By Diana Martinez
At this point I had been exposed to feminism as a child, but I had never seen any women as brazen and kick-ass as these two characters. Before I knew what patriarchy was, I understood it through this movie.
I was too young to recognize sexism, but I saw it there on the television screen. I watched as these young women fought for justice throughout the story. And in that final scene of both tragedy and triumph, I witnessed the essence of the never-ending fight for equality. As a young girl, Thelma and Louise impacted me in an indescribable manner. It taught me to never give up on a fight for justice. It also showed me some great examples of strong, independent women.
Last month, I had the opportunity to attend the 20th anniversary of Thelma and Louise at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Los Angeles. Seeing the movie on the big screen, retouched from its original negative, was a monumental experience for me. After the screening, actress Geena Davis, along with screenwriter Callie Khouri and producer Mimi Poulk Gitlin, gave a question and answer session. You can imagine how ecstatic I was to see them speak. Thanks to SPARK Summit, it was my second time seeing Davis speak. And of course she brought up the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and gave the startling statistic that only 1/3 of the characters in children’s movies are female and 1/5 of people in crowd scenes are female. This under-representation limits the role models young girls have in the media. It also gives the illusion that women are not as important and therefore have less time on the screen.
Davis also disclosed to us that she used to want to be in action films, but there is an obvious lack of female actors in action movies. In fact, Thelma and Louise is one of the only action films I’ve seen that does not over sexualize its female characters. The two characters start out the film as traditional, beautiful young women of the South. As time wears on, they de-feminize more and more. They strip themselves of their jewelry, stop curling their hair, and they wear a token from each man they encounter on the trip.
Khouri also commented on the obsession of female beauty in the film industry. “Women are pretty, and that’s how they want you to be,” Khouri said. “But you end up as you really are and you’re incredible.” What Khouri says is true; Society wants us to be a particular way, but we have the power to become something else — something more genuine and incredible than what the world expected of us.