Why Thelma & Louise Is Still Relevant (And Kicking Ass) 25 Years On...

Why Thelma & Louise Is Still Relevant (And Kicking Ass) 25 Years On...

Thelma & Louise was a controversial hit in 1991. 25 years later we're still waiting for the next great film about women.

I can’t tell you how old I was when I first watched Thelma & Louise, but I can tell you how it made me feel. It did what all movies should do - it made me feel alive. It woke me up.

I’d never seen two women behave like that before. And you know what? I haven’t since. It’s been exactly 25 years since Ridley Scott’s iconic road trip hit the big screen in 1991. 25 years since bored housewife Thelma (played by Geena Davis) left her husband some “stuff to microwave” and took off with best friend Louise (Susan Sarandon) in a ’66 T-Bird convertible.

It’s also 25 years since we saw two strong female leads propel their own narrative (independently of men) in a mainstream film - something I realised last month (over a curry, natch) with a friend. It shouldn’t still feel revolutionary, I thought. And yet: “WHY DOES IT STILL FEEL REVOLUTIONARY?!” I yelled between angry bites of lamb rogan. DVD night officially ruined.

As it happens, Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis feel the same way. When asked at Cannes whether Thelma & Louise would stand a chance of getting made today, Sarandon quipped: “Maybe as animation? I don’t think the studios have fallen off their horse and had some kind of epiphany about women in film.”

Thelma & Louise divided audiences at the time: it hit a nerve. Some critical reviewers (mainly men) labelled it “anti-male” - but they missed the point. Not only that, it was a huge commercial hit. So, why haven’t more kick-ass films about women been made since?

It might have something to do with how few women writers, directors and producers there are in Hollywood. In 2015, 19% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers working on the top 250 domestic grossing films were female, according to Forbes.

Newsflash: I don't have control over upping Hollywood demographics. But I can persuade you that watching Thelma & Louise this weekend is a really good idea - and, if you've never seen it before, you're in for SUCH a treat. Here are just a few reasons why it's so amazing...

There Are TWO Female Leads

Did someone just say two women leads? We're hyperventilating. It's absolutely crackers to think that a film featuring two female characters is still a rare thing on the big screen in 2016. Not only that, the men are bystanders - they exist to further Thelma and Louise's story. And what a story it is. This is a film about female friendship - which brings me onto my next point...

It Passes The Bechdel Test

What's that? Well, put simply, it's a benchmark test for movies that was masterminded by Alison Bechdel in 1985 and it goes something like this: (1) Does it have at least two women in it? (2) Do these two women talk to each other? (3) Do they talk about something other than a man? If you can find ten mainstream examples, I'll buy you a giant Toblerone.

The Script Was Written By A Woman

And you know what? It shows. Frustrated comedy writer, Callie Khouri, finally hit gold with an idea about "two women going on a crime spree." This isn't just a funny buddy film - and, in the hands of a male writer, it could've been. It is at times – but that’s not the point. When our two heroines take up arms in response to sexual violence it takes on gender politics, too. For this reason and so many more, it's fearless.

They're Not Victims

At no point in the film do we ever feel like Thelma & Louise aren't in control of their fate - and that's important because it's a rare thing in Hollywood. When both characters leave their claustrophobic lives behind - and take to the open road - the message is clear: they're done settling and they don't need a man to direct their course in life anymore.

Brad, Brad, Brad

Seriously, who would turn down the opportunity to salivate over bare-chested Brad Pitt in a stetson? NO ONE, that's who.

They're Over 29

Believe me, once you hit 33 you begin to notice these things. Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis were, at the time, 45 and 35 respectively. In a Hollywood world where actresses over the age of 35 may as well accelerate over a cliff a-la T&L, this is a point worth making. This shouldn't still be a thing. George Clooney doesn't have to deal with this nonsense - so why should we?

They Look Like Us

I mean, obviously they don't look like us - Geena Davis was a fashion model, for pity's sake - but they dress like us. They look cool in faded jeans and ripped tees - and it's kind of sweaty and dangerous. Which brings me onto another style point worth making: Susan makes me want to whack on a headscarf every time I'm in a car - even if that car is stuck in traffic on the M25.

The Road Is Ours, Too

Until I watched Thelma & Louise, I'd read a LOT of Jack Kerouac and just assumed that the poetic concept of "the road" belonged to men. I'd never seen two women own the road before - and make it their own. It's quite a lightbulb moment. I'm still waiting for the next one...

By Kat Lister


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