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Running from the Man Thelma and Louise is a historically significant film for feminists in that the themes presented in the 1991 film are still relevant in present day society. Brenda Cooper talks about mockery used throughout the film in her article, “‘Chick Flicks’ as Feminist Texts: The Appropriation of the Male Gaze in Thelma & Louise”,  and how it challenge male stereotypes, reverse objectification, and celebrate female friendship. “Mockery expresses a controlling coherent female perspective that disrupts the dominant narrative,” (Bobo, 10/5/17). The film emphasizes the male dominated legal system, which the two main characters, Thelma and Louise, continuously attempt to escape. Miller explores the purpose of guns in the film in her article, “The Gun in the Handbag, a Critical Controversy, and a Primal Scene.” They rebel against all types of patriarchal control and have behaviors and actions typically portrayed by males in Hollywood. Thelma waves around a gun and robs a store and together they force a policeman into the trunk of his own patrol car. In Glen Man’s article, “Gender, Genre, and Myth in Thelma and Louise,” it explores the two women’s growth over the course of the film and the meanings of their actions. As the movie goes on, the two women find themselves more and more constricted by the law, but also liberated by their personal freedom. Their initial constriction came from them fleeing the scene after Louise had murdered Harlan because Harlan and Thelma were seen dancing together all night, so no one would believe that the parking lot encounter between the two was rape. This is the catalyst that sets off their adventure through the open roads towards their idea of freedom. Thelma, a housewife, and Louise, a waitress, initially plan to enjoy a nice weekend vacation away. On the way, they make a quick stop at a bar where Thelma is assaulted by a man named Harlan. Louise finds Harlan and Thelma and rushes over to help Thelma get to safety by pointing a gun at Harlan. After a heated exchange between Louise and Harlan, Louise shoots Harlan. The two women hit the road and try to wrap their heads around the situation, but keep hitting dead ends as they realize the patriarchal society they exist in wouldn’t believe the situation that led to the murder. In an attempt to escape jail, the two girls plan to go to Mexico. During this journey, they go through  countless experiences that both constrict yet free them. Thelma picks up a sexy cowboy and reverses the typical role of woman objectification, but get robbed. This leads her to rob a store which sinks them into deeper trouble, yet shines a light on how women are capable of waving a gun around just like the men of Hollywood. Throughout all of this, they encounter a truck driver numerous times who makes lewd sexual suggestions towards the ladies, but they lure him to pull over and take control of the situation and make him feel remorse for his actions. Ultimately, the two women fly off the Grand Canyon after a wild car chase as their final disregard to the male dominated society they live in. In the article, Brenda Cooper explores patriarchy, the gaze, and spectators in Thelma and Louise. As Professor Bobo had defined in lecture, “patriarchy is generally thought of as historical, structural, systemic exploitation of women by men,” (Bobo, 10/3/17). Patriarchy is reproduced through the generations because of how the social structure is organized. “The film’s depiction of sexism and the marginalization women experience in their everyday lives represented an affirmation of women’s strength and a justification for their anger,” (Cooper, 2). This film arguably empowered women to take a stand against the injustices they faced in their everyday lives. While it may not have been on the same level as Thelma and Louise had, it is still significant that women are able to recognize and act against the oppression. The gaze is most films is typically coming from the eyes of males. Through this gaze, women are often viewed as “subordinate, passive, and powerless,” (Bobo, 10/3/17). The female gazes from Thelma and Louise appropriate the typical male gazes of common Hollywood films. The use of the character JD and Thelma’s objectification of him is one of the biggest example of females returning the gaze. In addition, the idea of “spectators” is a theoretical construction used to analyze how someone creates meaning after interacting with a cultural product— in this case film. While it received many negative reviews, many women viewers and critics raved over Thelma and Louise, describing it as “cathartic and affirming”(Cooper, 1). In Glen Man’s article, “Gender, Genre, and Myth in Thelma and Louise”, Man explores how Thelma and Louise base many of their actions off of their significant other and how they grow out of this dependence. Louise essentially decides on this weekend getaway to “disturb her boyfriend Jimmy enough to move him towards a firmer commitment,” (Man, 39). Thelma tags along and leaves her husband, Darryl, a note and dinner. Their actions are influenced by a system in which marriage is an essential part. Over the course of the film, we see the two women become more independent and detach themselves from the men in their lives and authority of the law. They take over roles traditionally played by males and resist compromise all the way to the end. We can see that Thelma and Louise assume male agency not only individually when Louise enacts revenge on Harlan and Thelma robs a liquor store, but also when they kidnap the highway patrolman and blow up the truck driver’s fuel tank. In addition, while JD does cause mishap to the two women, he also empowers Thelma. She gains “sexual liberation in her relationship with JD,” and mimics his dominant male act when she robs the liquor store just as she was shown (Man). Additionally, both women gain independence through their resistance to compromise. Louise throws her makeup out of the car after instinctively reaching for it when stared at. She resists the societal expectation of women to constantly keep up with their looks. In addition, the two women refuse the possibility of imprisonment when found surrounded by law enforcement, and instead stick it to the man and fly off the Grand Canyon together. Man also talks about the different genres that Thelma and Louise takes on: the western, the gangster, and the melodrama. The western is represented through how the two women attempt to flee to Mexico to live freely from both the men in their lives as well as the law. They appropriate the male role and ride through open spaces, shoot the bad guy, and stage a robbery all while their men stay home. The gangster is shown through Thelma and Louise both overcoming their dependence on men and realize their own wants and needs as women and how they will continue to be oppressed by society. As “feminist gangsters”, they kill a man, rob a store, kidnap a police officer, and assault a lewd truck driver (Man, 44). The melodrama is depicted through the frustration the two women face when trying to figure out what to do in the different situations they face throughout the film. They neither admit defeat, nor achieve true independence. Miller examines the purpose of guns in the film. In traditional Hollywood films, women rarely were ever in possession of guns, and if they were, it was in gangster movies where women were “hard-bodied and at time flipped-out maternal figures” or the actresses are playing unassuming novice detective roles where a gun is their only line of defense (Miller, 202). However, in Thelma and Louise, neither Thelma nor Louise really fit into these categories. When the detective questioned the waitress about the shooting, the waitress said that “neither of them were the type to pull something like this” (Thelma and Louise). When we first Thelma holding the gun, she lifts it with her thumb and forefinger and lightly tosses it into her bag, but by the end of the film, both women are handling guns with finesse. When Thelma robs the convenience store, she waves around the gun and exudes confidence which shocks her husband as he watches and listens to the security footage. The gun acts as a source of empowerment for the two women. Cooper explores mockery in Thelma and Louise, and we see an example of how male stereotypes are challenged through Thelma’s husband, Darryl. At the beginning of the film, he is very rude to Thelma and is very demanding and controlling over her. Initially, Thelma appears to be very submissive to her husband and hints at how he is probably cheating on her, but isn’t willing to speak up. He exudes a very macho and dominant personality towards his wife, but is actually very dependent of her. He is incapable of doing basic things like putting on his watch on his own and relies on Thelma to do it for him. After Thelma and Louise are off on their weekend getaway, viewers see that Darryl is completely incapable of taking care of himself and has to live in filth without Thelma to cook and clean for him. Throughout the movie, her self confidence increases and she is more blunt with him as they speak over the phone. In addition, during Thelma and Louise’s drive towards Mexico, they have several encounters with a lewd truck driver who continuously makes sexual gestures towards them. After numerous encounters, they bait him into pulling over and reverse the harassment. Together, they held control of the situation over the gas tank driver and he is completely helpless. Such actions are typically only depicted by males in film, but these two gun wielding women decide to take matters into their own hands and assert their dominance over the truck driver. In addition to challenging male stereotypes, Cooper talks about how the women in the film reverse objectification. Thelma uses JD as a sex object and objectifies him by talking about his “cute butt” and having no-strings-attached sex with him. While Louise was initially unsure about taking him along with them, she tells Thelma that she has “finally been laid right” (Thelma and Louise). Women are often put down for having sex for their own pleasure, but Thelma praises her for having such an experience. Lastly, Cooper examines the celebration of female friendships. As the film progresses, Thelma and Louise come face to face with more and more challenges that really test their friendship. These challenges ultimately help them grow closer to each other as they attempt to overcome each obstacle. They grow more confident and powerful together as they realize the oppression they have faced in their lives. They ultimately drive off the Grand Canyon together as a show of power rather than to face the harsh patriarchal society they exist in. They essentially decide their own future instead of having it dictated by the men in their lives. “They resist to the end … to compromise,” (Man, 40). Their female friendship leading the storyline makes Thelma and Louise the perfect example of a female “buddy” film. Throughout the majority of the film, Thelma was entirely innocent because “she was the victim of the sexual assault, and not the one who pulled the trigger,” (Cooper). However, loyalty to her friendship with Louise is reaffirmed after calling home in the middle of the night and not getting an answer from Darryl. In addition, the two women are quite opposite from each other as Thelma embodied the idea of the traditional 1950’s female whereas Louise represented a more modern woman. Thelma is a homemaker who is dependent on her husband and has to ask for permission before setting out on her weekend getaway with Louise. On the other hand, Louise works at a diner to support herself and is able to think for herself. She possesses more stereotypical male characteristics of assertiveness and independence. Louise is more of the alpha and is constantly taking care of Thelma. She rescues Thelma in the diner parking lot from Harlan and babysits her afterwards while trying to figure out what to do herself. On their way out of the country, Louise refuses to drive through Texas. Later in the film, we learn that Louise had been raped in Texas and that she refuses to talk about it. This attitude of repressing her feelings is typical of how males are assumed to act. We see Thelma’s character change after Louise and her are robbed by JD. She is more assertive and robbed a store to make up for the money that she essentially lost. After that, the two women act more as equals than as an alpha and beta. Thelma’s character changes from passive to active whereas Louise remains fairly the same throughout the movie. This highlights how independence and assertiveness is superior to meekness. The entire film centers around the male dominated legal system. Thelma and Louise are running from the law, but moreover, they are running away from the man. As the movie goes on, the two women find themselves more and more constricted. Their initial constriction came from them fleeing the scene after Louise had murdered Harlan because of their fear of not being believed. Harlan and Thelma were seen dancing together all night, so Louise feared no one would believe that the parking lot encounter between Thelma and Harlan was rape because they “just don’t live in that kind of world,” (Thelma and Louise). When JD robs the women, Thelma decides to rob a convenience store which only adds to their charges. They force a policeman into the trunk of his patrol car and lock him in there in an attempt to delay the inevitable. They eventually find themselves stuck between the options of imprisonment and death and they decide on the latter.Thelma and Louise are two different women who come together and grow together in their time of struggle. They are free and confined at the same time. Thelma is bound to her husband and Louise to her job and to an absentee boyfriend. After murdering Harlan, the women start running from the patriarchal legal system and it is because of this that they actually start having real freedom in their lives. While they are confined because they are fugitives, they are metaphorically free— Thelma finds herself free enough to have sex for pleasure of the first time in her life, and Louise no longer hung up on the idea of marriage. Their experiences shape them as individuals, but their friendship gives them the strength to pursue such aspirations. The film explores feminist themes that were not only relevant in 1991, but also today. Thelma and Louise really highlights how our society is not as progressive as we may think it is.


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