How Does Ridley Scott Create and Destroy Gender Stereotypes in Thelma and Louise

Monday January 10, 2022

In the 1991 film Thelma and Louise, the director Ridley Scott creates and destroys gender stereotypes successfully of that period in time and helps us to believe that the characters portrayed by Susan Surandon and Geena Davis were real. Here are a few examples of gender stereotypes: In the first scene of the movie, Thelma was in her kitchen wearing a frilly and flowery night gown and the phone was ringing and she called to her husband, “I’ll get it.” This shows that Thelma is a house slave and Ridley Scott dipicts this as he films Thelma on a low angle and when Thelma’s husband Darryl walks into the kitchen, he is filmed on a low angle to make him seem a lot bigger and fiercer than he really is. He is shown as already in his work uniform and this tells us that Thelma is a housewife and her entire day is pent locked up inside the house preforming chores. When Thelma is just about to ask Darryl if she can go for the weekend on a roadtrip with Louise, she got scared and ended up asking him if he wanted anything special for dinner that night. To which Darryl simply replies, “Thelma, I don’t give fuck what we have for dinner tonight. I might not even make it home from work tonight.” This shows that Darryl is an unfaithful husband and is having an affair. Thelma suspects this and states, “it’s funny how many people want to buy a carpet on a Friday night. You would have thought they would have forgotten about it for the weekend.” To that Darryl replies, “well it’s a good thing your no regional manager then, and I am.” He then swings his keys around on his finger as if to say, I am better than you, you are worthless. The second scene I am going to describe is where Louise is at work in the diner that she work at and she is depicted as having her hair tied up in a neat bun, showing her as a couped up child who just wants to break free of her immaginary prison. She is wearing her usual uniform of a long white dress and apron. There is a pan shot of her at eye level moving across the diner serving people as she goes. This shows that women in this time cannot have highly paid jobs and they must either be a housewife or work in a dead end, minimum wage job where she does not get the respect that she deserves. The next scene I am going to describe is the scene in which Thelma is packing fro her road trip with Louise after Darryl had left to go to work. She had never had as much fun before and had never packed like it. She didn’t know what she should take, so she just topples the contents of her drawers into many suitcases, she then looks in her bedside cabinet and takes out her earings and finds a revolver that Darryl had given her to protect herslef when he was a t work. Thelma takes the revolver out and holds it with her thumb and forefinger. This creates a gender stereotype as it shows that women aren’t meant to hold guns. Thelma then drops it into one of her suitcases as if she didn’t know the full capabilities of what damage the small silver thing in her hands could do. Later on in the movie, Thelma brings out the revlver when she is in Louise’s car and turns to Louise and asks if Louise can take care of it. Louise replies shocked, “goddamnit Thelma, why in the hell did you bring that?” To which Thelma replies, “snakes, bears, psycho killers. You never know what could happen, look can you take it? I don’t even know how to use it.” “Well put it in my purse then,” Louise replies. This shows that Louise is a much stronger woman than Thelma and she had become tough after what happened to her in Texas. The last scene I am going to describe which creates gender stereotypes is the scene in the bar where Thelma and Louise are sitting at a table in a Western bar and the waitress walks up to them and asks if they would like andything to drink. The waitress is in the same conditions that Louise was in at the start of the movie in the diner. Louise states that she doesn’t wnat any drinks, but Thelma orders two alcholholic drinks and the waitress nods and walks away. Louise looks surprised, “Thelma! I’ve never seen you like this, you’re always so sedate!” “I’ve had it up to my ass with sedate!” Thelma smiles, “I just want to let my hair down.” This shows that Thelma is acting out of character and just wants to have fun. This is where the well dressed, well mannered, charming Harlan walks over to them. He is filmed on a very low angle. “Well hello ladies,” he says, “isn’t this place a bit rough for bauties like you?” Thelma is flattered by the attention that Harlan gives her, but Louise doesn’t buy it. She realises what Harlan is quickly as it shows a man just like him flattered her back in Texas. “Oh I’m sorry,” Louise states, “we’re having private convorsation here.” “Oh right okay ladies,” Harlan says, visabaly dissapointed. Thelma holds him back, “no it’s okay. He can stay.” The waitress returns and gives Thelma her drinks, “you’re not bothering these poor girls are you Harlan?” “Nah,” Harlan replies, “I’m just being friendly.” “Your name’s Harlan?” Thelma asks, “I had an uncle named Harlan.” Thelma then goes to dance with Harlan and he spins her aorund many times making her very dizzy and in need of fresh air. He is clearly taking advantage of her. Thelma states she need fresh air and Harlan takes her outside. Harlan then starts to take advantage of Thelma and then he says that he wont hurt her. This shows us that Harlan has no regard for Thelma’s thoughts or feelings. Louise then bursts out of the bar holding the revolver that Thelma had put in her bag earlier and aims it at Harlan. Harlan just laughs and tells Louise to “suck his dick.” Louise then shoots Harlan in cold blood. This is the first real time that we get to see the gender stereotypes destroyed as women aren’t supposed to show violence. Harlan’s dead body is then shown at a high angle to show that his power and scariness from before had been torn away in an instant. Here is the second point of Ridley Scott’s use of destroying gender stereotypes. This is the scene where Thelma and Louise meet up with young hustler JD and he asks for a ride. They drive with him and drop him off in the middle of a rainy city. Later on in the evening, JD knocks on Thelma’s motel door and the two make passionate love. Then in the morning Thelma goes to see Louise at a caf´┐Ż and they talk and Louise realises that JD must’ve stolen their money that Jimmy had given to Louise, the two women run back to their motel room frantically to find it ransacked and the money stolen. Louise collapses into tears as her last piece of energy and moral sense of dignity are shattered. Thelma then takes control and is filmed on a high angle to signify that know she is taking control. The old Thelma is gone and the new Thelma has taken her place. The new Thelma is the sort of Thelma who will do anything to survive. The next scene I am going to describe is the scene where Thelma and Louise stop to get a cup of coffee and when the two of them get back into the car, Thelma states that she is going to go and get some gum, so she takes Louise’s handbag with the pistol still in it and goes into the nearest convenience store. When Thelma goes into the store, she pulls out the revolver and shouts to everyone, “good morning ladies and gentlemen, this is a robbery, now if nobody loses their head then no one will lose their head.” She then steals all the money from the till and runs out of the store shouting to Louise, “drive Louise! Go” “A store? You robbed a store?” Louise asks pedantically. “Well we needed the money didn’t we? Now drive!” Thelma replies. This breaks the stereotype that all women must abide by the law at all times. The second to last scene I am going to describe is the scene where Thelma and Louise are driving through the desert when a police officer flags them down for speeding. The officer then take Louise back to his car and starts calling his colleagues. Louise asks if she is in trouble and the officer nods, big trouble. Thelma then appears at the officer’s window and smiles at him and starts to flirt. The officer asks sternly for Thelma to return to her car, but Thelma produces the revolver and points it at the officer’s head and demands for Louise to take his gun and shoot out the radio which she does, but then Thelma corrects her and says the police radio. This shows that although this is a dark film, Ridley Scott adds in a piece of comic relief. Thelma and Louise lead the distressed police officer to the trunk of his vehicle where Thelma shoots two air holes into the trunk and instructs the officer to get inside at which point the officer bursts into tears and Thelma asks him if he had a wife to which the officer nods. Thelma smiles and tells him, “you be nice to her. My husband wasn’t nice to me and look how I ended up.” On which note, Thelma slams the lid shut upon the officer. The last scene I am describing is the scene at the end of the movie where Thelma and Louise have been evading the police successfully for a fair few minutes which breaks the stereotype that women are bad drivers, but they eventually get captured on the edge of the Grand Canyon. Behind Louise’s convertible is about twenty police cars, a helicopter and at least forty heavily armed officers. The helicopter lands and a few suited FBI Agents get out, one of which is the one man in the forces who believes Thelma and Louise’s story. Thelma turns to Louise and tells her she can’t go back to the way she used to be as she had loved the experience. Louise nods and turns on the engines despite the officer’s warnings of opening fire if they did not give themselves up to be arrested. Louise slams the car forward toward the edge of the Grand Canyon. The only FBI Agent that believes them sprints after them so that the police will not fire. He shouts trying to stop them, but Thelma and Louise are adamant. Their car flies off of the edge of the Grand Canyon and the screen flashes with images of the past two days adventure. In conclusion I believe that Ridley Scott provides the audience with a thrilling and extremely realistic insight into the sexism and gender stereotyping that was around in America at the time of the film’s release. I believe that this film teaches a lesson to all American men who were racist at the point of the film’s release.


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