guy. He is out there in force, but when you're walking down the street and guys do that, what you're supposed to do as a woman is ignore it"(LA Times, 1991). After ignoring the truck driver throughout most of the movie, Thelma and Louise take a stand, not only for themselves but also for all the women who have wished they could say something back, but haven't for whatever reason it may be. All the suppressed emotions and unsaid words of both the woman on screen and those sitting in the audience manifest themselves into an explosion which blows up the truck driver's sense of power... not to mention the truck itself.
Feminism has often been confused with male-bashing, as is the case with the motivation behind "Thelma and Louise". According to Ms. Khouri, "its none of these things"(LA Times, 1991).
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Films, Thelma Louise, Callie Khouri, Geena Davis, Feminism, Buddy film, Gender role, Khouri, Susan Sarandon
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