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Question for Discussion: What does the film, Thelma
and Louise
(1991), tell us about the social status and
roles of women in American society in the last
decades of the twentieth century?

Reading: (1) Thelma and Louise memorable quotes;
(2) Desson Howe"s Review of Thelma and Louise;
(3) Linda Lopez McAlister's Review of Thelma and Louise

Journal Assignment:  Why do Thelma and Louise become
outlaws and quickly find it impossible to return to their 
normal lives?  Why can't they afford to turn themselves in?

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Thelma and Louise

The Backlash against Women in the 1980s
and 1990s

The Struggle for Women's Rights in the 1990s

Women's Lives in the 1990s

Women and Poverty in the 1990s

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"They achieve what the existentialist philosophers call transcendence. Having once experienced what it is to make their own choices, speak with their own voices, and take responsibility for their own actions, they are unwilling to relinquish that freedom. And they choose freely and with full awareness of the meaning of their choice not to relinquish it. It is an extraordinary resolution that ennobles Thelma and Louise--the characters and the film. And it is a stinging indictment of this society that the choice they make is the sane and reasonable one."
                                   
Linda Lopez McAlister

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1. Do you agree with Linda Lopez McAlister that Thelma and Louise achieve liberation:

"They achieve what the existentialist philosophers call transcendence. Having once experienced what it is to make their own choices, speak with their own voices, and take responsibility for their own actions, they are unwilling to relinquish that freedom. And they choose freely and with full awareness of the meaning of their choice not to relinquish it. It is an extraordinary resolution that ennobles Thelma and Louise--the characters and the film. And it is a stinging indictment of this society that the choice they make is the sane and reasonable one."

2. What are some of the characteristics of the many men that Thelma and Louise confront on their journey? How do these men treat women?

3. What does Louise mean when she asks Thelma: "Is he your husband or your father"?

4. What does Louise mean when she says: "You get what you settle for"?

5. What does Thelma mean when she says:  "But, umm, I don't know, you know, something's, like, crossed over in me and I can't go back, I mean I just couldn't live."?

6.  Why do you think men like the truck driver and Harlan treat Thelma and Louise the way that they do?

7. Do you agree with one reviewer who argues that Thelma and Louise adopt "the male manners and methods" they despise:

"Also they are unable to win on their own terms; in adopting male manners and methods they stoop to the level of the men they despise; but we are made to feel, rightly or wrongly, that they are justified at every turn, even the Chief of Police (Harvey Keitel) ironically their greatest threat, becomes compassionate to their plight.

8.   Why do Thelma and Louise decide to drive their car off the cliff at the end of the movie?  What is the significance of their joining and raising their hands as they drive off the cliff?

9.  What is Thelma like before she goes on her journey with Louise?  Has she really ever had a life of her own?

10.  Why does Louise hate Thelma's husband, Darryl, and think that he is a pig?

11.  Do you agree with Louise that Thelma's husband, Darryl,  is a Pig?  Is his character really believable?  Would a man really treat his wife like that in the early 1990s?

12.  Why do you think that detective Hal Slocum sympathizes with Thelma and Louise?  What does he know about Louise that allows him to understand her?

13.  Do you agree that by the end of the movie Thelma and Louise have switched roles, and Thelma is now the stronger, more focused and determined of the two? Why won't Thelma let Louise negotiate a surrender with Hal Slocum?

14.  Do you think that Louise learns to be more compassionate and less hard on herself and Thelma?

15.  Why do you think that the police are so determined to stop Thelma and Louise, even though it means killing them?  Why won't they let Hal Slocum try to negotiate their surrender?

16.  What does Louise mean when she tells Thelma: "You finally got laid properly, that's so sweet."  What does Thelma's flirtation with J.D. (Brad Pitt) add to the movie?

17. Why won't Louise allow Jimmy to go with them, especially after he proposed to her and gave her a ring?  Is Jimmy really ready to settle down with Louise and have the kind of committed relationship with her that Louise wants?

18.  Why is it so hard for Thelma and Louise to be independent, confident, and strong women?  What keeps them from finding themselves in their old lives?

19.  What do you think the bumpersticker, "Thelma and Louise Live" is trying to convey?  Is Thelma and Louise really a hopeful movie?