Women with guns


Sixteen years ago I made the mistake of playing pundit when “Time” magazine asked me for my opinion on Ridley Scott’s “Thelma and Louise.” “Ten years from now,” I intoned, “it will be seen as a turning point.” So much for prophecy. And they never asked my opinion about anything ever again.

So I was encouraged  a couple of weeks ago when Judith Warner in her “New York Times” blog “Domestic Disturbances”
took a look back at the movie. Warner feels that the tale of two women who revolt against violent macho oppression by blowing up 18-wheelers with handguns and [spoiler] driving off the edge of the Grand Canyon embodied an age of female terror and “feminist victimization” which, thank goodness, is all in the past. She concludes:

“It’s easy to forget now how vital and urgent the new focus on date rape and sexual harassment seemed, for a brief moment, back then. And yet it was, truly, transformative; the world of “Thelma and Louise,” I think it’s fair now to say, is not the one that we inhabit psychologically or physically today. Rape itself is down – its incidence having dropped 75 percent since the early 1990s, according to the Department of Justice. These are profound and meaningful changes, and we should celebrate them — and revel  in ‘Thelma and Louise’’s passage into history.”

Needless to say, Warner took a lot of heat in her comments column for her rosy assessment. And if I could put in my two cents 16 years after my previous pontification, regardless of whether the rape rate has declined or not,  the domestic violence that initially sent T & L off on their anti-patriarchal crime spree doesn’t seem to have waned muchsince 1991. Every other night on the news there seems to be a story about some boyfriend/husband murdering their girlfriend/spouse. Hasn’t anybody else noticed this epidemic? Isn’t it just another, more widespread and lethal form of terrorism?

Anyway, I suspect this renewed interest in “T & L” springs in part from the recently released “The Brave One” (which, I confess, I have not seen yet), in which Jodie Foster goes all Charles Bronson on gangbangers after they attack her and kill her fiancé (In real life these days she would more likely have been the one killed — by the fiancé).

Be that as it may, the film has been compared to Abel Ferrara’s superb rape-revenge thriller “Ms. 45" (1981). Clint Eastwood’s unheralded masterpiece “Sudden Impact” (1983) also comes to mind. Rather than reinforcing rightwing law and order values (before it entered Ronald Reagan’s lexicon, “Make my day” was the film’s catch phrase), the film dismantles them.

Dirty Harry Callahan, the cop dedicated to serving out justice to evil doers, whose worst foes, more so than the perps themselves, are the namby pamby do-gooders and bureaucrats who insist on constitutional rights and proper procedure, finds out that one of the evil doers he’s pursuing  is acting on the same principles as he is.

A rape victim (played by Eastwood's then girlfriend Sondra Locke) is astounded when the pack of lowlifes who assaulted her and her sister get  off the hook through some legal shenanigans. Seeking her own justice, she hunts each one down and gives them a “.38 caliber vasectomy” (even the bull dyke lesbian).  How can Harry turn in her in when she is essentially doing the same thing he’s been doing? How can he NOT turn her in and remain true to his belief in justice/revenge? The contradiction breaks down the whole vigilante thriller. It’s Clint Eastwood’s Hamlet.

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