The search to find strong women in film can, for most, come to an abrupt yet refreshing end when the opening credits to Thelma and Louise first appear on the screen. This Ridley Scott ode to women, women’s lib, inner strength, and camaraderie, set against the backdrop of the ever-popular road trip genre, embodies the very definition of strong women in film.
First, there’s Thelma, who is a submissive housewife, burdened by an overbearing, absent husband, and who is afraid to stand up for herself in any, way, shape, or form; she cowers at the very thought of leaving the house for the weekend by herself. Second, there is Louise, who is hardened by life’s misfortunes, jaded to the world, shut off to outside influence, watching her life move past her from the hazy, smoky diner in which she finds herself waiting tables every day.
Louise, through some convincing, manages to pull Thelma from her non-peaceful home for a weekend of camping and fishing in the mountains. On the way, the two stop for some drinks and dancing, and find themselves in a dangerous situation that results in a high-speed exit for the two ladies who were just out for a good time. They ditch their plans for camping in the mountains to instead make for Mexico in an attempt to avoid being seen by any police.
And it is at this point at which their journey truly begins. Not a geographical journey, per se, but a spiritual one; an awakening, if you will.
Thelma and Louise, while on the road to salvation, find in each other an inner strength to cope with the world that neither knew the other had. Thelma, who only days before agreeing to go on the camping trip in the first place, begins to see all the world has to offer for her outside the confines of a dreary, drab house controlled by a chauvinistic pig of a human being. And Louise sees in Thelma the cloudy memories Louise has of the joys of living life to its fullest, and she starts to rise from her rock bottom, opening herself up again to the world to which she so many years ago shut herself out.
As the two women carry on, through more trials and tribulations than they can count, they learn something else about themselves: they don’t need to take any shit from anybody. By the film’s climax, they’ve decided collectively that anything coming in between them and their liberation, particularly anything that even remotely resembles facets of their former, caged, unfulfilling lives, well . . . it ain’t gonna stand in their way for very long.
And so, Thelma and her road trip with her best bud, Louise, compose on the big screen what many women the world over had been waiting to see: an anthem for strong, independent, willful women everywhere and anywhere who don’t yet know the strength waiting inside of them, just itching to get out and make a mark in the world. And this anthem reminds those women that sometimes that little push they are waiting for to get started actually comes from within. Or, from a pal who forces them to go on a vacation.