February 20 2017
I've always marveled at the critics--invariably female--who deemed Thelma and Louise (1991) to be a groundbreaking movie about "strong women" taking on a male-dominated society.
Such as the Atlantic's Raina Lipsitz, writing this valentine in 2011, the 20th anniversary of the release of the Susan Sarandon/Geena Davis vehicle:
It's about escaping, however fantastically, the agonizing constraints of gender, class, time, and place.
"Something's crossed over in me and I can't go back," explains Thelma, "I mean, I just couldn't live." She has lost the desire and even the capacity to return to her old life of downtrodden domesticity and her brutish, domineering husband. Earlier in the film Louise tells her, "You get what you settle for," and, by the movie's end, both women are through with settling. "I don't remember ever feelin' this awake," says Thelma as they drive through the desert in the middle of the night, leaving their old lives behind. "Everything looks different. You know what I mean ... Everything looks new. Do you feel like that? Like you've got something to look forward to?" In today's movies, getting a ring from a man has replaced authentic moments of personal transformation and spiritual awakening as the high point of women's lives.
Actually, Thelma and Louise is about two women doing dumb and dumber things.
Some drunk guy insults Thelma...so Louise kills him. Then Thelma falls for the oldest con in the book: Sleeping with a charming drifter who--surprise, surprise!--steals all of Louise's cash and promptly disappears. Then, to make it up, Thelma robs a convenience store at gunpoint. Good move, girls! Then they 1) stuff a state trooper into the trunk of his car; and 2) blow up the fuel tank of a truck. A nice cop tries and tries to persuade the pair to surrender as they're being chased by the FBI, but noooo. Instead of thinking--hey, maybe Gloria Allred could get us off!--they drive at high speed straight into the Grand Canyon, wrecking a perfectly fine vintage 1966 Ford Thunderbird in the process.
Gee, that's escaping the agonizing constraints of gender, class, time and place for you! No wonder people think women are dizzy dames.
So it was refreshing to read this column by the Aspen Times's Glenn Beaton, who thinks that Thelma and Louise were just as stupid as I did. But Beaton thinks there's one thing even stupider: The Democratic Party these days:
In another story — call it “The Dems” — the junior political party in America launches an extended road trip for their soon-to-be-elected president. But as in “Thelma and Louise”, things go south quickly.
Their candidate gets insulted by a provocateur and five-time bankrupt real estate developer with orange hair who fails to grab her and so she fails to shoot him. But she does have fainting fits, gets drunk and (allegedly) goes on a crime spree that draws the attention of the FBI.
The candidate stays one step ahead of the cops, who aren’t actually chasing very hard, but eventually the voters catch up with her. She and the other Dems lose the election.
Along the way, they also lose most of the governorships, lose the state legislatures, lose Congress, lose the Supreme Court, lose 30,000 emails, lose influence and lose a bunch of influence-peddling speaking engagements.
Then they lose their cool. They take time out from their nonstop moral preening in the rearview mirror for a temper tantrum.
For years, these losers have been proclaiming that their opponents are on the “wrong side of history” in politics, which is like being on the wrong side of the road on a road trip. But now they’ve learned that both in history and on road trips, it’s tough to make predictions, especially about the part in front of you. And that makes them so mad.
That, and losing.
They demand a recount. They ask the Electoral College to go rogue. They blame it all on the Russians — after giving them a pass on their Crimean conquest and Syrian slaughter.
Some refuse to attend the inauguration. Some call on the newly elected president to resign and, if he doesn’t, imply that he should be impeached or worse.
Their ideas are like Thelma’s 1966 Thunderbird convertible: fun and eye-catching, but unsafe at any speed.
And they can’t find anyone to drive. They can’t find someone to chair the Democratic National Committee after the past two were caught cheating. The recent possibilities include a Louis Farrakhan follower whom even fellow Dems have labelled anti-Semitic, a Socialist from the last administration (and the last century) and the head of the biggest abortion operation in the country.
While Middle America celebrates their soaring 401(k) plans, the Dems boycott hearings to confirm the new president’s cabinet. They protest in the streets. They name-call everyone who disagrees with them.
They hang and burn the new president in effigy, call his immigrant wife a prostitute and mock their young son as autistic.
And they make good on their threats to leave the country. Oops, I got that part wrong. But one Dem state does fantasize about resurrecting the Confederacy by seceding from the Union.
They threaten to filibuster the new president’s nominee for the Supreme Court, thereby egging the Republicans into abolishing the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees (as the Dems themselves abolished it for district court and appellate court nominees) so that they forfeit the leverage they would have down the road in the next nomination.
Beaton thinks the Democrats are on the edge of the Grand Canyon right now. Thelma and Louise ended with a double suicide palmed off to the audience as an act of heroism stance. The question is: Will the Democrats' road trip end in suicide as well? They all just loved Thelma and Louise, so I'm thinking not.