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Race, Gender, and Violence in Thelma & Louise and Set it Off

The violence seen in both Thelma and Louise and Set it Off is for the majority very different. The most extreme difference would be how much violence is actually seen on scene. Set it Off has numerous scenes with gratuitous violence. A good example of this is the endings of each film. Thelma and Louise ends on a freeze frame rather than showing the cars decent to their death, while Set it Off’s ending is very graphic in the deaths of the three women. Also the women act very different when they are being violent. When Thelma robs the bank she is very calm, quick, and polite. While the women in Set it Off seem much more aggressive and more willing to shoot. It reinforces the idea that Kimberly Springer makes in Waiting to Set It Off, when she said, “African Americans are thought to be always already violent due to their ‘savage’ ancestry? (174). When comparing these two films they seem to support this idea. The violent caused by the white women is much less aggressive/violent than those of the African American women in Set it Off. This is continuously seen when looking at the violent scenes within the two films.

However there are similarities when looking at who and where the violence comes from as well as why. In both films the unnecessary violence comes from males. It is the males who sexually assault and the males who seem to do it out of entertainment rather than out of necessity. Also in both films the violence of the women is only the women who are mimicking the men. Thelma is taught by J.D how to rob the bank, and it is the men at the beginning of Set it Off who rob the bank which gives the women the idea to start robbing banks.

In both these films sisterhood and loyalty is established through friends who are brought closer together through shared traumatic experiences. In Thelma and Louise it is the violence of men in both of their lives as well as their need to escape their murder. By the end of the film after everything they had been through together they are ready to take the next big adventure together, which is death. Set it Off’s ending is different in the sense that all the women die alone, yet it is their deaths and them separating that allows at least one, Stony, to escape and live a new life. Most of these shared traumatic experiences happened because of men or because of our patriarchal society. Also in both films there are women who do have men in their lives that they can choose to be with over their “sister?, and in both films these women choose their sisters.