The recent articles celebrating Thelma & Louise’s 20th anniversary transported me back in time and reminded me of what a revelation the movie had been.
What started out as a weekend getaway for Geena Davis’ goofy Thelma, who perfectly complemented Susan Sarandon’s edgy Louise, quickly turned into a road trip to hell for our heroines. But along the way, they freed themselves and ultimately committed one final act of defiance.
Weren’t we all happy for the sexually frustrated Thelma when Brad Pitt’s drifter provided her with a proper lay? Lord knows she couldn’t count on her controlling husband Darryl to do the trick. As Thelma noted, you could park a car in the shade of Darryl’s ass.
At least Louise could count on her on-and-off again boyfriend Jimmy – Michael Madsen and his serious stare – to retrieve money for her. But you got the feeling Louise had been taking care of herself for a long time. From the way she rid the world of Thelma’s attempted rapist to the way she strutted around in that white tank top – challenging a man who stared too long with “What are you looking at?”– Louise’s attitude and behavior awed me. I was a young college student at the time, and I hoped I would never be confronted with the same challenges and decisions as Louise, but if so, I wanted to act as bravely and confidently as she did.
After the credits rolled, my friend and I didn’t feel like going back to campus. Thelma, Louise and their haunting yet liberating ending energized us. It might come as a surprise to moviegoers raised on cinema post-Thelma & Louise, but we weren’t used to seeing onscreen females take matters into their own hands. Just a few months earlier, I had been blissfully surprised during The Silence of the Lambs when Clarice Starling, a trained FBI agent, shot Buffalo Bill. I had kept waiting for the menfolk to swoop in and save the fairer sex, even if the fairer sex was packing heat and more than capable of saving her own ass.
So, after Thelma and Louise decided not to go back, after they decided to keep going, my friend and I loaded into her car. No, we didn’t drive into the Grand Canyon, but we drove until we felt like going back. It was our homage to Thelma and Louise.