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March 31, 2008

Set It Off and Thelma & Louise

The justification of outlaw status in these two films is very paralleling, despite the obvious differences between them. In Set It Off, the characters often times discuss their "lack of options"; how the the only way for them to get out of their present circumstances is to rob a bank, thus justifying why they become "on the run" as a means of successfully completing their goal. As for Thelma & Louise, it is another case of "lack of options". The women encounter a dangerous situation that requires them to commit a crime, somewhat of a "last resort" scenario. But because of this crime, they see no other choice but to run to escape the authoritative power that they think would no doubt disagree with the validity of their crime. Herein lies the comparable aspect: both sets of women were placed in situations that they personally only saw one way out of. Their need to become outlaws only stemmed from the fact that in our society, their actions, valid or not, would be unacceptable. To truly be free in an "on the road" and "leaving home" sense, they had to evade these powers until they could start anew. As we learn, however, Thelma's and Louise's evasion of power leads them to death, as well as all but Stoney.

This brings us to the question of how the endings are similar and different. In the case of Thelma & Louise, they are given a choice. This choice is not presented by the law (who no doubt sees the options as give yourselves up or we shoot) but by the women themselves. They can either stop and go back to the lives they've run from (but more likely, jail) or they can feel the triumph of not being caught and continue in the journey (off the cliff). They make the powerful decision to carry on together. As for Set It Off, these women didn't have the power of a communal decision; they were forced to split up and fend for themselves. One died right away and they stuck together for as long as they could, but by necessity, they had to slowly peel off. This resulted in many more personal choices made much more complicated by circumstance. It wasn't "give up or drive off" like for Thelma and Louise, but the choice between sticking together and likely getting caught or splitting up. But in the end, Cleo's decision brought it back to the same level as Thelma & Louise. She knew she could give up and let them take her away, but she wasn't willing to let them have that power, so she "went down swinging", and like Thelma and Louise, chose to basically control her own fate.

The get away car

"Set it off" and "Thelma and Louise" are similar in the fact in which they way they use the auto-mobile. At first the ladies start out using it to get away from their dreary lives, which in turn they use it to get away from the law. Automobility is achieved in different ways though, in "Set it Off" they achieve the automobility primarily through the stealing of cars whereas in "Thelma and Louise" it is achieved by them already owning their car.

"Set it Off" is a road movie, but different from the ones that we have seen. The road is not a persistant presence like "Thelma and Louise" or "Easy Rider" it is more their use to get away. The girls are stuck in LA and use the road to get around in their get away vechicle and finally (Jada) uses it to get away to Mexico and (Queen Latifa) to out run the cops (although it ends in failure)

Race, sexuality, class and gender seen in "Set it Off" and "Thelma and Louise"

In both films, the principle characters are women on a mission to better their lives. Owing to each class and race, that of caucasian versus African American, the women are able to accomplish different things. In each film, the women seek to get to the road and leave their troubled lives behind in a quest for freedom. In "Thelma and Louise," although it starts out as just a weekend getaway, they eventually feel liberated once they're on their own without the constraints of society holding them back. Likewise, in "Set It Off", the women are searching for a similar escape; however due to the difference in races and thus each financial situation, it is not as easily accomplished in "Set It Off." Thelma and Louise are only able to access freedom on the road at the very end, and instead of having it be taken away, they choose to drive off the cliff. Similarly in "Set It Off," the women would rather risk their lives than be locked up. Stony is the only one who gets away and for me, the ultimate scene of freedom symbolized through the road is when she's driving along the coast in her jeep.
Interestingly enough, both films also had a common theme of the white male cop. In "Thelma and Louise" the cop is on their side from the beginning and it is apparent that he truly wants to help the two women. On the contrary, in "Set It Off," the cop starts out against the women. He believes that Frankie was involved with the first bank robbery and makes it his mission to set out to find her guilty. In the scene where Frankie is caught, she is able to turn the tables on him; she holds the gun to his head, putting herself in a position of great power and proves her point, "What would you do with a gun to your head?" The transition the cop makes in "Set It Off" as a character eventually coincides with that of the cop in "Thelma and Louise," however it isn't until he's killed Cleo, Titi and Frankie that he realizes what these women have had to endure living in the ghetto and thus felt their only way to a better living situation was robbery. It is a great leap for him to see Stony on the bus and let her go, his character development was huge in that last scene with Frankie.
"Set It Off" was an interesting take on "Thelma and Louise" because the differences in race and class greatly affected the outcome for the women in each film. I believe that Thelma and Louise would have been spared a long jail time had they been caught and certainly death wasn't on the police's mind. Where as in "Set It Off," the fact that the women were African American played a huge role in their shooting. This was also evident when Stony's brother Stevie was killed, he was a large black man out at night. I don't think that I would have seen the link between the two films had they not been pointed out to me, but the comparisons were undeniable in the end; all the women were searching for was opportunity and be it from unfavorable living conditions or money, save Stony, the women were forced to end their lives.

Thelma & Louise vs Set if Off

How does identification for the spectator work in each of these films?

For me I identified quite differently to the two films. In Thelma & Louise I identified with both characters. The film was empowering for me as a woman. After the watching the film I felt proud to be a woman. I was proud because both Thelma and Louise stood up for the rights of women. They assertively reacted to the stereotypical ways of masculinity in USA culture. They didn’t passively let it happen around them. Also violence in Thelma & Louise was justified for me; they really only bodily harmed one person, by killing him. On the other hand in Set it Off I found myself as a spectator not identifying with anyone of the characters. It may be due to race and/or their portrayed life experiences compared to mine, but I didn’t have any strong identity to one character. In the end I identified more with the life experiences/friendship of Thelma and Louise than I did with the women in Set if Off. I do have some assumptions that my identification with the characters has some ground within race but can’t really figure it out. I am white and I have experienced my “white privilege? all my life, so maybe that effects how I identify with certain characters.

How is violence coded by gender and color?

I do believe that violence in the two films were fundamentally the same but when acted out became different. In both films women were caught in a world dominated by men, stuck in a system that wouldn’t let them escape, and situations that caused them to act out. But when the women started to act out we, the viewer, saw it played out differently and one cannot help to see how color effected it. In Thelma & Louise their violence was spontaneous, not planned; thus make them seem more like the victim acting in self defense and not the perpetrator. In Set if Off the women because of their circumstance decided to act out by robbing banks. The women planned their action, even contemplated if it was the right thing to do or not, but in the end going for it anyways. From the get go the women in Set it Off were not the victims. I don’t think it was as jarring for the audience to watch either because they were black. In USA media and news, people of color are shown to be far more violent than their white counterparts. Also the mere fact that Queen Latifa’s character was highly masculine justified the violence as well.

The End(s) of the Road(s).

Set It Off and Thelma & Louise are both films that feature unconventional women on the road and on the run from their conventional lives (and unfortunate circumstances); women who take up crime in order to afford the freedom they so desperately need. In additional to plot, both films employ similar conclusions in which the road must suddenly end (or begin at a terrible price), and the law must inevitably catch up with our would-be heroines. This is less so, however, in the fact that several (or all) of the main female characters die, depending on the film--it is how they choose to die that begs comparison. Both groups of women go out with a bang, on their own terms. They were brought to a crossroads, at the end of their lines and cornered by cops. They can either surrender to a sexist, racist law, or they can try and run towards the bright white lights of their own fate. Thelma and Louise DID take their own lives, while it can be argued that the women of "Set It Off" (with the exception of Stony) were killed, but both endings still make quite the statement: live free, or die. The only stark differences are that Thelma and Louise clutched hands and died together, while Cleo, T.T. and Frankie died separately, though some by choice; and that their deaths were far less picturesque (no Grand Canyon postcard here, kids) than Thelma and Louise's.

I do believe that both Thelma & Louise and Set It Off are, despite these differences, very powerful road films that put women at the wheel and make freedom their ultimate destination. Stony is the only member of the latter group that comes out alive, which is somewhat ironic considering her "white" physical features and a willingness to leave the hood and adapt to upper-class "white" culture (both mentioned by Professor Zita in class). Still, she is given her dues, and the film concludes with a peaceful, if not Thelma & Louise-esque image of her in Mexico, driving up a hill and past the big, beautiful ocean. This is an image of freedom she has spent all of Set It Off wanting, and it is the first and only hint that she may have succeeded (despite losing her three best friends, her brother, and Keith). Thus, Set It Off is more a quest for the road, a sort of "anywhere but here" story, than an "on-the-road" account. Still, both films feature women convinced some sort of road will free them from their pasts. This road propels their initial drastic actions, justifies their criminal activity and remains an ever-constant destination. And though Cleo, T.T., Frankie and even Stony never truly "make it" onto an actual road, their quest for freedom a'la Thelma and Louise makes Set It Off an important women's road film nonetheless.

Comparing/Contrasting Thelma & Louise and Set It Off

Why is Set It Off a road movie?
Set It Off uses the road in order to reach a different road. The women are on a metaphorical road to a better life. They are sick of struggling and like many other road films, the road is full of struggles. The women also use the roads within the city to aid their success. They drive to and from each bank they rob. This road is always very chaotic and uneasy. Like the road in many other road films, it is dangerous. There is also the road the women hope to find; the road out of the projects. For each of them, the probability of finding this road is different and Stoney is the only one that actually reaches it. This is the privileged road... the white male's road.

How are the endings similar/different?
Many elements of the end of Thelma & Louise and Set It Off were very similar... a kiss of friendship, a helicopter chase, the photo montage commemorating better times... But there were also stark differences reflecting the biggest aspect separating the films: race. In Set It Off, the final scenes take place at night within the confines of the city's skyscrapers. In Thelma & Lousie, the women are on the road with wide open spaces surrounded them and the sun in shining. Thelma and Louise seem free while the women of Set It Off are stuck in the projects; their mobility is very limited. In the end, Cleo is in a tunnel, it is very dark excluding a small opening at the end. This seems to be a metaphor for the entire movie. The women have very limited options when it comes to leaving LA's inner city; there is only a small chance/opening for their success... many are left in the dark. In Thelma & Louise, the women are given the entire ("God damned")Grand Canyon. Their deaths are romanticized unlike Cleo, Tisean and Frankie's. Viewers don't see their blood just a photograph and the idea that they will "keep going." The women of Set It Off experience brutal deaths; we see them hit the ground and aren't provided with the notion that their journeys will continue. They have no way out, no canyon.

Set It Off

Through two very powerful movies, Thelma and Louise and Set It Off, I was able to draw many conclusions about how they are very similar. Both films are about women and the road and escaping authorities. However, in Thelma and Louise the women are on the road, and in Set If Off the women desire to be on the road but only one eventually makes it to the road.
Sisterhood and loyalty is established through both of these films. Thelma and Louise become extremely close on their journey and console in each other along the way. When Louise shoots the man that is trying to rape Thelma, it shows how loyal Louise is to Thelma. Finally at the end of the film, the two ladies drive off of the cliff. This act shows that their friendship and experiences together were worth more than the life they would spend as criminals behind bars. In Set It Off, all four of the women are very closely linked to one another. They all are poor and need money. Their friendships usite them and eventually they begin robbing banks. They believe that money is their way to a better life. However, all but one of the women die in the end because of their loyalty to each other.

outlaws and landscapes in Thelma and Louise and Set It Off

How is outlaw status justified?
In "Thelma and Louise" the women are outlaws becuase they defended themselves. In defending themselves they committed murder and were given outlaw status by society as opposed to by their own choice. In "Set it Off" the women choose their outlaw status. This choice is justified by the fact that "the system" has taken something from all of them, whether it's a job, a brother, or a child. They know their actions condemn them to outlaw status and they take time to decide and plan what they will do as opposed to the women in "Thelma and Louise" who became outlaws because of a split second, self-defense decision.

How are the landscapes different?

"Thelma and Louise" is set out in the country mostly with rolling hillsides and big open spaces seeming to represent freedom. "Set it Off" however is set in the big city and the scenes are quite often in doors seeming to represent being trapped and stuck. The women in "Thelma and Louise" begin to feel free because of their outlaw status and because they are around very few people and those people they do see don't know them. The women in "Set it Off" are trapped and wary because they are in the city where lots of people know them and they have few escape routes.

"Set It Off" vs "Thelma and Louise"

How are sisterhood and loyalty established?
Both of these films have a strong sense of sisterhood. In "Set It Off", we heard multiple times that the girls grew up together, or that they had been friends since grade school. They tease each other, but the viewer can tell that its lovingly, because they also stand up for each other. Also, the women all live together in the project, which is almost a family in itself. Both of the films show the friends working together, which can create a great bond. The people who you work are usually the people you spend the most time with, and therefore, the closet relationships are made. In "Thelma and Louise", the friendship is a little different by the fact that it seems they met each other at work instead of growing up with each other. We can see though, that this does not make their bond any weaker. That fact is proven to the viewer at the end of the movie when they commit suicide together. In "Set it Off", the women are connected by the fact that they have no one else and no where else to go, while in "Thelma and Louise", they are connected by the men in their lives who do not love them.
How is the outlaw status justified?
In "Set it Off", the women become outlaws because they see no other chance to get away from their lives, and start new ones. In "Thelma and Louise", the women become outlaws because Louise was protecting her friend. They then get themselves in further trouble because they need money, and because they are trying to escape. While watching the films, I noticed that I related to "Thelma and Lousie" more than I did "Set it Off". After thinking about why this might happen, I realized that it's because of the ideas constantly put into our heads by the media. We are always taught that men should not hurt women, and if they do, the woman has the right to protect herself. I felt like that was exactly what the women in "Thelma and Louise" were doing; protecting themselves from all the men who were trying to hurt them. The media also tells us that people need to be hard workers, and to be patient until their "big break" comes. This might be why I didn't immediatley relate to the women in "Set it Off". Instead of working their way up the social ladder, like society tells us too, the women found an easy way out and took that instead. After thinking about it, I realized that I'm not sure what I would have in their situation, and could easily see myself making the same decision they did. Then why did I react negatively at first glance? After watching this movie I do believe that the road has a race, and it clear to me that it is white.

"Set it Off" vs. "Thelma & Louise"

In both Set it Off and Thelma & Louise auto-mobility is crucial for the women to continue on their journeys. But, the ways in which auto-mobility is achieved are different and ideas about race and class that get inscribed are thus different as well. In Thelma & Louise, Louise already has access to a car that runs well and looks good. Louise is white with a steady job and thus access to a car seems more inherent for her. The issue of attaining a car that works well is not an issue at the forefront for Louise and Thelma to continue their journey as outlaws. On the other hand, in Set it Off Cleo's car definitely doesn't work well and it is only until they steal enough money for Cleo to spend her share on fixing her car, that the women can use it efficiently as a getaway. In Set it Off the women are black and from a poor neighborhood where access to a car is not as inherent as it seems to be in Thelma & Louise. Also, they have to steal cars during every bank robbery to even get back to their own car. The need for auto-mobility for Stony, Cleo, Frankie, and T.T. is something explicitly discussed and portrayed in Set it Off; but in Thelma & Louise that need is not explicitly discussed or portrayed, it just is. It is in these differences that the two groups of women's racial and class differences are seen.
The landscapes are very different in both films as well. In Thelma & Louise, the majority of the film takes place on the open road. The openness and vastness of the landscape hints at a sort of freedom that is not present throughout the majority of Set it Off. Set it Off takes place in an urban environment and takes on a very confined, trapped feeling that parallels the four women's trapped mentalities about where they are from and where they can go. Thelma and Louise have already escaped to the open road whereas Cleo, Stony, Frankie, and T.T. have yet to escape and are still dealing with their entrapment as poor, black women in an urban environment that leaves little room for upward mobility. The fact that Thelma and Louise are white women with at least some money to spend shows how escaping is easier for them than for the women in Set it Off. Even though both films center around women and women's struggles, the issues of race and class become apparent when one group can take to the road much easier than the other group. Also in Set it Off , the beginning of the film shows a successful black woman, Frankie, making her way up in life. When that success is threatened and eventually taken away from her, the other successful black woman (the cop) doesn't even "ask if she's thirtsy". This sets up a dynamic between successful and still struggling black women in the film where the still struggling black women need to fend for themselves and cannot expect, even from a fellow black woman, any help. This is interesting when looking the issue of class in Set it Off versus Thelma & Louise because in Thelma & Louise they do not really come in contact with other women in the same way Frankie does.

Thelma and Louise vs. Set It Off

"We just taking it from the system that's fuckin us all anyways." - Frankie

How are the endings similar and different?
Thelma and Louise and Set It Off both show the companionship of women. Both of the films start with the act of violence. Louise kills a rapist because he is harming her friend Thelma. In Set It Off, four women need to get off the streets and decide to rob a bank. Both of these things are violent acts which give them a sense of escape, yet trap them as well. In both films, men are killed by these running victims. Both films show a sense of escape to attempt to create a new life for themselves. Thelma and Louise, Frankie, Tisean and Cleo all die in attempt to get to Mexico. These films differ because of many other aspects throughout the film. Thelma and Louise go on the road because they want a vacation from their rather boring lives. In Set It Off, the women try to get on the road because their lives of living on the streets are unbearable. Thelma and Louise have more freedom than the Frankie, Cleo, Tisean and Stony. In Set It Off, the women are associated with crime due to their neighborhoods and lifestyles. Ultimately in the end, the women in Set It Off are killed by cops because of their attempted escape from a bank robbery. Thelma and Louise decide together to drive off a cliff at the end of the film and choose their own death.
How are freedom and the road cofounded in each film?
Freedom and the road are vary in Thelma and Louise and Set It Off. Freedom and the road for Thelma and Louise seem to be a place to get away from their boring lifestyle. The freedom they have to go on the road is shown by their status as mid class white women. They already have the resources necessary to go on the road. As they continue on the road and get themselves into trouble, the road seems to trap them more and more. They are forced to stay on the road and make it to Mexico to save themselves from prison. Their freedom is now controlled by where they end up on the road.
In Set It Off, the road and freedom are something that is desired to be achieved by these women. They come from extreme low class society and are trapped in the projects. They have little to no resources to help them get out of the projects. These women rob a bank to get enough money to escape and live a normal lifestyle. Their only way of becoming a new and successful person is to get on the road. In this film, the road is freedom. We can see by watching this film that the road ultimately leads to a better life. Stony is the only person in the film who gets on the road via bus and it seems that she will life a better life than the people in the projects.

Comparing Thelma and Louise with Set it Off

How are sisterhood and loyalty established? How are the endings similar and different?

The theme that was portrayed througout Thelma and Louise is the same theme that can be seen throughout Set if Off, and that is friendship and loyalty. Both sets of friends went through extreme trials and hardships, yet through it all they became even closer. Like Thelma and Louise, the ladies of Set it Off took up violence to help eachother out. Though it may not have been the way that we would have gone to help a friend, the love and loyalty that was shown was amazing. Even through the hardest of times the bonds of sisterhood was strengthened. This meant death for both sets of friends, but they stuck together to the end. That type of love and commitment can not even be put into words.
The ending of both of these films are similar in the obvious way that they both concluded with death. More importantly though, it is how the characters chose to die that is very similar. Both sets of friends decided to go out on their "own terms". It can be argued that Thelma and Louise took their own lives, while the ladies of Set it Off were killed. I still see these as a similar ending, because they all went out by their own choice. There are some differences in the endings of these two films though. Thelma and Louise died together, while the friends of Set it Off died seperatly and alone. They chose for the good of the whole group to separate at the end of the movie, and therefore had to die apart from eachother. It was a far less picturesque ending than that of Thelma and Louise, and it left you with somewhat of a heavy and sad feeling.

Thelma and Louise vs. Set It Off

The endings in Thelma and Louise and Set It Off both end in death for the women (except for Stoney in Set It Off). Personally, the ending in Thelma and Louise was more emotionally pleasing for me as I could feel as though the women had found freedom and did so on their own choice. The four women in Set If Off choose to split up and run, however they are not able to make it to the road. Ironically, the only woman to make it out of the hood is Stoney, a black woman who has some "white" physical features and is seen adapting to white culture with ease. However, in some way Set It Off does end with a sort of peaceful image of the spectator looking at stoney driving a car on the road going past a big body of beautiful water. This is an image of freedom and is the first hint that she might have escaped her previous life.
Set If Off is a road movie because the road is the women’s ultimate destination, although they may not entirely reach it. The only one to reach it is Stoney who leaves the country. However, she is unable to live the life she once hoped for. She has to cut her hair off, and has lost everyone around her including 3 friends, her brother, and both her parents. She also lost Blair who was her one way out of the hood. This brings up the question as to how much a black woman has to loose of her life in order to gain freedom (although, the spectator does not know exactly what type of freedom she may find in Mexico).

Set If Off compared to Thelma and Louise

Set If Off and Thelma and Louise were two movies focused on women and their interactions with the law. The movies were very similar in some aspect yet very different at the same time. The road was a symbol of freedom access in both films. In Thelma and Louise, the road was freedom for the two women because they were both leaving unhealthy relationships (Thelma more than Louise) and “getting away? from it all. In their minds the road never ended and it gave them hope. They didn’t plan on leaving forever, but after some decisions made by them, there was no turning back. In the film Set It Off the road was a symbol of freedom access from the very start. The women had been talking about getting out of that city from the beginning and the road was the only way. Compared to Thelma and Louise, the women in Set It Off had planned to rob a bank and I think they had an idea of what was going to come and ultimately their only chance of hope was on the road. This is shown very clear when Stony continues on the road and is free at the end of the film. The endings of these films are similar yet different. In Thelma and Louise the film ends with the two women realizing that they don’t want to face the law so they just give up and take their own lives. In Set It Off the women fight until the end. The four women will not give into the law and they do everything they can to not get caught. Three of them die leaving one who finally makes it to freedom and a new life. The endings are similar in some sense because at some point the fear of getting caught sets in to all of the women. I think the endings are more different than similar because like I said before, the women in Thelma and Louise are kind of giving up but in Set It Off, the women fight until the end and do everything they can to avoid the police. So far this has been my favorite road film.

Justifying the Outlaw and the end Consequences

The two films Thelma and Louise and Set it Off both justify outlaw status as means of taking back what society has taken from them, and give the women in these films a sense of agency and authority over a situation they otherwise would have been powerless against. In Thelma and Louise the women take action asserting their power by threatening and ultimately killing the man who assaults Louise. Without the gun and the help of Thelma, Louise would have certainly been raped, and it is quite possible the rapist could escape unpunished for his actions. As the women step outside of the law they begin to free themselves from the traps of society and hierarchical order within their own homes, in which the men dominate and regain a sense of control over their own lives. This sense of freedom is ironically achieved by the women stepping outside of the law. In Set if Off, there is a similar desire felt by the women to take control over their own lives and free themselves from the binds that hold them back from realizing their true potential, whether it be the men in their lives or their lack of money and education, or their encounters with racism and prejudice, they yearn for freedom, and find it through becoming outlaws, and assert their power by going against all social conventions.
By the end of each film however, all characters have paid a price for their actions. Thelma and Louise had no way out, and instead of getting caught, they took their own lives, perhaps a symbol of their desire to remain free and have the power to take their lives into their own hands. Hand they been caught and jailed, they would have had to listen and follow the rules of authority, which is exactly what they were trying to escape. The women of Set if Off clearly pay the price for their rebellious ways, as three of the four women sacrifice their own lives rather than succumb to the authorities. However, both films have a sense of hope and redemption at the end, with Thelma and Louise blissfully driving off the cliff, the viewer gets the sense that they will be happier and better in whatever follows death than the lives they were living. Meanwhile, in Set if Off, Stony escapes, and though she has nobody left in her life, she does have her life, and the financial means to start over and make a new life for herself. Clearly, in both films the women pay the price for their deviant behavior, however, both films end with the notion of the open road, with freedom ahead to a life unknown, but a life of their choosing that will certainly be better than the lives they were living.

Justifying the Outlaw and the end Consequences

The two films Thelma and Louise and Set it Off both justify outlaw status as means of taking back what society has taken from them, and give the women in these films a sense of agency and authority over a situation they otherwise would have been powerless against. In Thelma and Louise the women take action asserting their power by threatening and ultimately killing the man who assaults Louise. Without the gun and the help of Thelma, Louise would have certainly been raped, and it is quite possible the rapist could escape unpunished for his actions. As the women step outside of the law they begin to free themselves from the traps of society and hierarchical order within their own homes, in which the men dominate and regain a sense of control over their own lives. This sense of freedom is ironically achieved by the women stepping outside of the law. In Set if Off, there is a similar desire felt by the women to take control over their own lives and free themselves from the binds that hold them back from realizing their true potential, whether it be the men in their lives or their lack of money and education, or their encounters with racism and prejudice, they yearn for freedom, and find it through becoming outlaws, and assert their power by going against all social conventions.
By the end of each film however, all characters have paid a price for their actions. Thelma and Louise had no way out, and instead of getting caught, they took their own lives, perhaps a symbol of their desire to remain free and have the power to take their lives into their own hands. Hand they been caught and jailed, they would have had to listen and follow the rules of authority, which is exactly what they were trying to escape. The women of Set if Off clearly pay the price for their rebellious ways, as three of the four women sacrifice their own lives rather than succumb to the authorities. However, both films have a sense of hope and redemption at the end, with Thelma and Louise blissfully driving off the cliff, the viewer gets the sense that they will be happier and better in whatever follows death than the lives they were living. Meanwhile, in Set if Off, Stony escapes, and though she has nobody left in her life, she does have her life, and the financial means to start over and make a new life for herself. Clearly, in both films the women pay the price for their deviant behavior, however, both films end with the notion of the open road, with freedom ahead to a life unknown, but a life of their choosing that will certainly be better than the lives they were living.

Breaking the law

In the films Thelma and Louise and Set It Off, the turn from a normal life to that of an outlaw is very much different. In my opinion, Thelma and Louise's initial act that turned them into outlaws was much more justified than the women in Set It Off deciding to rob a bank. In a time when women who had been raped had very little rights, there was not much a woman could do besides fight back. While it wasn't necessarily justified to kill the man, i do believe they were in the right to use violence against Harlan to stop him from raping Thelma. However, in Set It Off, the women are commiting their crimes against people who have done nothing to them. While it is true that they are all in rough spots in their lives, the banks they are robbing have nothing to do with these problems. Instead of acting out against the cause of their problems, like Thelma and Louise, they cause problems for other people my stealing money and cars, destroying banks, and in the end, killing police officers who are just doing their job trying to stop them. However, Thelma and Louise also do commit crimes of this sort when Thelma robs the convenience store, stealing money from an innocent store worker, but unlike the women in Set it Off, the start of their problems stems from a more justified crime, in my opinion.

The landscapes between these two films are also drastically different. In Thelma and Louise there are lots of shots showing the wide open road across the south and the desert, portraying their escape from civilization and thier everyday lives. While they don't ever actually make their escape, they do get a taste of life on the road away from all of their old worries. On the contrary is the city scape of Set It Off. All of Set It Off is shot in an urban landscape, portraying how the women are trapped in the city and unable to escape it. It isn't until the end that Stoney is finally able to get away to Mexico and leave her problems in the city behind. These women have grown up in the city, and in the end, 3 of them die in the city. In one conversation, Stoney reveals that she has never actually been outside of LA, as she is too poor to even afford any luxury of travel. While Thelma and Louise are able to temporarily escape the settings of their every day life, the women of Set It Off are stuck in the city for the duration of the film as they try to gather enough money to finally make their escape.

March 30, 2008

Comparing Female Road Films

"Thelma and Louise" and "Set If Off" are both extremely thought-provoking female road films. Sisterhood and loyalty are established in both films out of a commonality of oppression and repitition. Thelma and Louise are at their wits end with their mundane life which consists of a low paying job and an abusive husband. Similarly, the characters of "Set It Off" face an array of forms of oppresssion, only in this film injustice comes mainly in the forms of racism and homophobia. Coming from the black ghetto, the women of "Set It Off" deal with violence and authoritative abuse, like Thelma and Louise. The endings of the films had parallels as well. It appears that the women of both films rebel and would rather lose their lives than be imprisoned and or sent back to their old lives with all of the restraints. One difference, however, is Stoney survives and escapes the police. With this the movie ends with a trace of happy tones. "Thelma and Louise" also ends in a morbidly happy way. The women choose their next step and are content with taking their own lives, instead of surrendering to the police. Overall, both films break boundaries of what female representations are capable of doing in Hollywood cinema.

Freedom in Set it Off and Thelma and Louise

How is the road as a symbol of freedom accessed?

In the film Thelma and Louise the road is a symbol of freedom in the way that the two women stayed on the road to escape from an abusive and trapped life with Thelma's husband and Louise's job. As Thelma says "she can't go back" after all they've been through. Both women have changed while being on the road. For Thelma and Louise, even when at the very end they are surrounded by the police officers, the road still continues for them and they continue going, achieving the freedom of the road and the freedom from their old lives. On the other hand in the film Set it Off, the road as a symbol of freedom is similar to Thelma and Louise as it represents an escape from their old lives, however, as the women never actually get on the road the symbol of the road is more or less a futile dream. These women never get to experience the freedom that Thelma and Louise experience. They still have to work at their old jobs and pretend that nothing has changed in their lives. They continue to be trapped in their old lives and cannot experience the freedom of the road. In Set if Off the women did not get to continue on the road but we saw them fall unlike in Thelma and Louise where the road helped them to freedom and did not hinder them.

How are the landscapes different?

The landscapes are very different in the two films. In Thelma and Louise the landscapes consist of wide-open spaces, dusty roads, bright colors, and a few road-side stops. In contrast, in Set it Off the landscapes consist of city roads, numerous tall buildings, with cramped spaces, and lots of traffic. In Thelma and Louise the landscape represents the women's freedom and follows the traditional road film like Easy Rider with the open roads and vast landscapes. But in Set it Off the landscape contributes to the women's feelings of being trapped within their lives and their situation. They cannot move up the social ladder or escape the city. The different landscapes within the films help the viewer to actually visualize how the women experience freedom in different ways.

Thelma & Louise from the Hood

How are the endings similar and different?

Thelma and Louise and Set it Off are both powerful road films that put women in the driver’s seat. With both of these movies, women take to a life of crime in order to get what they need, and in the end the law catches up with them.
The movie endings are similar because the women are brought to a crossroads. They are at the end of the line, they are cornered by the cops and have two choices; surrender to the law or try and run. In the end, both movies prove that crime doesn’t pay and no matter if you are a man or a woman, you will get caught.
The movie endings are very different because of the women’s general attitudes. The women of Set it Off are rough and tough. They grew up in dangerous neighborhoods and had been fighting for themselves all their lives. These women thought they had a chance out, maybe not all together, but there was a chance some of them could escape the hands of the law. Thelma and Louise had no choice; they were cornered and chose death instead of long law litigations.

Why is “Set it Off? a road movie?

Set if Off is more of a quest for the road, instead of on the road. These women feel trapped by their living situations are where they come from. They want to escape, and there is no specific location, anywhere but here will do. These women feel as though the road will free them from the confines of their past. They justify their criminal activity due to the fact that they need means to make it on the road. They never truly make it on the road, but their quest for the freedom the road represents makes this a women’s road film.

Thelma and Louise vs. Set It Off

There are many similarities between these two movies, but there are also many differences as well. The main differences would be race in the movies since the main characters were white women in "Thelma and Louise" and the main characters in "Set It Off" were all black women. The main similarities are the presence of sisterhood and loyaltly. For example, in "Thelma and Louise", Louise saved Thelma when she was getting raped and after that they became closer as the movie went on. They did everything together, like committing various crimes together as they escaped to Mexico. In "Set It Off", all of the women were there for each other as if they were indeed sisters. For example, when Tisean got her son taken away from her, Frankie lost her job, and Stoney lost her brother, they were all supportive of each other. These movies were built on a sense of sisterhood and when one of them was feeling down then the others were there to comfort them and therefore if they were going to commit a crime they were going to do it together and everyone was going to benefit from it. To me, loyaltly runs right alongside sisterhood where there is support, encouragement, honesty and a sense of security.
As for the endings of the movies, they hold some similarities. First of all, both movies ended in a high speed chase where the women were being followed by the cops. But in "Thelma and Louise", they stayed together the whole time but in "Set It Off," all of the women decided to split up in order to have a better chance of surviving. In the end all but one of the women survived in Set If Off, Stoney. The movies both ended happy for the most part since Thelma and Louise were content with driving off the cliff with each other and Stoney got off alive in Mexico even though all of her friends were dead. There was deep meaning at the end of both becuase Thelma and Louise wanted to die without getting caught whereas I believe the cops let Stoney go on purpose since they killed her brother and all her friends so they owed her in some way.

Endings and Lanscapes

Thelma and Louise and Set it Off are road films in which women drive the cars. There are many parallels that run through the films. Many parallels can be made between their endings. In both, the women deiced to continue to run from the police even though they know they will die. Thelma and Louise drive into the canyon and Cleo and Frankie keep running until shot to the ground. White men trap the women in both films is another similarity. The authority running their lives is represented by white police officers who chase the women because of their law breaking actions. The women continue to run, even when trapped and face death, because they want freedom from their lives. They would rather die than return to their lives of working for degrading males. Cleo takes a masculinist step in telling Stoney and Frankie to get out of the car so Cleo can divert the police. Cleo’s character is the masculinized female making her different from her friends. If all were heterosexual they probably would have stuck together, like Thelma and Louise. The fences, tunnels, cars and cement that make up the landscapes that trap Cleo, Frankie, Tiesan and Stoney are different compared to the landscape of Thelma and Louise. Long highway and panoramic landscape shots embody Thelma and Louise. Occasionally parts of the city are seen in when Thelma and Louise enter the city to meet Jimmy. The motels, restaurants, and gas stations encompass the cityscape. The cement and fenced world of Set it Off are not seen in Thelma and Louise. The contrast of inner city to country makes me perpetuate the American view of American-Americans in the city and whites having the ability of reach the country if desired. This also creates a hierarchy between races which creates a class division. Thelma and Louise although not extremely wealthy have more money than Stoney and her friends. A major similarity between Thelma and Louise and Set it Off is that women will run even if it leads to death but, race, sexuality, and class separate them.

White Cops and Road Film Justifications

How does the role of the white cop function in the narrative?

The role of the white cop has significantly different functions in both films. In "Thelma and Louise," Hal Slocomb was the investigator trying to track the two down. He was a sympathetic figure, the only man in the entire film who could see that what Thelma and Louise did was circumstantial to the actions of men. He sought them out firstly, because it was his job, but secondly because he empathized with them; he believed they were innocent, he wanted to help them, and he understood that they had been screwed over time and time again. He performed his job with compassion for the two women who were stuck in an endlessly masculine world. The aim of this white cop was to help the two women, and not so much to just catch them as we see in the end of the movie where he attempts to stop the stand off by asking the FBI agent "how many times do they have to be screwed over?" The white cop in the film, "Set It Off," was different in that his aim was opposite, to catch rather than really help. We see the major differences between these two white cop figures after the crucial bank scene where Detective Strode judges Frankie for knowing the robbers and insists, despite her fervent and truthful denials, that she was involved. This lack of trust creates a huge gap between the two characters as Strode does not empathize with the women's racial and poverty troubles as Slocomb empathizes with the women trapped in a male society. Though Strode does have less of a sympathetic and understanding relationship with the girls, he isn't completely heartless. After the accidental death of Stoney's brother, he shows definite empathy in the way he desperately tells the dying boy to hold on, and in the way he reacts when he finds out what a good kid he was. This empathy comes in play again at the end when he is facing off with the three women and tells Stoney that her brother was enough. The two cops have their strongest similarity in the end. Like Slocomb, Strode attempts to calm the situation so nothing drastic has to happen. He makes the surrounding officers lower their weapons and tries to talk calmly and understandingly to Frankie, but cannot get through. The damage has been done and the result is the death of his targets.

Why is "Set It Off" a road film?

Though "Set It Off" does not have the conventional setting of a road film like "Thelma and Louise" (aka, the road), it still falls into the genre because it's about finding a road out of poverty, the road of upward mobility. Thelma and Louise had a physical road to travel to escape their sexist prison. They used this road to run from what they, in the end, could not escape. In "Set It Off," the road is a road of actions that all three women choose, the road out of the projects. Each woman has been endlessly crushed and beaten by the system which they live in, much like Thelma and Louise had been endlessly oppressed by a male dominated society. The women in "Set It Off" formed their own road by robbing banks to achieve upward mobility. The women journey down this road, trying to escape the oppressive system that keeps beating them back down because of their race and economic status, Their road finally comes to an end, much in the same way Thelma and Louise's did, when the system catches up to them. The only successful traveler was Stoney, who was able to follow the road of upward mobility until she was free. Cleo would be the biggest embodiment of the road in this film as she was the one who had the power of the automobile. Not only was her car the means by which the women were able to rob banks and follow the road to upward mobility, but in her death she used the road to take a stand against the system that was beating her down. By leading the high speed chase at the end, which resulted in a shoot-out and her death, she gave meaning to auto-mobility in this movie, get free or die trying. Do what you have to to follow the road out of the oppressive system you find yourself in.

Sole Survivor

In the films, “Set It Off? and “Thelma and Louise? sisterhood and loyalty are the roots of both films. In “Set it Off,? the story about four African American women in the projects, sisterhood and loyalty are inscribed within each woman to look out for the other in the harsh environment of the projects. After meeting Mr. Right, Stony questions her future and her relationship acts as motivation to find a better life. Yet, Stony feels obligated to continue the robberies with her friends out of loyalty and when she voices her opinion to stop she is pulled back in by guilt with pleads from T.T. who needs the money as her only hope to get her son back. The loyalty and sisterhood that is instilled upon the group of four women acts as a doubled sided sword for Stony. It is powerful and successful when they are together; yet, the loyalty also acts as the motivation to continue robbing the banks and ultimately killing her three best friends. The entire act of robbing a bank only strengthens their sisterhood and loyalty. The act of a group robbery is only successful when fully trusting the other members with each other’s lives to steal the money and maintain look-out. They look out for each other’s lives in the most dangerous situation while trying to come out alive against the high security of a bank. Every hardship each woman goes through impacts the group. When T.T. loses her son to child services, it is the group’s responsibility to help get her son back. They turn to each other and gave her money from the first robbery even though she ran out of the bank at the first sight of the gun with her wig flying in the air. Their actions and success brings them together because of their common goal to reach a better life. In the film, “Thelma and Louise,? sisterhood and loyalty are established with their journey together on the road. I believe the first evidence of their strong sisterhood is when Louise shoots Thelma’s attacker. It was the first experience where the action was motivated by sisterhood in their relationship. After their violent experience, they only continue to grow closer and have a sisterhood that continues throughout the film and leads them to their decision of suicide to keep going together. Similar to “Set it Off,? the actions and hardships of each woman in “Thelma and Louise? becomes the responsibility of the other. When Thelma loses the money to the hypnotic J.D., the loyalty of the two women is strengthened as Louise decided not to kill Thelma for her mistake. Instead, Thelma acts out of loyalty and sisterhood to correct her action. Overall, the sisterhood and loyalty in each film acts as the motivation for their actions together and as the glue that sticks them together, even after death.
Both ending for “Set It Off? and “Thelma and Louise? are violent, but very different. Thelma and Louise choose their fate by driving off the cliff to continue their journey together forever. Cleo and Frankie also choose their fate by continuing to run away from the police and when surrounded they retaliate with their weapons leading to their death. When Cleo drives out of the tunnel to help her two best friends who are left, she chooses her fate and acts as a fighter, never giving up even when she is surrounded by the majority of police in the city and helicopters. She chooses to lose her life to save her friends. Frankie has a chance to give up and come out of the situation alive, but her desire to find a better life is so strong that she runs, forcing the police to fire on her and ultimately kills her. However, T.T. does not choose her fate as she surrenders to the detectives in the bank, but is mistaken to still have a weapon and is fired upon by the security guard. Her choice to live is taken away by a misunderstanding. Both ending are obviously violent, but in “Set it Off,? there is a survivor. Stony escapes from the police with the money and ends up living her life in Mexico, living with the memory of her best friends and fulfilling her wish to find a better life.

Set it Off vs. Thelma & Louise

Q: How are the landscapes different?

In the film "Set it Off", the landscape is urban and in the "ghetto", while "Thelma and Louise" was set in a suburban to rural setting. In "Thelma and Louise", both women come from a white-middle class background and experience throughout their quest the open-country of western America. The four women in "Set it Off" are African-American in a sterotypical 'ghetto' projects setting. The landscape that they experience is drastically different from Thelma and Louise's. Their roadtrip does not even take them outside the urban landscape. They never escape the landscape they are from, yet just go further deep into it.

Q: How are the endings similar and different?

"Thelma and Louise" was a film that ended with inspiration as both women drove off the canyon into oblivion. The film ends with an understanding that both Thelma and Louise refused to go back to the life they left and preferred to keep driving. "Set it Off" was a film that was more disheartening at the end. Only one woman escapes death and capture. In a sense it is inspiring to see none of the women give up on the quest that they began... each woman desires so much to achieve the life (of money) of her dreams. Stony is the only woman who escapes the capture as well as the fatal death that her three friends endured.


Looking at both films, I found it very interesting seeing the contrasts and similarities between them. "Set it Off" obviously was more current of a film but I felt that it addressed many of the same issues that "Thelma and Louise" addressed in regards to race, sexuality, gender, and class.

Loyalty and Freedom in Set It Off and Thelma & Louise

The road as a symbol of freedom is somewhat accessed in both films. However, in Thelma & Louise, the availability of the road is greater than in Set It Off. Although Thelma has never been outside of her home town, much like Stoney and the other women in Set It Off, Thelma and Louise are given the opportunity more easily by owning a vehicle, being able to afford a weekend away including all the amenities of motels, bars and other sources of entertainment along the way. In a way, the road, although considered a traditional symbol of freedom, is still a walled in space with expectations and consequences for the women in both films. In this respect, freedom is not really accessed, but it is challenged. Thelma and Louise finally find freedom off the road as the fly off into a space that is not gendered or sexualized. Similarly, the women in Set It Off find freedom in defying the law and their in their ultimate deaths. Although Stoney successfully escapes to Mexico and, in the end, finds a road that does represent a source of freedom, it is at the expense of her friends' deaths and requires her to leave not only the city that oppresses her but the country as well.

Loyalty is established in both films as an important characteristic that binds the women together in a cooperative effort to find freedom and prosperity. In Set It Off, loyalty is extremely important. At the first bank robbery, Frankie is reluctant to give T.T. any money because she did not prove herself to be part of the team. Although she eventually does get the money, T.T. must be a part of future crimes in order to continue to receive the benefits. In Thelma & Louise, Thelma wants to go to the cops immediately after the murder. Louise knows this is not an option and in order for them to continue, needs Thelma to either commit or get out. Thelma begins to prove herself when she takes control of Louise's breakdown and robs a gas station. Accepting lifestyles of crime and deviance establishes the women in each films as being loyal. Most importantly, however, may be the extreme sacrifices of their own lives in order to prove loyalty and commitment to one another.

Thelma and Louise/Set It Off Comparisons

The classic women's road film Thelma and Louise was reinscribed a few years after its release in the filmSet It Off. In T&L, the protagonists were two white, middle-class or working-class women from Arkansas, taking to the road first to escape the drolls of everyday life and then running from the law as they grow progressively more and more violent as their adventure continues. Set It Off features four (not two) black women, of lower economic status living in the projects of Los Angeles who never actually make it to their road to escape from the drolls they each experience every day. Though the settings are dramatically different, the characters themselves are similar and are closely bonded because of their experiences with men, work, and their position in society as a whole.
Sisterhood and loyalty are clearly esstablished in both films, almost immediately. In one of the opening scenes of T&L, the two share a comfortable, open, teasing playful phone conversation as they make their plans to skip town "for the weekend." Their closeness is demonstrated perhaps the most strongly when Louise kills Thelma's attacker in the parking lot of the saloon, changing the course of their lives forever. She offers a way out for Thelma, but the two choose to stay together and journey towards Mexico for freedom. They remain one another's closest ally for the rest of their lives, until they together choose to end their lives in a flash of adventure instead of turning themselves in to the law (represented by all male policemen).
The same is true of the four characters in Set It Off. They come from the school of Hard Knocks, and just their comfortable teasing of one another in their earliest conversations in the film demonstrate their openness and closeness. They fight together to rob a bank in order to get TT the money she needs to get custody of her son back. They fight together to get revenge/justice for Stoney's brother's untimely and unfair death. Their violent behavior is motivated by one another's struggles and they fight for each other, with each other, to the bitter end.

Violence is coded by gender and color in both films. It is seen as "masculine" - as T&L get progressively more violent, they begin to dress in less frilly clothes and wear cutoffs, sleeveless shirts, baseball hats and dirt on their faces. The four women in Set It Off assume a "tough" air when they are about to go into their next targeted bank, leaving behind any delicacy or femininity. When TT behaves feminine, it is demonstrated as fear, anxiety and wimpishness; on the other hand, Cleo is probably the most violent of the four, and she is a butch lesbian. In that way, violence is coded by gender. Color plays a secondary factor in Set It Off, because they are fighting the white cop and the injustice done to them by a primarily white police force. They are "thugs" from the projects, and therefore have a stigma associated with that (as the Mr. Right character demonstrates when he comments on how hard/tough Stoney is).

Justifying Violence and The Role of White Men Within In

Q:How is outlaw status justified?

Both Thelma and Louise and Set it Off attempt to make the women moderately blameless in their rebellion and violence by making them victims in helpless situations revolving around economy and sexual status. In Thelma and Louise, both women are lower class, and inhibited as such. Thelma has chosen to escape her poverty by marrying a man with money, but this situation results in her being controlled and isolated by her husband. Similarly, while Louise does not have a controlling husband, her mobility is dictated by her job. Neither woman possesses freedom or autonomy as a white male would. In this way, the viewer sympathizes with their violence, understanding it to be the only manner in which they may free themselves from a tyranny they were placed under.

This same idea can be viewed in Set it Off. This band of women also face uncontrollable circumstances of economy and sexual status, which inhibit them from hitting the road, or being free in any manner. Stony has been robbed of her parents in a freak accident, and must fend for herself and her brother. Her prostitution is justified in this manner, having no other means to pay for college for her brother. Frankie must work in an environment where her race and economic status is considered a liability, and the robbing of a bank by another man causes her to lose this job. In this way, her poverty is through no fault of her own, leaving the viewer to feel her anger and violence is not only justified, but the wrath she inflicts is deserved. Tesean also gleans sympathy by having a son she must provide for, by not having enough money to pay for sitter, she is blamelessly placed in a situation where her son is at risk. Therefore, when the time comes to commit a crime to rectify this situation, the audience has no problem granting her permission. Oddly enough, the only women without 'reason', is Cleo. This issue is 'solved' by coding her in a bulldagger role, masculinizing her, and making her violence seem natural and even comic to the audience at times. While the audience understands that Cleo also has a desperate economic situation, she is not given any other character traits to cause the audience to lean toward her.

All the women in these films are given some manner of economic/sexual/ racial justification for their violence, making the outlaw identity acceptable to viewers.

Q: What is the role of the white police officer?

Both Thelma and Louise and Set it Off employ the role of the white police officer in the same manner: the sinner and the saint. In Thelma and Louise, the police are both the relentless stalkers of the women, while simultaneously rooting for them. The role played by Harvey Keitel is very father like, stern yet wise, only wanting the best. In this way, he is neither completely accepted by the audience, nor wholly demonized. He adamantly tries to stop the women from ending their lives, making it appear he 'really truly cares'.

In Set it Off, the police are to blame for some of the most violent incidents (such as the killing of Stony's brother, and Frankie), yet they have one representative that acts as the 'compassionate cop'. Detective Strode's journey from hard cynical cop, to empathetic ally occurs unrealistically quickly. The audience first despises Strode for his harsh treatment of Frankie, and his involvement in Stony's brothers death. However, his slow grasping of the helplessness of the women's situations warms to audience to him. At the end, when he allows Stony to escape, the white man is redeemed in the audiences eyes.

Both films both point out the unfair behavior of the 'white cop', but only briefly before redeeming him with some kind of admirable act.

Set It Off v. Thelma and Louise

How is violence coded by gender and color?
Both movies were highly dependent on violence as a means to an end, and in both of the films the women characters were very reluctant to begin using weapons or violence (with the exception of Queen Latifah's character). Also, both films portrayed the women as being both scared and tired of violence, as it had been used in multiple ways to create loss of pain in their lives. However, the ways in which the women in these films grew to use or accept the use of violence is different. Thelma and Louise used violence as a means of protection, mainly from men, where the characters in Set It Off used it to threaten or intimidate the people in the banks that they robbed. Thelma and Louise never seemed completely comfortable with the use of violence, even upt o the end of the film, where the women in Set It Off grew quickly fond of its use and their guns as they grew into their new roles of bank robbers. Those women became empowered by violence, where Thelma and Louise used it only when necessary.

How does the role of the white cop function in the narrative?
Both films have a large group of law enforcers on their tails, with many of those characters nameless and faceless. However, both films have one cop who is for the most part in charge of the investigation who fins himself with a soft spot for these women. Though the cops do not come from the same background as either of the women's characters in the films, they appear to have an understanding of their reasons for the things that they do, and this creates a sort of sympathy that affects the ways that the cops handle the women. For example, in Set It Off, at the end, when the cop sees Stoney on the bus and decides to let her go, even though she has broken the law. Or, in Thelma and Louise, the cop feels he can offer the women deals, or that they should not be punished for their actions, even though they have become criminals. These cops are both male, white, and seemingly good and competent at their jobs until they come upon these two groups of women. Then they seem to fall apart, making mistakes at their jobs, and letting their feelings get in the way. If the women in either film had been men, then these cops would have treated them completely different- they would have gotten just punishment for their actions. But since they were women, the cops felt that somehow their reasons were different and that therefore they didn't deserve the same punishment. So even though the women became empowered through their actions, the cops took away that power by treating the women as if they were delicate and temporarily irrational.

Six Girls on a Mission

The landscapes in Thelma and Louise and Set it Off are different in the way that one confines while the other releases. The landscape in Thelma and Louise gives the two main characters a sense of freedom as they travel the road because they are away from their normal lives and they are able to participate in any kind of activity that they desire. A good example of this is when Thelma robs the convenient store. She would have never done anything like that if she were still confined to her usual life at home. As for Set it Off the landscape is quite different. The characters are more confined in the way that they are unable to escape from their current living conditions because of their financial situation. An example of this in the movie is when Stony is talking to Keith about how she has never been out of the state her entire life. It’s not that she doesn’t possess the desire to experience the world; it’s just that she doesn’t have the means to do so.
In both of these films the role of the white cop functions as a means for survival. When Thelma and Louise are finally surrounded at the end of the movie they realize that their attempts at a free life without going to jail have failed, so the only way for them to continue to feel free is to fly off the side of the Grand Canyon. Throughout their crazy journey the only person that seems to be willing to help them in whatever way possible is the white cop, Hal. Even as they drive towards the edge of the Grand Canyon, Hal runs towards them because he feels like there is still something he can do to help them when they recognize that all hope is lost.
As for the girls in Set it Off, the white cop also acts as a means of survival, but for slightly different reasons than in that of Thelma and Louise. Towards the beginning of the film a scene is shown where the white cop, Strode, shoots Stony’s younger brother for no reason, so as the story unfolds and he realizes that Stony has to do with the bank robberies, he feels like he has to help her because of what he did to her brother. The scene that expresses this feeling of debt the most is when Strode sees Stony on the bus, but lets her get away even when he has been trying to catch her throughout the majority of the film.

Violence with gender and color and the white cop...

How is violence coded by gender and color?
In both films the “more feminine? characters (Thelma & T.T.) were very afraid of guns at least at the beginning however as time went on they both needed and used a gun to ensure the safety of their friends lives and their own. The more gutsy characters, Louise and Cleo, who happen to be a feminist and a lesbian, are the characters who feel a lot more comfortable holding the gun suggesting their anger towards society perhaps. The most worthy of note as far as gender is concerned in both of the films was Cleo. She is the only lesbian and she plays a very ‘masculine’ role always demanding control over situations, using degrading words like ‘bitch,’ she is completely comfortable shooting a gun, is obsessed with her car, and even has a girlfriend that never speaks which portrays her as being the submissive woman.
In the film ‘Set it Off’ the woman of color seem to be almost accepted by society as being violent or at least it comes as no surprise however, the women in ‘Thelma and Louise’ were not accepted by characters in the film or in real society as being violent and white women. The police officer did not even check if the two women were carrying weapons when he pulled them over in ‘Thelma and Louise’ however in the film ‘Set it Off,’ Detective Strode immediately assumed that Frankie the bank teller had something to do in the first bank robbing because they were from the same projects…and because she was black and so was he.
How does the role of the white cop function in both of the narratives?
In both films the investigators, Hal and Strode, treat the women as though they need to be saved by them because they are men and associate with being protectors. None of these women want nor need to be saved by men in fact, men are the ones who are damning them to hell in nearly every bad situation they encounter. In both films the viewer is supposed to feel that the white cop has broken out of his angry, heartless, insensitive shell but in reality he is only making the women appear more vulnerable by insinuating that they not only need to be saved by a male but a white, authoritative male.

Thelma & Louise vs. Set It Off

How is outlaw status justified?

Though both of the films Thelma & Louise and Set It Off are ultimately different, they both have a lot of similarities that run through them. In one particular case, both of the films appear to justify the outlaw status of the main characters. In Thelma & Louise, both of the female charatcers are outlaws because they commit the act of murder, however the viewer never really looks at Thelma and Louise as murderers. This is because their actions are justified. Thelma was hurt and almost raped by the man Louise killed. He showed zero remorse for his actions, and in this sense, Thelma is seen as the true victim, not the man murdered. This allows the viewer to justify their outlaw actions. Similarily in Set It Off, right at the beginning, the viewer sees the hardships the 4 main characters are faced with: Racism, poverty, murder, and violence just to name a few. For them, the system is set up unfairly. The viewer really gets a sense of what they are forced to go through, and so when they decide to steal from the system that has been screwing them over, the viewer can only see their outlaw actions as just.

How is “leaving normal? or the quest narrativized?

In both films, towards the beginning of each movie, it is stated, or implied that all the characters need to "get out" of their current situations. They want to leave their lives. It is almost as though it is what EVERYONE wants in both of their towns. After each of the groups of women in each movie commit crimes that bring them to "outlaw status," both movies' characters know that now they MUST leave. Perhaps the acts of crime were what they needed to finally allow themselves the push to go? Unfortunately in both films though, their qwests on the road are what ultimately lead to their demises.

Set It Off

In regards to the connection between F. Gary Gray’s film Set it Off and Ridley Scott’s feminist road film Thelma and Louise, many questions can be raised in regards to the how they compare to each other, and address issues such as race, class, gender, and sexuality. Such questions include: How are sisterhood and loyalty established? And, How are freedom and the road confounded in each film?
Sisterhood and loyalty within both films are established from the beginning, by how all women involved, are willing to put everything on the line to help not only their friend, but are willing to risk their life to keep their friends safe. Within Set it Off the women prove their loyalty to each other, and their bond as women, by not letting others defeat them, and gaining strength off each other to move on and work together for the great possibilities out their for them all. Like in Set it Off, in Thelma and Louise the two women grow a larger bond, and sisterhood, out of terrible events, in addition to gaining more loyalty from each other by having them continually sticking with each problem that comes their way, like as in Set if Off as well. Also, although both films include women who unite together to fight outside causes, both possess different underlining, unifying agents. For Set if Off, race and class cause the women to unite over the dominating race and class within their city that seems to be pushing them down, and within “Thelma and Louise,? gender seems to be the main underlining agent to unite the women together against the men in their world.
In addition to a bond and loyalty formed between the women within both Set it Off and Thelma and Louise, the road in both films seems to signify freedom and escape. Within Set if Off the road is the final step in escaping the lives and reality that seem to be holding all the women down, and in “Thelma and Louise,? the road proves as the ultimate line to freedom for the women as their lives as fugitives grows, and as the bond between the women on the road, and the liberating life they embrace, develops.

Thelma and Louise and Set it Off


Sisterhood and Loyalty
Sisterhood is established in both Set it Off and Thelma an Louise by bringing together women who share similar positions in society. Thelma and Louise were both working class white women who were fed up with their traditional roles as housewife and waitress. The women in Set it Off come together as working-class African American women who want something bigger than the life they bust their asses to maintain. The loyalty in both films is established in the same sense. The women must be loyal to their sisters, because they share the same goal and rely on one another for support to get there. Loyalty is tested in both films, like when Stoney refuses to rob another bank, and when Thelma is at first apprehensive about Louise's plan to flee. In contrast, the women in Set it Off all have motive to rob the bank, while in Thelma and Louise, the women are at odds about how to resolve the situation after they kill the man in the bar. Thelma seems to just go along with Louise simply because she doesn't have a choice, and her own motives are discovered along the journey, which was initially unwanted.
The road as a Symbol of Freedom
In both films, the women access the road by stealing, in some sense. Thelma leaves home without asking permission from her husband, and Cleo in Set it Off steals cars to flee from the scenes of their crimes. The road is a symbol of freedom for the women in both films because it represents a way to keep moving away from the things that bind them. The contrast of the symbolism of the road comes in when we observe Cleo's position in Set it Off. Cleo doesn't want to flee her life in the projects. She claims herself as a "hood rat" and feels that even if she took to the road and found a "better" place to live, she would feel out of place, because deep down she knows she belongs in the hood. The freedom of the road is not reached by any of the women in Set it Off except Stoney, who makes it to Mexico. Although she gets away from the cops and her old neighborhood, she is not truly free because the women she loves died for freedom, while she is alone to live a life that they all intended to share. The road is a more accessible means of gaining freedom for Thelma and Louise. They flee for a long time, having fun and growing closer to one another along the way. The road continues to be the ultimate source of freedom even at the end, when the women are cornered by the police and decide to end their lives together, in their vehicle of freedom.

March 29, 2008

Set if Off vs. Thelma and Louise

Thelma and Louise and Set it Off can be compared and contrasted in the role of the male white cop and their respective endings. Both films have a white male cop who takes on a paternal role. Hal puts himself between Thelma and Louise and the other officers with guns drawn. Detective Strode puts down his gun after cornering Frankie to try and save her life. The paternal role these gentleman play is tainted by the fact that they can be held partly responsible for the death of the main characters. Hal keeps Thelma on the phone with him long enough to trace her location by mentioning that he knows what happened to her in Texas. Detective Strode’s comments to Frankie after the bank robbery about why she didn’t follow proper procedure lead to her losing her job. His inability to recognize that Stoney’s little brother Stevie was carrying a champagne bottle and not a gun resulted in Stevie’s death. These two actions on Strode’s behalf give Frankie and Stoney motivation to take from a system that has taken from them.

Much of the action in the two films is a result of the main characters reacting to what is happening to them. In Thelma and Louise, Thelma kills Harlan as a result of his trying to rape Louise and Louise robs a convenience store after JD steals their money. In Set it Off as mentioned above Frankie and Stoney are just reacting to their loss of employment and family. Titi is motivated to join the group when her son is taken by Children’s Protective Services and she is told she must prove that she can afford to keep him. All of the films actions culminate in their respective endings. In Thelma and Louise the two women eternalize themselves by driving straight into the canyon. In Set it Off Cleo gives her life in an attempt to save her friends. After being cornered by the police Frankie makes the same decision Thelma and Louise made and takes off running knowing that she will likely be killed. Stoney is the only one from the two films that survives. She is given the opportunity to start again and hopefully is finally able to escape the “caged? feeling she described to Blair.

"Set It Off"

How is outlaw status justified?

It seems that it’s okay for them to be outlaws because they are oppressed. The need to be outlaws is driven by the need to get out of their “hood? and to “move up?. The quest for money and power, as well as extreme excitement drives their hunger for robbing banks.
In Thelma and Louise it seemed they justified their outlaw status because they needed to survive on the road as well, but in a different way-they needed money to fuel their car, buy liquor and food to continue their journey. The other part of their outlaw status was justified by their revenge on the male gender.


How is violence coded by gender and color?

It seemed to me in Set it Off, the women were unapologetically violent. Especially Cleo. She was a more “butch? type of character, and of course was depicted as more manly and not afraid to take charge. The other women followed her lead a lot of the time and were also a bit more timid with their weapons. Vivica Fox’s character seemed the most confident out of the women because she knew how the bank system worked. Nonetheless the difference between shakey and uncertain Thelma and Louise, apologizes as they lock a cop in the back of his car, and these women was obvious, White privelege vs. oppression and “being fucked by the system? was what made one more violent than the other in these films. Of course, this is a stereotype…the fact that they show women even being violent is interesting but the racial difference is even more astounding.

Set It Off Instructions

Select any two of the following questions to compare Set It Off and Thelma and Louise. In addressing these two questions, share your ideas on how you see race, sexuality, class, and gender inscribed in the differences between these two films. Try to select different questions or a different angle on the questions that have already been discussed by other students on your blog.

How are sisterhood and loyalty established?
How is outlaw status justified?
How is the road as a symbol of freedom accessed?
How is “leaving normal? or the quest narrativized?
How is auto-mobility achieved?
How is violence coded by gender and color?
How are the landscapes different?
How does the role of the white cop function in the narrative?
How are freedom and the road confounded in each film?
How are the endings similar and different?
How does identification for the spectator work in each of these films?
Why is “Set it Off? a road movie?

March 10, 2008

T&L

Thelma and Louise was such a great film. Although their behavior was extreme, the undertones and the points they made throughout the film are accurate feminist ideas. Wanting respect should be expected, and teaching the men throughout the movie how to treat/talk to women was done really well. The scene that really stood out to me was the event that began their road journey. It does not surprise me that a rapist would use such language toward Louise after she rescues Thelma. What he says to her is so utterly disrespectful as well as trying to do quite possibly the biggest violation toward someone, I was glad when she shot him. Obviously, this was the extreme case of teaching someone a lesson, but the message was still the same. Without the violence, viewers can still understand what is to be taken from that scene. Disrespect in such a way should not be tolerated. My definition of feminism, is basically just being treated with as equal respect and fairness as anyone else. Women are put back so often by double standards (For example being called emotional or a bitch if you try to speak your mind against something) and it just seems ridiculous to me that things are still issues in this time period. Thelma and Louise has been my favorite movie we have watched so far this semester. It really in empowering to at the very least (non-violently) stand up for yourself if you feel you are being treating poorly.

You go, girls.

"Something's crossed over in me, and I can't go back. I feel wide awake."


As far as feminist films go (and, more specifically, feminist road films), Thelma & Louise is where it’s at, the one that started it all. This film offers a very clear and very rousing critique of patriarchal society and women’s place, or lack thereof, in it; the initial ways in which these two strong, charismatic female characters are oppressed by men (dead-end or even abusive relationships, housewivery, rape, subjection to sexually scrutinizing gazes) and the ways in which they soon learn to fight back (even if they are, for example, the most polite robbers ever) establish a unwavering pro-feministic theme throughout the film’s portrait of oft-oppressive American culture. Thelma and Louise are women shown in a whole new way: capable, independent, trail-blazing, name-taking true-blues. It is their infallibility towards one another, an insistence that we all must stick together, that I find especially compelling. Furthermore, they are women on a male-dominated road for a very specific reason—to find themselves amid the mess. And because, as Thelma puts it, “no one would believe us? if they women claimed they shot that bastard at the bar out of self-defense. They and we know that Thelma would have been seen as “asking for it? because she was dancing with him, and that her victimizer would have gotten off clean. They are reborn on the road, free from restraint, free to (literally) give their lives to stand up for what they believe in. They “keep going? at the end because they wanted to be the only ones out of an entire misunderstanding world to choose their fate. To me, feminism is a demand for respect and equality, and a question of why so many institutions insist otherwise. It’s about women being proud of who they are, and it’s about creating your own path instead of trudging through the one already laid out for you.

Thelma and Louise

Thelma and Louise is very much a feminist critique. Both women are portrayed as strong, free thinking women (as soon as they leave their men, that is), and their actions in the film reflect those attitudes. My definition of feminism is that women are independent, strong, and unreliant upon anyone. Feminism rejects normal ideas of societal roles and puts women in roles of power and/or independence. A scene from the film that demonstrates this is the scene towards the end, when they see the sexist trucker for the final time. Thelma and Louise coax him off the road, and when he gets to where they are parked, they begin to chastize him for his chauvinistic actions. He refuses to believe he is wrong, prompting the women to shoot out his tires, and finally, blow up the truck, leaving him stranded in the desert. Thelma and Louise drive off through the dust, to continue their journey towards freedom. That scene is one of the most powerfully feminist scenes I have ever watched, as it gives off an incredible feeling of control and freedom for the women.

Feminism in Thelma and Louise

The film Thelma and Louise is definitely a great representation of a feminist road film. It does a great job in outlining the true meaning of feminism, which in my mind means that women are seen as being equal to men in all aspects of life. The film starts off with Thelma and Louise heading out on a road trip on their own, free from the constraints of men. The scene leading up to this point really demonstrates how this film is an effective feminist critique because it demonstrated Thelma’s ability to break free of her husband’s constraint upon her so that she can live a life that she enjoys. When Thelma decides to leave with Louise without getting her husband Darryl’s permission first she demonstrates her ability to break out of the constraint placed on women. This scene, which is very early in the movie, sets the view of the positive feminist road film for the rest of the adventurous scenes. As time progresses throughout the film, Thelma and Louise seem to become closer and closer to each other. They no longer need the men in their lives to make them feel happy or safe. They learn to do things on their own to defend who they are and not be walked over by men. Thelma shows this when she robs the convenience store and Louise shows it when she stands up for the two of them by blowing up semi truck that belonged to the man that was harassing them on the road. They both demonstrate their ability to do what any man can do, which is why this film is a great representation of a successful feminist road film.

Thelma and Louise

So much of Thelma and Louise is a feminist critique. How can it not be? It was the first film that really step beyond female gender roles. I glad I got an opportunity to view the film. I have talked about it a lot in many of GWSS classes and with people in my life. After viewing the film I had a strange solidarity type feeling. I was very proud to be a woman. The one scene for me that really showed a strong critique for feminism was towards the end when Thelma was saying that it was all her fault, the whole thing ( for being raped) and Louise looks over and says something like, “You haven’t figured it out yet… you are not blamed… it isn’t your fault? . It was the first time that rape got “called out? meaning, that women were not to be blamed for rape, that it is always the man. It was a powerful seen and I can only imagine empowering for women who were watching it.

Feminism for me is defined as: A part of the larger human rights struggle to have equality for all. To critique and discuss issues of gender equality and to challenge the social norms that confine people to certain roles in society.

Thema and Louise

Thema and Louise provides the viewer with a very effective feminist critique. I believe that this critique is best presented in one of the last scenes of the film, the scene in which Thema and Louise are pulled over by the highway patrolman. The officer comes to Louise's window and at first she assumes a typical submissive female persona, she plays cute and dumb hoping that he will go easy on her. This doesn't work and she is taken back to his car, Thema follows, pistol in hand. This scene is an effective feminist critique because the women get when they want only when they act as their intelligent, tough, masculine selves. A complete role reversal occurs when the officer begins to weep and beg for mercy, he is now the submissive character. The scene ends when Thema and Louise strip him of parts of his masculinity, Thema trades her feminine sunglasses for his and they take his gun. To me, this scene is the definition of feminism, intelligence and independence versus submissiveness.

working 9 to 5, i mean...thelma and louise.

What was most striking to me regarding the feminist viewpoint in Thelma and Louise was the fact that they were working class women. I'm always fascinated by anything counter-culture that comes from a middle-class/white frame of reference. The fact that both women have employment in traditional female enterprises (waitress and housewife) and that they break out of them by becoming outlaws are exciting if nothing else. I think that if these had been two upper-middle class women the movie would have become more of a comment on class than anything, and exoctisized the lower class too much. Writing about this in academic terms makes me a little itchy though, because I think that it isn't as acessible as it should be to the people I'm writing about. Luckily I come from a similar socio-economic background though, so I can write about my definition of feminism in that vernacular. More on that later. I think the best example of a blatant metaphor for the women's change is when you juxtapose the images of Louise putting on lipstick very carefully when they first leave, and later throwing it in the desert. Another similar example is when she gives her jewelry (femininity/money) and watch (society/rules) to the old gentleman.
My views on what feminism is:
Hoes up, but not G's out.
That is, to me feminism is about being pro-women, but not anti anything else. Do what you do, and I'll do me.
And being pro-choice.
If you ain't pro-choice, you ain't a feminist.
No second class citizenship.
etcetcetc.

Thelma and Louise

"Thelma and Louise" can definitely be seen as an effective feminist critique because the two protagonists are outside the normal realm of women's roles in movies. Their defiance against the law stems from the two women's realization of what is important to them in life. When they first hit the road after killing the scumbag at the bar, Thelma was scared and confused, while Louise was trying to keep the situation under control. After they had been on the run for a while, Thelma realized that her relationship with Louise was more important that that with her husband or anyone else in her life. The scene that really proves to me that this was a feminist critique is when Thelma and Louise decide to end their lives by driving off a cliff before getting caught. They were both reborn on the road, freed from the restraints of their jobs and husband/boyfriend, and decided to make sure they died free as well. The fact that these women gave their lives to stand up for what they believed in represents a definition of feminism.

Thelma and Louise

I definitely think that Thelma and Louise is an effective feminist critique. I believe feminism is for a woman to break away from the stereotypical roles that society places women under. It is finding your own path instead of always following the one that is already made. Throughout the film, Thelma and Louise provide excellent examples of feminism. In the beginning of the movie when they leave the men behind, this shows how they are not dependent upon men or anyone else for that matter. They are completely capable of venturing out on their own; they even enjoy it!
When Lousise kills the man that almost rapes Thelma, despite the violence this shows that she is willing to take a stand for what she believes in. Later on in the movie Thelma comes to a realization.

I'm not sorry that son of a bitch is dead. I'm just sorry it was you and not me.

Despite the violence of the film, Thelma and Louise show a new side to feminism through their journey on the road. It gave hope to America that power could finally be places in the hands of a woman.

Feminism/Thelma and Louise

Thelma and Louise is a movie that portrays women in a new way. The two are seen as strong and capable women in the movie, instead of meek and marginalized as in previous films. There are two scenes in the movie where I think it is shown that these women are empowered individuals. The first is when Thelma tells her husband she is leaving, and doesn't give in when he threatens her, or puts her down. That displays real courage and self-acceptance to be able to confront someone who has so much influence in your life. The second scene is when Thelma and Louise confront the truck driver. The scene shows that they believe in themselves enough to know that they do not deserve to be treated that way, and they won't accept/ tolerate it any longer.
To me, feminism is simply women being proud of their gender, and believing that they deserve respect and equality.

Feminism and "Thelma and Louise"

The film Thelma and Louise provides a very clear feminist critique of society and women's place in it. The ways in which the two women are oppressed by men throughout the film, and the ways in which they fight back, both speak to a feminist critique of American culture. One of the most patriarchal forces in our society is the law and in the film, all of the police officers are male-- most importantly the head investigators. Looking at the scene where Thelma and Louise are pulled over by the cop (not taking into consideration the weirdly sort of racist and stereotypical depiction of a Rastifarian biker), we can see one of the ways in which Thelma and Louise fight against a patriarchal force. The cop himself walks up to the car, exuding a certain "manliness" in his demeanor and way of speech. When he asks Louise to come back to his car, Thelma sneaks up on the two and holds the cop at gunpoint until he gets into his own trunk. They trap him inside one of his sources of power, his car, and leave him. They even take his "gun" from him (castration anxiety.....?)
My definition of feminism is a discourse in which striving towards equal opportunities, rights, etc. for all sexes is the end goal. This end goal is achieved through a critique of the ways in which a traditionally patriarchal society has systematically oppressed non-male sexes throughout history. Thelma and Louise attempts at this throughout its storyline. The scene described above is one of many that locate a source of power men have in society, and uses women to take that power away.

Thelma and Louise.... 'Girl Power'

I believe that Thelma and Louise was more than just a film portraying feminist. It showed the importance of women standing up for themselves and eachother. Staying with the theme of standing up for all women, I think that the scene in the movie that best portrays feminism is when Thelma was getting raped by the jerk at the bar, and Louise came in and stood up for her friend. Though violence was shown which of course is not the answer, who can really blame her. After what the guy said and how he treated them, I think we can sympathize and understand why she did it. This scene displays very well how I would describe feminism. Though it may not be the usual definition that we hear, I would define it as women sticking up for themselves and eachother. To be able to have the ability to do that is so empowering and I think we as women should use that power more often. A lot could/can be accomplished if we all learn to stand up for ourselves and other women around us.

Thelma and Louise...

‘For many female critics, the film’s depiction of sexism and the marginalization women experienced in their everyday life represented an affirmation of women’s strength and a justification of their anger? (PAGE/AUTHOR???). The film “Thelma and Louise? positively displayed a feminist critique where although there were chauvinistic men constantly appearing the two main characters, especially Louise, stood her ground and wouldn’t stand up for their patriarchal bull crap. Both Thelma and Louise were feminists who lived very different lifestyles but throughout the film each of them discovered more and more how men were a constant disservice to their lives and how much they were affected and even dependent upon them. My definition of feminism is the belief and goal that everyone was created equal no matter gender, sexual orientation, disability, race, etc; and everyone should be treated as so. Those who do not follow this BASIC standard of living should be punished accordingly (whether through methods of teaching, training, etc). In one of the scenes when Louise and Thelma are in a diner Louise says to Thelma, “If you weren’t trying to have so much fun we wouldn’t be here in the first place.? This moment is very key because for once we hear the affects that patriarchy and society in general has had Louise. This is also the moment when Thelma really stands her ground and finally gets angry and points out Louise’s ridiculous comment questioning her, “you think this is all my fault?? The victim (survivor) is constantly being blamed and repeatedly questioned about what she/he has done wrong rather than the perpetrator as though the perpetrator was tricked or led on. Thelma makes a clear statement here that is followed by Louise’s own silence and realization in what she had just said.

Thelma and Louise kick ass

Thelma and Louise is definitely the most feminist film we have seen so far. The spectator sees Thelma's transformation from the innocent/ignorant housewife to the almost conscious female being when she says that she wished she "would have shot him".

In my opinion, the movie offers a new "road" for women. When Thelma and Louise trick the truck driver, they make a fool of him and after he refuses to apologize. Yet, at the same time as the women pull out the guns he is not fearful for his life showing how he feels that a woman would never actually kill anyone. In this sense, the film is an incredible feminist critque, and one we have never seen before. But we still have far to go for it to become effective.

Feminism to me means getting away from the "male-dependent" characteristic and individualism. For many years, women were defined by their husbands status and not by their own. In this way, Thelma and Louise are not depended on men (except for Jimmy and the money), and they are in no way defined by the actions of a man. They are "wild women" and they create their own story. In fact, they both actually drive. :-)

Thelma and Louise: A Feminist Film Critique

After viewing the well known film Thelma and Louise, I found that it was much more than a female version of the classic road film. The film really takes on a feminist perspective as these two women leave behind the contraints of their daily lives in order to find adventure and freedom. The road in this film along with their convertable represents their ticket to freedom. As long as they are driving on the road they are getting away from and escaping all that ties them down back home, namey the men in their lives. Both women are in unhappy relationships and depend on eachother for the only good and solid relationship that they have in life.
I think this film takes on a feminist perspective as the women gain authority throughout the film, unfortunately through the use of guns and violence, but nevertheless these women take charge and enter what normally on the screen is viewed only as male characteristics. They become confident, assertive, and fearless. This sharply contrats the other road films we have viewed in which men are telling the story and women are visual stimuli, or sexual objects the men merely meet along the way. I think the term feminism describes the utopian view of the equality between men and women in terms of what both genders are able/expected to do, in terms of personal characteristics, actions, and lifestyles. Feminism allows women to step outside their culturally created gender roles and perhaps take on a job or activity or lifestyle that is not traditionally "female", and thus allows for the freedom of choice, which is what I think feminism is at the core, the power of choice and individuality free from gender norms and cultural expectations.
Thelma and Louise certainly go against cultural norms as they become violent and assertive women as the film progresses. However, much like the film "Woman on a Motorcycle" thier freedom is put to a halt when at the end of the film they die (or we assume that they die). The film recognizes them as outlaws who must be punished, which is customary in American films, however it also indicates that they must be punished in someway for their deviant behaviior and expressed the idea that the "wild" woman" will not go unpunished, and in some ways counteracts the freedom and feminist ideals that the film was promoting all along. Had they survived, which perhaps they did, I think that it would have indicated that these women, though non-traditional escaped the binds of their daily lives and societal norms and remained truely free.

Thelma and Louise: A Feminist Film Critique

After viewing the well known film Thelma and Louise, I found that it was much more than a female version of the classic road film. The film really takes on a feminist perspective as these two women leave behind the contraints of their daily lives in order to find adventure and freedom. The road in this film along with their convertable represents their ticket to freedom. As long as they are driving on the road they are getting away from and escaping all that ties them down back home, namey the men in their lives. Both women are in unhappy relationships and depend on eachother for the only good and solid relationship that they have in life.
I think this film takes on a feminist perspective as the women gain authority throughout the film, unfortunately through the use of guns and violence, but nevertheless these women take charge and enter what normally on the screen is viewed only as male characteristics. They become confident, assertive, and fearless. This sharply contrats the other road films we have viewed in which men are telling the story and women are visual stimuli, or sexual objects the men merely meet along the way. I think the term feminism describes the utopian view of the equality between men and women in terms of what both genders are able/expected to do, in terms of personal characteristics, actions, and lifestyles. Feminism allows women to step outside their culturally created gender roles and perhaps take on a job or activity or lifestyle that is not traditionally "female", and thus allows for the freedom of choice, which is what I think feminism is at the core, the power of choice and individuality free from gender norms and cultural expectations.
Thelma and Louise certainly go against cultural norms as they become violent and assertive women as the film progresses. However, much like the film "Woman on a Motorcycle" thier freedom is put to a halt when at the end of the film they die (or we assume that they die). The film recognizes them as outlaws who must be punished, which is customary in American films, however it also indicates that they must be punished in someway for their deviant behaviior and expressed the idea that the "wild" woman" will not go unpunished, and in some ways counteracts the freedom and feminist ideals that the film was promoting all along. Had they survived, which perhaps they did, I think that it would have indicated that these women, though non-traditional escaped the binds of their daily lives and societal norms and remained truely free.

Thelma and Louise

The term “feminism,? to me, has a meaning of trying to make females equal to men and women standing up for their rights, also being self-respected. I also think in some ways the word “feminism? could stand for independence and freedom for women. The film Thelma and Louise is a good feminist film because it really shows two women, by themselves (no men tagging along), on the road and doing what they want to do without worrying what any guy is going to think of their decisions (minus the part about shooting someone). In one of the first scenes of the movie when Thelma was getting ready to leave with Louise, the masculinity control of her husband really struck me when he was yelling at her and she was afraid to tell/ask him she was leaving/ if it was okay to leave. Ultimately, she left without caring what her husband thought about the situation. A popular line used by Louise was, “ He’s your husband, not your father.? I think that motivated Thelma to be more independent about the situation and realize that her husband was an asshole. I think this film showed a very good example of feminism in that Thelma and Louise proved that women really could be treated equally to men by showing many examples throughout the film.

March 9, 2008

Thelma and Louise

Feminism can take on many different definitions, in fact I truly think that we all may have a different idea of what it means. To me it's equality, between both genders no matter the situations and/or circumstances and a feminist is someone who encourages and believes whole-heartedly in this practice.
Thelma and Louise has always been on of my favorite movies. I remember watching it with my mom and my friends through out highschool many many times. Feminism was obvious to me when I originally watched it years ago, however, this class has made a few more issues and situations where a feminist critique has become even more obvious. The scene that sticks out in my mind is Thelma's attempt to get away from her husband. She is using this trip to become "free" yet still needs that approval from her husband to go. When she just leaves him, it does embody the power a woman can have to do what she wants yet she still conformed to things that her husband wanted her to do in the home before she left, ie leaving microwavable food for him. It conforms to the idea that a wife or a woman needs to take care of her husbands every need - the cliche of the "dinner on the table when he gets home" idea.
Feminism is very apparent throughout this entire movie and both Thelma and Louise use this road to escape situations that were holding them back from being free, creating that freedom and equality that so many men are shown to have then and in society today.

I'll be Thelma if you be Louise...

Feminism is people trying to make women equal to men, because they feel that women are repressed.

I think that Thelma and Louise embodies a feminist film, and its purpose is to empower women to do what they want. However, the scene that stuck out to me was not a good feminist critique. When Louise is convincing Thelma that she needs to join her on this road trip, Thelma is scared to ask her husband. She decides to join Louise as a kind of statement to her husband that she does what she wants, however when she jumps into the car and drives away she tells Louise she didn’t ask her husband if she could come. At this point she feels free and as though she took a stand, but she then mentions that she made him food to warm up while she is gone. So even though she was trying to make a feminist statement with this trip, she makes sure to take care of her husband before she leaves. To her, it was bad enough she didn’t tell her husband that she was leaving, but she couldn’t leave him without food! Heaven forbid the man bowl his own water!
At this scene, I laughed to myself because Thelma felt as though she was freeing herself when in reality her husband’s interest was still high on her mind. Overall, Thelma and Louise is made to be a feminist film taken to the next level. It is an extreme of what feminism is, but it sure is entertaining to watch!

Feminist Critique?

Thelma and Louise was an effective feminist critique as shown through many scenes in the movie. A feminist is someone who believes that women and men should be treated equally and thinks about every situation as its significance and how women fit into it. Feminists speak out if something is unfair because women are able to do way more than they have been in the past so they aren't like the stereotype of the homemaker, to me. Their main incentive is to find justice for women.
In the movie, Thelma was seen as the woman that wanted to be free because her husband controlled her. Louise was the one who came in and made Thelma realize that the way they were living wasn't alright. This was when they were driving in the car and Thelma said that her husband doesn't let her go anywhere, and that just expected her to stay in the house and do housework. These two women were represented as strong, opinionated and determined to be free and that was their motivation throughout the movie. Their attitudes towards the end of the movie were that they didn't need anyone but each other and their actions became justified when Thelma was taken advantage of.
Another example that showed that Thelma and Louise was seen as an example of feminism based on my own definition was that Louise drove a Thunderbird. The thunderbird is seen as a manly, flashy, and rebelliious car which foreshadows that trouble is bound to happen. It sends the message that women are equal to men therefore they can drive whatever car they want to. Louise had that type of car for a reason whether it was to make a point or that she just liked that it was flashy and a convertible. The thunderbird has been shown in many movies in specific, Grease, in which the most popular, smooth guys in school were called the Thunderbirds.
With the evidence that I have presented, it is proven that Thelma and Louise is an effective feminist critique. Louise fits more of the characteristics if a feminist and since her views are obvious, she influences Thelma to feel the same. Louise starts to hate the life that she used to live especially she didn't have any control over because what she did, where she went or anything else. Together they feel a sense of security that they couldn't feel with any man. They went on their journey with the incentive of justice for women and that ended with them driving over the edge of a cliff together.

Feminism in Thelma and Louise

While there are many views on what exactly feminism means, for me, feminism is the idea of women living in a world where they are treated the same as men. Feminism stands for equality, equal rights, and empowerment for women in a male dominated world.
There are lots of scenes in this film that do a good job of portraying feminism, but the one that stands out to me is the scene where the two women pull off the road to confront the obnoxious truck driver. The man pulls over, continuing to make sexual gestures and comments to the women, such as, "Are you ready for a big dick?" When he stops his truck, he quickly grabs for condoms, assuming that his sexist actions are somehow going to get him sex. When he gets out of the truck and comes over to Thelma and Louise, Louise begins talking to the truck driver and telling him that he should appologize for his behavior. The driver seems befuddled by this idea of a man having to appologize to a woman or that he should treat women with any sense of respect. In his mind, women are nothing more than objects for men's use. When he refuses to comply with Louise request of an appology, the women open fire on his truck, shooting out its tires, and finally blowing up the entire thing. The destruction of the man's truck is in a way the destruction of his power, showing him that women aren't defenseless objects that he can treat any way he pleases.

Embodiment of Thelma and Louise

Within the road film genre, as a part of the modern cinematic culture, phallocentrism and masculinist narratives have dominated, however, in recent years, the feminist road film has been emerging to subvert traditional elements of the classical road film. One of these films is Ridley Scott’s 1991 road film thriller, Thelma and Louise. Thelma and Louise proves as an effective feminist critique in whole with its counter cinema techniques of filmmaking, but one thematic specifically that the film works against is the viewpoint of the camera centering around the male gaze. One scene in particular that not only works against the male gaze, but also formulates a female gaze, is the encountering of the character J.D, played by Brad Pitt. Within the scenes involving J.D., not only do the women of the film take back the gaze normally put upon women within traditional road films, such as Easy Rider, where women are objects for sexual objectification, but the women, specifically Thelma (Gena Davis) create a female gaze of their own. Having the viewpoint of the camera center on J.D., and take the perspective of the women of the film, J.D. becomes eroticized instead of the women; a female gaze emerges, which proves as an effective feminist element of the film.
Although there are various definitions of ‘feminism,’ for myself feminism, in whole, means the collaboration of theories and beliefs that center around the equality of men and women, and Thelma and Louise proves as an affirmative embodiment of that within the road film genre.

Thelma and Louise

My definition of feminism is finding equality between women and men. Feminism is also a word for women empowerment and to campaign for women's rights. More generally, for me, it's also being proud of being a woman.

In Thelma and Louise I think the sequence in which showed feminism and women empowerment is at the very end when they have the grand car chase and inevitably they decide to drive off of the cliff. When they begin the car chase Thelma and Louise definitely break out of the meek housewife role and show true power as Louise is able to out- manuever the men at driving which can traditionally been thought of as a man's domain. Not only do they show driving prowess but their decision to run in the first place and continue running even when it seems rather hopeless with so many police on their tail shows that they have taken their lives into their own hands and no one but them can dictate it. This idea definitely comes into play when in the end, Thelma and Louise decide to drive off the cliff. Both characters have been cornered all their life playing the role of housewife and waitress, but when they are cornered at the end in front of the cliff they find a way to free themselves from the male dominated world they were trapped in. With this powerful and dramatic ending I would definitely have to say that Thelma and Louise embodies themes of feminism where they find empowerment and equality in their decision to run and then keep going when you would expect most to give in.

an effective feminist critique

I consider feminism to be the ideal that women are equal to men. This allows of course for the fact that women have their own strengths and weaknesses just as men do. It means that women should be treated no worse than men are treated, they should not be treated as if they are less intelligent or less hard-working or as if they are below men. Women should be believed when they say something happened just as men would be believed and they should be treated as human beings who have feelings and cares just like any other person, man or woman. Women should also be treated with the same respect given to any man.

"Thelma and Louise" is an effective feminist critique because it upholds feminist ideals and points out the flaws in society that have caused feminist ideals to form. It points out the fact that women are not respected by the way Daryl treats Thelma and shows that women have feelings as Thelma and Louise get angrier about the way they are being treated and scared about the police catching them. A very good job is done of pointing out the fact that women are not believed when they say something happened like men are by the fact that Louise is afraid to go to the police after shooting Thelma's would-be rapist. Even later in the movie Thelma comments that they would have just assumed she was asking for it because she was dancing with the man all night, something that never would have been assumed were a man in her position. Thelma and Louise fight for respect for women when they lure the trucker who has been following them and making innuendos off the road. Then when they tell him to apologize for disrespecting them so much and he refuses they blow up his truck, a very clear declaration that women deserve respect just as much as men.

Lelma and Thouise

Being an indoctrinated youth of the postmodern generation, it may seem quaint that my definition of feminism is pretty akin to the standards set forth by the suffragette movements, that being the necessity for social, political, and economic equality for men and women. While I can see the importance of mid 60's movement for sisterhood among all women, I think ultimately that is too impractical, insomuch as that it often offers openings for critics to deride feminism as male-bashing. Plus, I'm kind of a nihilist at heart.
Speaking of nihilism, Thelma & Louise eh?

I agree very much with Sturken's assessment that the end of film in the way that it "has the effect of both provoking sadness that these vital women are gone and of making them feel still alive" (75). By not showing them dying as their car careens off of the Grand Canyon (from certain vantages, a very feminine landmark), they are allowed to live via a metaphysical energy removed from the confines placed by the patriarchal powers that be. This ends up being a very powerful critique, showing the impossibility of their liberty in the world.
Indeed when applying the dynamic of mobility=life as used in other films we have watched, the men in the film are show primarily as stationary beings, stagnant and ineffectual. Phallic symbols (guns, and automobiles, namely) are re-appropriated to become means for Thelma & Louise to fight for their freedom from the stifling savage man's world.

Feminism in Thelma and Louise

Feminism consists of acts that equate women with males. In the case of the movie "Thelma and Louise" feminism can be compared to similar acts done by the males in "Easy Rider" and the way that the movie was filmed to not only include the male gaze, but some show for the women enjoying Brad Pitt. Maybe not all women want to have the camera pan up and down on Brad Pitt right before he's about to get into bed with Thelma, but who am I to say know. At least we're getting even. People like to look at one another and men like to look at women. Now, thanks to "Thelma and Louise" women can now look at good looking men and have a reason for it. Another way this movie is feminist is by the drinking of "Wild Turkey" primarily by Thelma. Whiskey is general is known as a mans drink and women who drink it are tough and masculine. Thelma was tough and masculine by standing up for herself, drinking whiskey, and yelling at the dirty trucker, stealing, and running from the law, but she was also feminine in that she was pretty, attracted men, and did (at one time) conform to the housewife status. In this film women are told it is okay to stand up for yourself in sexual situations that you don't want to be involved in and it's okay to desire a male just for sex. We are now told it's okay to desire males just like males have desired women for years without all the attachements...that's a pretty forward moving, feminist freedom film

Feminism apparent in Thelma and Louise

"Feminism" is a term that I actually used to avoid using. Even though I am a proud female, I used to think that the term just further seperated women from reaching the goal of equality. It took me a while to realize that a term does not change or affect the accepted norms of society, people do. So while I was wary of a highly critized term, I should have been embracing what it stood for. I now believe feminism to be a term that envokes action to help bring equality and pride to the female gender. I think it basically sets out to ensure that each female is given the same opportunity as each male, but also sets out to make sure that each female embraces her gender as well.

In the film Thelma and Louise, the two main characters set out to debunk the phallocentric world. Thelma and Louise go against the typical actions of women for the time, by doing things such as baring guns and living the outlaw lifestyle, something that was only seen as acceptable for the male gender. One particular scene where this is apparent is the scene where Thelma and Louise wave down the rude trucker they've encountered throughout the movie. The trucker initially pulls over because he thinks he is going to have sex with these women, but in reality, he is pulled over so Thelma and Louise can expose his disgusting acts and force him to appologise. When he refuses, they blow his truck up using their guns. Basically, Thelma and Louise are using an object that represents phallocentricism (the guns) to honor their gender. I felt this was an affective use of feminism in the film.

Feminist Critique

"Feminism" for me is the ideology of women who believe that men and women should be treated equally and that women are just as valuable and important to society as men. In addition, I believe that feminist thought and theory works to reveal and promote the women's experiences, ideas and beliefs to empower the women. Women are often marginalized in society, but "feminism" is a way to give a voice back to those women who are often supressed by phallocentric societies. As far as "Thelma and Louise" is concerned, I believe it is a decent start to a feminist critique. For example, when the two women trick a semi-truck driver into pulling over and then proceed to "teach him a lesson" on how to treat women properly. This is an empowering scene, which portrays women as active bodies, rather than submissive subjects. This scene allowed women to be heard. The women say "how would you feel if someone acted like that towards your mother, or sister...." The man refuses to take them seriously and so they blow up his truck. Although they resorted to violent techniques, it still empowers women in that it shows that women are human beings with feelings and that they want to be treated with respect and deserve so. It was difficult to feel remorse for the driver. Overall, the film did a fantastic job of showing anti-phallacentrism and it released the male-gaze. The women were the action figures, finally for once in a big box office hit.

Thelma and Louise

"Feminism" is when women strive to make themselves equal to men. They take pride in being women, different from men but equal in humankind. This film is effective in displaying feminine power and pride. The scene in which Thelma and Louise pull to the side of the road and confront in the inappropriate truck driver displays how both women begin to take on masculine characteristics and more power in speaking their minds. When Thelma and Louise tell off the truck driver, it's one of the first times in the film, that I thought to myself they are really taking on masculine traits of power and authority, things that feminists strive to achieve to reach equality with men.
Thelma and Louise definitely show feminist characteristics in this film and I would characterize this film as an effective feminist movie.

positive feminist view

The term feminism is one of which much controversy has risen in the recent decades. Since the 1920's, women have been trying to gain equality in living with that of men. To me it's the idea of everyone sharing a common belief of "laissez faire"; the freedom of being able to do what one choses, the opportunity. I believe that feminism is about empowerment and equality. Anyone can be a feminist and I also think that it can relate to people other than women.
In the film "Thelma and Louise", both women were in situations that were a bit stifling and once they got on the road and were able to leave their hum-dum lives behind, their feminist sides were revealed. After the women discovered that they were wanted for murder, the film really took a feminist turn. It started with the incident of blowing up the truck driver's 18-wheeler, then overtaking the police officer and locking him in his own trunk then finally escalating to the car chase that led to climax of the film. That last car chase scene is, for me, the culminating point of feminism in the film because Thelma and Louise refuse to be taken in by the man and they make the decision of what's best for them rather than let the man. They refuse to go back to their suffocating lives and instead are able to just breathe in their last minutes of life, knowing that together, they took charge of their lives. Thelma and Louise were finally liberated by finding the opportunities in life and letting them experience the excitement of their idea of equality with the men they encountered on their adventure.

Castration as a way of showing feminism

The scene in Thelma and Louise that I though was the most effective at creating a feminist critique was when the two women finally pull off the road to confront the truck driver. The truck driver seemed to represent an exaggerated male stereotype. This stereotype (“macho man?) could be derived from his mud flats containing the outline of a woman’s body, his obscene hand and tongue gestures, and his inappropriate comments to the women (“ready for a big dick? or “ready to get serious?). As the truck driver gets ready to go meet Thelma and Louise for what he thinks will be a sexual rendezvous he grabs some condoms and removes his wedding ring. Louise begins talking to the driver and commenting that he has some very poor manners and owes them an apology. To this the driver seems confused and dumbfounded and tries to laugh them off. When the two decide that this man will never apologize and probably continue to behave in the same way they shoot out his tires and explode the truck. The “death? of the truck, a phallic symbol, is the symbolic castration of this man. Then, as if adding insult to injury, Thelma steals his hat and the two drive off.

When I think of what feminism means I think of the women’s rights movement. However, I don’t always associate a positive feeling with the word “feminism.? Thinking deeper about this I think it is a learned reaction because I note that when speaking to others about “feminism? many share the same reaction. It’s almost a fear to the word or what it represents. Like a fear to the unknown. If it doesn’t conjure up fear it seems to effectively close someone off. They no longer care to listen and tend to write off whatever is said as extremist. Society has always given men more power and right then women and having grown up in this society it is not surprising that we are taught to fear or ignore this movement.

Janus Head of Gender

My understanding of Feminism does not lie in being blind to gender and gender differences, rather feminism seeks to fully understand and embrace the fundamental differences between the sexes, while also accepting the full spectrum of capability of both sides and creating an equal playing field in an environment of love and acceptance.

Thelma and Louise embodies some of these ideas. Throughout the progression of the narrative, the women accumulate more and more seemingly "masculine" qualities (gun-toting, loud mouth-ish-ness, high sex drive, aggressive driving, etc.) while still maintaining their identification as women.

This can be observed in the intense, while somewhat humorous, scene involving the accosting of a police officer, in which Thelma and Louise combine masculine traits with feminine ones to illustrate the equality of men and women, without ignoring their obvious differences. By this point in the story, Thelma and Louise have already lost much of their overtly feminine 'uniforms'. They no longer don skirts and head wraps, and their perfectly applied make-up has long been smeared. In this way, they have rid themselves of the 'faux-feminism' that revolves solely around appearances, and begun to embrace a truer feminism that understands the equality of men and women. The duo has discovered the potency of their own agency, using 'masculine' means such as a gun, a fast car, and more utilitarian clothing. These 'tools' aid Thelma and Louise in their takeover of the situation with the police officer.

The officer approaches the car with an air of authority and masculinity. The camera showcases his militant and masculine uniform, and his gaze is hidden underneath dark glasses. He holds the power, and he knows it. As he approaches the car, Thelma and Louise gain their composure and also attempt to use their assumed role (meek and subservient) to gain leverage. The officer removes Louise from the vehicle in an attempt to remove her from, what he believes, is her main source of power. However, the two women have come to embrace both the masculine and feminine sides of their psyches, and utilize both the gain control. Because the officer let his assumptions guide his actions, he was unprepared for the women to use force to gain the upper hand. The women use both their voices and material tools to manipulate the situation. They are not overly aggressive or brutal, but instead simply speak with new found authority. This demonstrates the way this film is truly feminist. Thelma and Louise do not find it necessary to pervert their new power, instead they simply use it to achieve freedom. The women are courteous in their speech to the officer, yet speak with unwavering authority. The possibility of consequences is presented, however, the women do not unnecessarily use them.

This is how Thelma and Louise presents and effective feminist critique. While the women have come to understand the true equality of their gender, they do not use this newfound power to become outrageously aggressive or violent. Instead, force is used simply as a means of liberation or retaliation, and it is recognized as a new 'tool', not the dominating quality of the women's narrative. Their identity is a 'Janus Head' of male and female qualities, which they use to aide their journey.

Outrunning Phallocentricism

The term "feminism" has many different meanings to many different people. To me, feminism is basically pride in being female, and working to make femaleness equal to masculinity in a phallocentric world. Generally, I see feminism as a way in which to break stereotypes of what it is to be a woman, balancing each woman's individuality with a sense of solidarity. The film, "Thelma and Louise" is a successful feminist critique in that it presents individual women on the road together, trying to break free of an oppressive male society. One scene in which this is extremely clear is when the two women are pulled over on the road by a police officer. He represents the masculine world that they can't seem to outrun as he pauses their journey. When he asks Louise to get into his squad car with him, Thelma comes over and points a gun at his head. This is a perfect example of the solidarity of women in a man's world that my definition of feminism supplies. When her friend is sucked into their masculine society through the act of being told to sit in his car, Thelma takes action to rescue her friend. The individuality of both women is also portrayed here in how both respecitvely handle the situation. Thelma is headstrong and in control of the situation. She is calm, collected, and doing what she needs to do to keep going. Louise, on the other hand, is more confused about what is happening. She takes her cues from Thelma and let's her do the talking until she gets into the swing of things. Through this act, the two women show power in the female body, and prove themselves to be, at the very least, equal in this masculinly dominated society. As they leave the police officer locked in their trunk, they leave behind a distinct sense of female power and pride, which embodies my personal definition of "feminism" and therefore makes this film a compelling feminist critique.

March 8, 2008

Thelma and Louise Instructions

Is “Thelma and Louise? an effective feminist critique? Build an argument in the affirmative using one scene from the film. Include your definition of “feminism? in your response.

March 4, 2008

The Quest for Self-Identity

In the film The Grace Lee Project, the road is raced and gendered similarly to Searching for Angela Shelton, but with different goals, motivations and intensities. In The Grace Lee Project, Lee takes to the road to confront stereotypes of Asian-American women and why so many “Grace Lee’s? are forgotten. Lee brings light to the many pressures and stereotypes “Grace Lee’s? feel they must live up to. Failure to do so leads to consequences and harsh actions in order to accomplish such perfection. For one Grace Lee it meant setting her high school on fire in order for her immigrant parents to remain unknowledgeable to her less than perfect grades. In Searching for Angela Shelton, her quest is much more about a social issue in society that requires immediate attention to bring about change. Her documentary is about gender; the journey and aftermath of sexual abuse for women. She connects women of different races and economic backgrounds through the same struggle each had endured. In comparison, Lee illustrates the role of race in America. She looks at each Grace Lee’s class, sexual orientation underneath the stereotype that they all have. She ultimately finds an explosion of diversity under the stereotype. Lee uses the road as a means to connect women of the same race, burdened by the American stereotype of Asian women; passive, nice, shy and intelligent. As each woman continues on their journey on the road they each find their own epiphany through the women who share their name. For both documentaries it is their quest for identity. Lee steps out of the crippling stereotype that she does not fit. With her journey, she finally looks past the stereotype her name encompasses and looks at the individual similar to the Grace Lee of Detroit who is an activist for African Americans, the opposite role her name deems her as. For Angela, it is the road framed by her gender that allows for healing and strength in order to ultimately face her father and discover closure within herself. Ultimately, both documentaries show the struggle women go through for a self-identity whether it be from years of sexual abuse or a name that stereotypes an entire race of women.

Angela and Grace

Although Searching for Angela Shelton and the Grace Lee projects are both films about women attempting to find others of the same name across the United States, you would be hard pressed in finding someone to say that they are similar films both stylistically and by the purpose being aimed at. The Grace Lee Project was more of a fun project for her in her attempts to find people with her name. I am not making light of stereotyping as I personally despise stereotyping for the most part and believe that everyone is entitled to be their own person, but if you were to look up someone with the same name as myself, I would not be shocked to find a bunch of Norwegians guys probably with close to the same background culturally as myself going along with traditions of my own culture and strengths of my own culture much like she found. I think if you wanted to face stereotyping, you should go beyond your name and possibly to a race as a whole. Angela Shelton faced a certain problem and didn't really deny that, a very serious problem. I believe the use of the name in this film was simply as a catylist to put her on the road as I'm sure she could find enough women in her area who were victims of sexual abuse. The road was freeing for Angela Shelton, it was a way to let go to find people in the exact same circumstances down to the name to help her let go of the pain her father caused her. The road in Grace Lee was rarely used, it could have just as well done in one city and nobody would really know. She used the internet and potentially used that "road" although I would claim there are many limitations to that analogy. As far as race versus road goes, I would say Grace Lee was a race to find people like her in attempts to not find people like her and Angela Shelton was about the road, the letting go process.

March 3, 2008

The Grace Lee Project

I think the most distinguishable way in which "the road" was used and differed in the films Searching for Angela Shelton and The Grace Lee Project is in terms of broadness. Angela Shelton's film starts out with a very broad goal, the road being a place on which we're not sure what is to come, and some of the people have the theme in common, while others simply share a name. The film then narrows as we see less growth and more repetition of theme, as well as a narrowing goal that ends up being a self-healing trip. Grace Lee takes a different turn in that her film starts out very narrowly and moves out to a broader vision as the film progresses. This seems very intentional. Lee has qualms about the connotations that come along with her name. Rightfully so, as she presents many examples of who 'Grace Lee' is to people that know someone with the name. She goes on the hunt with a very narrow classification of what she is looking for and expecting, but we can see as an audience that this will not be the end result, and Lee obviously suspects as much.

Lee's road is "raced" in that she is tracking down not only a certain race, but she is following the preconceived notion that these women of this particular race also fit into many other categories together. As the film broadens, we see examples that diminish this stereotype. Lee encounters women of all careers, life experiences, locations, and lifestyles. Even when presented with a Grace Lee that does, indeed, fit the stereotype the film began with, her encounters with these women show us that the little intricacies of individuals and their experiences completely throw overbearing generalizations out the window. In comparison, Angela Shelton does little to use the road as a tool to show individual differences, but her goal is more to unite women under a common thread of experience. As a goal, this works, but her road is much more of a string on uniting and grouping together, while Grace Lee's road unites at the same time as separating as a means to show individuality. Hence, the narrow to broad notion, versus the broad to narrow notion.

"The Quest from Different Perspectives"

I thought that the two films were similar in many ways in the way "the road" and "the quest" were portrayed. For example, both films were about finding answers to life's questions (i.e. who am I, why are things the way there are etcetera). Searching for Angela Shelton and The Grace Lee Project were both a quest to find happiness. Happiness of course were two different things for the two different filmmakers. Angela's was finding closure from her horrible upbringing and Grace's is figuring out where she fits in with her Korean culture. Another difference between the two films was that Grace was behind the camera more often making "the road" the more center of attraction, while Angela was usually the main focus of the film. One way that "the road" was "raced" in Grace's documentary was how culture/being Asian American was a central motif. Her narration, the images on screen were constantly being brought back to the idea of the Asian/Korean in America or at home. Both documentaries were "gendered" in the fact that they were from a female perspective and because females were the main characters in both films. Men, when rarely shown, were usually unimportant or the problem for the female film director.

What's In A Name?

In “Searching for Angela Shelton,? the filmmaker Angela Shelton embarked on a quest to find other women across the country who shared her name and, surprisingly, her story of abuse. And in order to highlight her subjects’ similarities, Shelton purposefully ignored a few obvious differences. Though she makes a point to mention that half of her Angela Sheltons are black and half are white, race never really surfaces as a central theme. Unlike “Searching for Angela Shelton,? “The Grace Lee Project? worked to discover and eventually celebrate the differences among a group of name-sharing women, many of whom happen to be Asian-Americans. Instead of zeroing in on one or two aspects of her interviewee’s lives, she allowed them to direct how their stories would ultimately be told. Both filmmakers used “the road? as a means to connect to other women with whom they have ties, and both returned home having been changed by their experiences. One difference between the two, however, is that Grace Lee intended to "race" the road, morphing her quest into a search for the nature of Asian-American womanhood as filtered through the name Grace Lee. Though “The Grace Lee Project? did not have as intentional a message, it was easier and more enjoyable to watch. The stories of these Grace Lees were told much more in depth, rather than provoked out of them by a filmmaker using her subjects’ stories to tell her own. The big difference between the two? Angela Shelton tries to prove that we ARE all the same (“We are all Angela Shelton?) and that we must come together as one entity. On the other hand, Grace Lee is trying to dispose of the stereotypes that hound many of her subjects; to show that, despite certain similarities, they are NOT all the same, and that our individualities as American women are things to be preserved.

Racing the Road

When watching both The Grace Lee Project and Searching for Angela Shelton, it was obvious that both films were a little biased in terms of race. When GRace Lee was interviewing people about other Grace Lees they knew, the amount of stereotypical answers that were given for Asian American women was astonishing and sort of revolting. It seemed to me that the people asked about Grace Lees obviously had no relationship with them whatsoever and were kind of ingnorant. Both films dealt mainly in terms of their own race (Asian American, and Caucasian or African American). Latino Americans were strictly exempt; some could say that had to do with each person's name, however as a group of people, Latinos were excluded. Also notable was the fact that with Grace Lee, her road trip primarily contained women and her goal in the film was about finding the differences and uniqueness in each Grace Lee. More in Angela Shelton's case, men drove the road. Angela was searching for her own identity and was trying to unite women in finding similarities, I believe that her main goal was to find forgiveness from her father, an abuser, and he was the main driving force in the film. It was a nice contrast in seeing both films because although they had seemingly similar purposes, in terms of identities, the women were starkly night and day which greatly added to each film giving them much individuality.

Angela vs. Grace

In Searching for Angela Shelton Angela's quest aimed to find women across the United States who shared her story. She pushed the similarities between the women and ignored their differences such as race and class. Unlike Searching for Angela Shelton , The Grace Lee Project celebrated and worked to discover the differences amongst all of the Grace Lees. Grace Lee didn't focus on one aspect of her subjects' lives, instead, she allowed them to choose what viewers would know about them and how they wanted their stories to be told. Angela Shelton focused only on abuse and in the end, it was what defined the lives of all of the Angela Sheltons.
In both films, the gender of the road is female. Neither road is really classed. Though half of the Angela Sheltons are white and half are black, race doesn't reveal itself as a central theme to the story. Grace Lee focuses mostly on Asian Americans. In general, race is the only thing that the Grace Lees share.

"Raced" and "Gendered"


In both personal quest documentaries, The Grace Lee Project and Searching for Angela Shelton, the women traveled in search of answers. Grace Lee went in search of finding what’s in a name, and the identity associated with a specific name. Angela Shelton searched for something else. Angela’s “quest? was to meet other Angela Sheltons, and ironically a majority of these other Angelas had suffered abuse as well. Grace Lee and Angela Shelton used “the “road? as a means to connect to other women whom they have similarities. Both women returned home having been changed and expanded their horizons by “the road.? While both women used “the road? to fulfill their “quests,? one difference between the films is that Grace Lee uses The Digital Road to connect and select which women would be in her film. Angela used the telephone, which limited the woman that could and would appear in her film. In regards to how each woman “raced? “the road,? Angela said she was trying to “represent America? through the “half black and half white? women whom appeared in her film. Grace Lee, on the other had “raced? “the road? with “the quest? in search of Asian American Womanhood through the name of Grace Lee. A unique aspect to Grace Lee’s road is the element of a The Diasporic Road. Grace Lee searched for unique other Grace Lees and a majority happened to be children of immigrants, generally from Korea. Both women presented “the road? as female gendered. Grace Lee featured for smart women, but didn’t apply any sexuality to the film through the use of the camera. Angela was quite often the main image in her film. She sexualized herself in the scene where she puts her head out the window of the RV. Both women produced very interesting personal documentaries in which the road was used to connect woman with similarities. “The road? was “gendered“ and “raced? by both women, just with different races.

Grace vs. Angela

By having such a common name, you have to define yourself in another way.

Searching for Angela Shelton and The Grace Lee Project both have many similarities and differences. The road for both of these movies was not the main aspect of the film. The road was simply a way for all of these people to come together. The quest for both of these movies were different. The Grace Lee Project was focused more on finding differences among the Grace Lee's and Searching for Angela Shelton focused on uniting the Angela's and women of the world together.

The two movies were both based around women. However, in the Grace Lee Project the females were all Asian Americans. It was interesting to see how one particular name could be some dominant in a culture.

The two stories of Angela and Grace really interested me. What better way to tell your story than to hit the road in search of yourself. I really enjoyed both of the films.

Comparing Grace Lee and Angela Shelton

The stories of the women in The Grace Lee Project were much more indepth, and the women were truly allowed to share their stories. Angela Shelton kind of used the womens' stories to get her own told. Grace Lee was much more interested in hearing and telling the story of other Grace Lee's around the country. Though her movie did not have as clear or powerful message, I thought it was easier and more enjoyable to watch. For the use of the camera, I would have to say that Angie's film appeared more professionally done. Though she did abuse her camera power in ways that Grace Lee did not. Grace's film almost seemed like it could be done by anyone, which Angie's didn't. The message that came across was much lighter and easier to process. There was not as much movement, and scrambling of stories which helped the viewer follow it easier.

Not Another Gendered or Raced Women's Road Movie!

In both films, the filmmakers embark on journeys to discover a kind of shared identity through individuals with two things in common: their name, and their disposition. For Shelton, women with her name are also victims of abuse. Similarly, subjects Lee speaks to come up with hoards of information leading back into the filmmaker’s assumption that all Grace Lees are the same—they are Korean, and practice piano a lot. Both instances show how these films are gendered and raced. Both filmmakers set out to find a true identity, but instead rely on stereotypes that continue to marginalize women. Classifying a woman as a victim of violence or Korean says little about that woman, but yet a single attribute is used in both films to define not just one person, but a plethora of them, all sharing the same name. While it may be an interesting concept to go out and find all these people with the same name, to throw them all together in a homogenized manner for the sake of neatness disallows any relevatory points from emerging from either film.

Here's activist Grace Lee Boggs in an interview:

The Not So One-Dimensional Grace Lee Project

When I realized for the second week in a row we were going to be watching another documentary based somewhat around a name, I slightly cringed. I knew a little about both Searching for Angela Shelton and The Grace Lee Project before watching them in class, but my assumptions were wrong. I thought that both films were triumphant, change the way women think about feminism movies. After watching these two films, I realized how much they varied.

The road and quest in Searching for Angela Shelton seems to be centered about the director. She uses and abuses the camera and takes away from what the film could be. She uses tactics that tailor EVERY story of an Angela Shelton around her own. The quest is supposed to be used as a passage for recovery. It ends up leaving open wounds, unanswered questions, and a bitter after taste.

As for The Grace Lee Project, her attempts to search out individuals seem much more sincere than Shelton’s. She uses the road to simply learn. It seems that her she had no ultimate goal in this film and thus it wasn’t tailored to one subject. Instead of finding out everything about the original Grace Lee, we learn about many different Grace Lee’s and their similarities. Grace Lee and Angela Shelton both abuse their use of the camera, because they can. But they do it in different ways. Grace Lee seems to not care about herself throughout the film as in Angela Shelton. Although both are looking to “find themselves? on the road, it’s as if you forget about this task in The Grace Lee Project. Instead you start to indulge yourself in the lives of others and learn a thing or two. Angela Shelton’s task is definitely known throughout the entirety of the film and is instilled into your brain about her goals.

I think the true difference between The Grace Lee Project and Searching for Angela Shelton is the Grace Lee tries to rid the stereotypes of typical young Asian women. It seems that Grace Lee is trying to show that although many of these women are alike, they are NOT just the smart, reserved, pretty girls. Grace Lee shows that people are not one dimensional, which Angela Shelton almost tries to do the opposite. It seems to me that Angela Shelton is trying to prove that we are all the same and we must come together as one. Grace Lee is showing that individuality is beautiful.

The road in The Grace Lee Project is definitely gendered AND raced. For example, throughout the film Grace Lee does various quirky animations of the typical Asian. She shows different various stereotypical statistics and also asks citizens about the Grace Lee that they know. Most of the people say the same thing about each Grace Lee. This shows that the stereotype of this race of girls is known throughout many communities. It also shows that Grace Lee’s are raced and profiled. Grace Lee continuously gets told by other Grace Lee’s the pressure to meet these almost impossible expectations. Searching for Angela Shelton is also gendered and raced. Shelton tries to find many different people with her name, and finds African Americans and Caucasian Americans. It’s funny that how this film uses these two races to prove they are not being race oriented, but never hit any other races. Angela Shelton also focuses her film around the woman. She is consumed with trying to convince women to take a stand. Although there are extremely nice and caring men throughout the film, it seems that they could be an underlying tone of the anti-male throughout the film.

The Not So One-Dimensional Grace Lee Project

When I realized for the second week in a row we were going to be watching another documentary based somewhat around a name, I slightly cringed. I knew a little about both Searching for Angela Shelton and The Grace Lee Project before watching them in class, but my assumptions were wrong. I thought that both films were triumphant, change the way women think about feminism movies. After watching these two films, I realized how much they varied.

The road and quest in Searching for Angela Shelton seems to be centered about the director. She uses and abuses the camera and takes away from what the film could be. She uses tactics that tailor EVERY story of an Angela Shelton around her own. The quest is supposed to be used as a passage for recovery. It ends up leaving open wounds, unanswered questions, and a bitter after taste.

As for The Grace Lee Project, her attempts to search out individuals seem much more sincere than Shelton’s. She uses the road to simply learn. It seems that her she had no ultimate goal in this film and thus it wasn’t tailored to one subject. Instead of finding out everything about the original Grace Lee, we learn about many different Grace Lee’s and their similarities. Grace Lee and Angela Shelton both abuse their use of the camera, because they can. But they do it in different ways. Grace Lee seems to not care about herself throughout the film as in Angela Shelton. Although both are looking to “find themselves? on the road, it’s as if you forget about this task in The Grace Lee Project. Instead you start to indulge yourself in the lives of others and learn a thing or two. Angela Shelton’s task is definitely known throughout the entirety of the film and is instilled into your brain about her goals.

I think the true difference between The Grace Lee Project and Searching for Angela Shelton is the Grace Lee tries to rid the stereotypes of typical young Asian women. It seems that Grace Lee is trying to show that although many of these women are alike, they are NOT just the smart, reserved, pretty girls. Grace Lee shows that people are not one dimensional, which Angela Shelton almost tries to do the opposite. It seems to me that Angela Shelton is trying to prove that we are all the same and we must come together as one. Grace Lee is showing that individuality is beautiful.

The road in The Grace Lee Project is definitely gendered AND raced. For example, throughout the film Grace Lee does various quirky animations of the typical Asian. She shows different various stereotypical statistics and also asks citizens about the Grace Lee that they know. Most of the people say the same thing about each Grace Lee. This shows that the stereotype of this race of girls is known throughout many communities. It also shows that Grace Lee’s are raced and profiled. Grace Lee continuously gets told by other Grace Lee’s the pressure to meet these almost impossible expectations. Searching for Angela Shelton is also gendered and raced. Shelton tries to find many different people with her name, and finds African Americans and Caucasian Americans. It’s funny that how this film uses these two races to prove they are not being race oriented, but never hit any other races. Angela Shelton also focuses her film around the woman. She is consumed with trying to convince women to take a stand. Although there are extremely nice and caring men throughout the film, it seems that they could be an underlying tone of the anti-male throughout the film.

Grace Lee

Searching For Angela Shelton and The Grace Lee Project were both similar and different filmes in respect to each other. They were both documentaries about their lives in a sense, and they both featured the main actress traveling the world to find as many women as they could with their same names. However, I thought that Searching For Angela Shelton had more of a purpose to the film. It seemed as if Angela Shelton was looking for closure through all of the women that she met and wanted to get her story out there so that other women knew there was a way out if they were suffering from any of the same issues as Angela did. The Grace Lee Project just seemed to be a woman named Grace Lee looking for other women named Grace Lee and hearing their stories. There was no mention of alcohol or physical abuse in the Grace Lee film whereas, in the Angela Shelton film, it seemed to be the topic of conversation. With the gender and race topic, I felt that the Angela Shelton film was more focused on gender and not so much race and the Grace Lee film was more focused on race. Both films emphasized how and what women, with the same names as them, were feeling about their lives and wanting to hear their stories.

whiteness within Angela and Grace Lee

When we talk about race in regards to both films, one might concluded that Grace Lee Project dealt with race more aggressively compared to Angela Shelton because she focus more on herself with the exception of a few black women. I find this to be problematic because many times within discussions about race “white? or Caucasian goes unmarked as a race and becomes the norm. This is dangerous because one needs to look at whiteness/ white privilege when talking about race dynamics/relations. When I am viewing a film that deals with one specific race and/or gender—I always view it knowing the background on which it sits. Whiteness and masculinity become the background. In the Grace Lee Project she interviews many people who have known a Grace Lee and they all come up with the same attributions: quiet, nice, intelligent, musical, beautiful, etc. And even at one point Grace Lee says something to the effect, “they all started looking the same, I couldn’t tell the difference?. I would have to say that both of those statements are very stereotypical for Asian women, as though a race can be easily be defined across the board. Yet every woman, even Grace Lee herself, tried to fight against these stereotypes and not let her “Asian? skin define her. I believe this goes back to living in a world where whiteness/white privilege goes unmarked, thus not allowing responsibility to fall where it should. I will provide a link to Peggy McIntosh paper on white privilege to give everyone a clear understanding of what it means.

March 2, 2008

What's in a name?

Angela Shelton and Grace Lee are two women who let America into their personal lives with the help of a camera crew and most importantly the road.
Angela Shelton’s quest was to, in the end, find herself. She was searching for answers and looking for them in other women who shared her name. Grace Lee seemed to be looking for vindication, also for herself. She wanted to see if other Grace Lee’s felt as trapped in their names as she did. Angela Shelton was looking for similarities in the women who shared a common name, and Grace Lee seemed to be hoping more for differences.
The film, Searching for Angela Shelton, seemed to have more of a purpose. Along with finding herself, Angela was looking to discuss sexual violence against women. She wanted to inform people of the issues and unite these women through this common bond. Not only did they share the same name, but also most of them shared an unfortunate sexual experience in their lifetimes. Angela was looking to let people know about the commonality of these happenings.
Both films were looked at through “the eyes? of a woman. A woman was the star and also the narrator. These films focused on women, and spent little time discussing the men in their lives. Grace Lee’s film was much more “raced? due to the fact that most of the Grace Lee’s in the World were of Asian decent. Angela Shelton’s film seemed to give off a more “Girl Power? vibe. That despite their jaded pasts, most of these women were still standing strong and moving on with their lives.

Angela Lee

In Searching For Angela Shelton, it seemed to me that Angela was using the road as a way to tell her story and her interractions with other people generally revolved around herself and not the other Angelas. While we did get backstories on some of the other Angelas, such as the anonymous, many of them seemed to just be a person for Angela Shelton to tell her story to and film it. At the opposite end of the spectrum is Grace Lee, who was rarely seen in the shots and only had a minimal amount of talking about herself. Instead, Grace Lee used the road as a way to find out the stories of these other women, and to explore the differences and similarities between herself and all of the other Grace Lee's.
I think that for Angela, her quest was to find closure for herself on her issues of abuse that she faced as a child. For her, finding out that so many other women have also suffered through these issues and then confronting her step brother and father was a way for her to try to get some sense of closure about the whole situation. Grace Lee's quest seemed more to focus just on breaking down some of the stereotypes about Asian women named Grace Lee, as well as focusing on some of the stereotypes that seemed to be prevelant throughout.

In both of these films, the road is gendered towards the female perspective, due to the fact that they are both films of women interacting with other women of the same name. In both films, there is some input from men, but neither are focused at all a mens' perspective. In Searching For Angela Shelton, the different Angelas she encounters on the road are all caucasian or african american, with no other races represented, and Grace Lee is solely asian women, as she is searching for the differences and similarities in asian women in America named Grace Lee.

Grace Lee

Searching for Angela Shelton and the Grace Lee Project are both films where women take to the road in search for something meaningful in their life. Angela Shelton is looking for closure in her life in relation childhood abuse and incest, whlie Grace Lee is looking for answers in relation to her name and what it means to be an Asian-American women in the United States and the stereotypes related to it.

In both films, the women are doing the "driving" of both the road and the actual film and in this way they are breaking away from the idea of the male protagonist being on the road. The road for both Grace and Angela involves race. Grace Lee specifically looks at race and it is the central factor that brings her to these specific women. The one thing that Grace Lee does not do which creates a "raced" film is that she does not account for the Grace Lees who are not Asian American women. She does not mention the possibility of women of other races marrying into the last name. In Angela Shelton's film forgets about Angela Sheltons who are not black or white. In this way, the road is raced because women who are not of the majority race(s) contained by the film are left out and are not told.

Angela Shelton and Grace Lee


In both Searching for Angela Shelton and The Grace Lee Project, the filmmakers use the road as a tool to guide them on their quest for some sort of identity. I felt that Angela Shelton's quest was more about self discovery through relating her story to all of the other Angelas', and facing her father to gain closure about her past. Grace Lee seemed to have a greater sense of who she was, and she wanted to reassure her identity through meeting other Grace Lee's and contrasting their different stories. The road is "raced" in The Grace Lee Project in that most of the Graces are Asian American, and the film dealt with people's views of the Grace Lee's they knew. The road is "gendered" in both films in that they are both about women searching for some sort of identity through meeting other women and extending their stories to women in general.

The Quest, the Road, Gender, and Race

In "Searching for Angela Shelton" the road is more of a focal point. It is right there as part of the story and part of the emotional journey. The whole "road trip" itself is focused on quite a bit in the movie, whether it be by shots of road signs or Angela moving the RV around on a map of the United States. In "The Grace Lee Project" however the road is barely seen. Instead the quest of finding the other women named Grace Lee is focused on. The journey is much more internal with no external or physical road representing it.

In both movies the road is gendered simply by the fact that it is women traveling the road to find other women. At the same time the road seems gendered to a greater degree in "Searching for Angela Shelton". Angela talks almost exclusively with women and shows very few men unless they are being confronted. The film and therefore the road in the movie is definitively dominated by women. In "The Grace Lee Project" however the road and journey seem less gendered because she talks to men quite often. She asks their opinions of the women named Grace Lee and gets lots of information from them and they are treated as equals, not as abusers.

"The Grace Lee Project" is much more raced. Every woman with the name Grace Lee was Asian and even many of the men Grace talked to were Asian. She focused quite a bit on the fact that all of these women are Asian and causes the road to become raced. In "Searching for Angela Shelton" on the other hand she makes a point that the women are of more than one race. Angela seems to purposely un-race the road by making it a point that she is speaking with black women as well as white. She also does not mention any stereotypes based on race as Grace does.

Grace/Angela

Both documentaries capture two filmmakers on the road to search for something. In The Grace Lee Project she wanted to understand the stereotype for Grace Lee's as well as find anyone who broke the predetermined personality and behavior of a Grace Lee. In Searching for Angela Shelton she found similarities almost on accident between all of the Angela Shelton's in the country. In this specific documentary the road was used as a healing device whereas in The Grace Lee Project, you hardly notice the road at all. The goal is more about listening to the different women's stories. It is more about seeing and celebrating the differences of their lives, yet finding similar characteristics among them. The Grace Lee Project is definitely more light-hearted and less serious than Angela's documentary. For example even when discussing the Grace Lee who attempted to burn her high school down, funny cartoons are added to the screen. In The Grace Lee Project it is more so understood that she traveled to the different Grace Lee's and it is spoken about that no matter where in the world one is, there usually will be a Grace Lee that someone knows.

In Searching for Angela Shelton the women she speaks to are both Caucasian and African-American. Though she only interviews women, their conversations involve men. In The Grace Lee Project she also targets women, and it is focused on Asian-American women. Also, she interviews men in terms of those that have known a Grace Lee or what they think of when asked to describe and Asian female.

Angela and Grace

Searching for Angela Shelton is a quest for closure. Angela is picking up the pieces both of her life and the women she is interviewing and trying to piece them together. There is an inward movement in the film as Angela tries to relate her experience with incest and molestation with the other women around her. She takes the stories of all these women and creates an overlaying template for violence against women and their reactions to it. This differs form The Grace Lee Project which is more interested in observation and description. The film is an analysis of the asian american womens stereotype. By interviewing a select few Grace Lees she accentuates the strengths, weakness, commonalities and differences between them. Grace Lee's approach to her film give us real people, while Angela Shelton gives us caricatures of women by ignoring the other aspects of the women.

The Raced and Gendered Road

In both Searching for Angela Shelton and The Grace Lee Project, the road is used as a way to find answers to each director's personal "quests". They differ in that Angela Shelton uses the road in an attempt to connect her experiences of abuse with those of other Angela Sheltons. For Grace Lee, her quest begins as a way to find differences amongst the seemingly similar Asian-American Grace Lees. What is interesting is that in the end, Angela Shelton's documentary (for me) failed to connect women on the level she was looking for. Grace Lee's original intentions to find differences amongst the women actually helped her to see the similarities in the women--in terms of their struggle as Asian-American women. Whereas Angela Shelton went to the other woman, Grace Lee allowed women to come to her through a website she designed for her documentary. Also, Grace Lee seemed more interested in each woman's personal story while Angela Shelton's intentions seemed overshadowed by her own personal quest. Each woman's topics of discussion and their intentions were different which led to different outcomes. As for the road being "raced" and "gendered", in The Grace Lee Project the story is filmed from the eyes of an Asian-American woman and the Grace Lees that she interviews are all Asian-American. The story then speaks to specific issues they face as Asian-American, and as women. In Searching for Angela Shelton, the quest develops out of the experience of a white woman. What becomes an issue, even though Angela Shelton is trying to connect the women she interviews, is that she does not take into consideration social, cultural, economic, etc. factors that go into the experience of each different woman she talks to. This is why I think The Grace Lee Project was so successful because it explored the experience of a specific culture and tried to interpret that experience from a variety of different viewpoints.

Angela vs. Grace

Both Angela Shelton and Grace Lee use their documentary road films to embark on their personal quests. Angela Shelton's use of the camera embraces more of a gendered road.... by this I mean that Angela really seeks to unite women across the country. However, Angela's story seemed to be selfish and self-seeking. Angela continued to prove that her film was more of self-discovery quest. Grace Lee sought to discover a stereotype not only about women but about Asian-Americans. Grace Lee's film focused more on individual identities and other Grace Lees' stories.
An interesting observation is how the "road story" almost gets lost in Grace Lee's film as she dives into individuals' stories. You really almost forget that she is on a personal journey as well as a cross-country journey. I really see both documentaries using the road as a way to explore gender (specifically women) roles in American society as well as looking at a stereotype of Asian-American women. You get both gender and racial issues from Grace Lee's film. I thought too it was interesting how Grace Lee sought out to prove the usual Asian-American girl stereotype wrong, but she failed. She found like one or two cases in which Grace Lee's were not "what they were supposed to be". But even then, people still viewed them as what they expected Asian-American girls to be.

Angela Shelton vs. Grace Lee

For both of these movies, the quest is the whole point of the documentary. Grace Lee's point was to find other women named Grace Lee and see if they actually are like the stereotypical asian girl who is supposed to be nice, cute, quiet, conservative, and pratically perfect. In Searcing for Angela Shelton, her quest was to find out what other women were going through across the U.S. and if she was alone with the abuse, she went through in the past. In the end, they both seemed to have closure, where Grace Lee figured that there are many other ways to define yourself besides your name and that in itself sets you away from others of the same name, race, gender or class. Angela Shelton, on the other hand, got to talk to her father but the real closure was that as long as she was going to be able to forgive what happened in the past in order to move on. In both cases, the women learned something about themselves and other women through their quest. Without the use of the quest, they probably wouldn't have been able to recover (Angela) or be able to happily accept their own name because of the lack of perfection (Grace). The quest is what drove the documentary and kept it going until each of them was satisfied with what they found out about other women.
As for the use of the road, there was many differences between the two documentaries. For instance, the road was an important in Searching for Angela Shelton because there was always shots of the RV and Angela was driving so she had control of where they went and for how long. The road played a very significant in the document for Angela Shelton. As for Grace Lee, the road got her to each of her destinations but it wasn't the main event. She took the bus and other ways to the locations she was interested in. There was never a time when she was in the driver's seat though. She was more wrapped in the quest and she took as long as she needed in each place but she didn't have a set schedule like Angela who wanted to travel around the U.S. in 60 days. To Grace, the road was only a means of transportation but for Angela, the road was under her control and she took it to get away and have the power to do so. In this sense, I do think the use of the road in both of the films, is an example of why the road is raced. The road was built mostly by the minorities of the U.S. but it was built for the white people, and specifically the white male. White Priviledge is a factor because a lot of things are given to white people, and the use of the road is one and always will be. Grace, on the other hand, didn't really even value the road as a significant factor in her documentary besides to get her to her destination. This could have something to do with race where Angela felt that since she was going on a journey, she needed to be in complete control of it, so she was the driver, the main focus of the film, and had control of all components of the interviews. She had a dominant, controlling role which is a stereotype of white people. Grace Lee, on the other hand, focused more on the stories of the other women she interviewed so most of the time when Grace was talking, it was just her voice because there was something else being shown through the camera. Grace played the main role but it wasn't dominant at all, it was more passive which is a stereotype of Asian people.

Race and Gender Displayed on "The Road" and "The Quest"

Searching for Angela Shelton and The Grace Lee Project are similar and different in many ways relating to the use of “the road? and “the quest? and how each is raced or gendered.

In Searching for Angela Shelton “the road? has a strong presence. There are many scenes that take place in the RV as Angela and her camera man travel the country to visit the other Angela’s. However, in The Grace Lee Project we witness Grace travel on the road only a couple of times. Instead, most of the film plays out at different locations that are important to the other Grace’s.

The quest that both women find themselves on is similar as they both are looking to discover something. Angela is looking to discover just who she is and wants to inform the population about how common violence against women is. Grace is looking to distinguish herself from all the other Grace Lee’s.

Angela does not use race to distinguish the road or her quest. She visits both white and black Angela Shelton’s. I think this is important in her documentary because she is able to show violence against women holds no racial bias. Grace uses race in her film to distinguish the road and her quest. She limits her focus on Grace Lee’s to Asian women. I think this is important in her documentary because she is trying to get at the stereotypes Asian women experience (nice, smart, quiet, pure, etc.).

about the violence women experience. However, a large part of her story comes out when she meets with her step-brother and her father. She also incorporates the husbands and fathers of some of the Angela’s as character references. Grace uses gender in a different way than Angela and in a similar way to her use of race. She uses gender as a way to limit her focus and spend more time truly developing her characters. She focuses on the women in the film and will occasionally ask the men for their opinions about the women. For example with the deaf Grace, Grace asked her son to talk about his mother.

While both Angela and Grace have some similarities, their different uses of gender and race within “the road? and “the quest? relate to the main point they are trying to make and how they feel they can best get that point across to their audience.

Angela and Grace

As I think about the two films Searching for Angela Shelton and The Grace Lee Project I find that there are more differences than similarities. First of all, both of the films were made for different purposes when compared to each other. Although both of the main characters were on a quest to find something they both had different reasons for setting out in the first place. Angela Shelton seemed to be very selfish in her film because she was the most interested in her own life instead of the other people that she talked with. Grace Lee, on the other hand, was more selfless as she talked with other people. She was interacting with the other people in a way that made it very clear that she wasn’t on this journey for her own well being. She was interested in finding and voicing the differences in people that makes them who they are.
As far as the issue of the road being “raced? and “gendered? in both of these films goes, I also see more differences than similarities. Angela Shelton’s movie was neither raced nor gendered because its issues dealt with and confronted many different races while including the views of both males and females. Grace Lee’s film, on the other hand, was both raced and gendered. She mainly focused on the issues that surrounded Asian women living in the US. She did include the views and thoughts of the male gender and other races but only in small amounts, which were not significant enough to provide enough imput for the movie to not be raced or gendered. Grace Lee's film didn’t relate to as many people as Angela Shelton’s did because she narrowed her movie down to only being able to tell the story of Asian women.

March 1, 2008

Raced and Gendered Roads Attempt to reach the Same End

Its funny how two movies with a similar gimmick can reap such different products. In Finding Angela Shelton, the use of a common name brings together a group of women of various race, class, and geographical location. However, the focus of the film shifts from the commonality they all share, to the process that Angela goes through in order to find closure. Angela shies away from showcasing each women as one related to her race or class, instead choosing the highlight the ways in which the women conform a story of abuse. The road becomes a way in which victims reach out to one another (or how one victim in particular reaches out to others). Angela's quest becomes extremely gendered, with women propelling and explaining the narrative. Angela focuses on each women's relationships with men (primarily those involving abuse), rape experiences, and their struggle to push through the trauma of abuse. Although race is mentioned, it the a crusade for women's recovery, the "quest", that drives Angela.

The Grace Lee Project operates under the same premise of gathering individuals together using a very common name, however the road is employed to find answers concerning the dichotomy between individuality and conformity. Grace attempts to both disprove the sameness of the typical "Grace Lee", while simultaneously pointing out the uncanny similarities of each women. The road becomes both an invisible (in the case of the internet) and visible (highway/plane/etc) network to connect individuals who share the same name and race. Although there were Grace Lees who were not Asian, the Grace does not use the road to reach them. The road does become "raced", due to Grace's specific focus on the Asian Grace Lee. Although the Lees are all women, this is not the focus of the "quest", but merely incidental.

Both films use an 'identity' bestowed upon an individual at birth: the name. However each film narrows the purpose and focus of the quest by choosing to highlight another aspect of identity: gender and race. Each of these is unalterable (unlike a name), and determines much more of the outcome of your life than a name. Perhaps this is why each director chose to hone in on another aspect of identity. They came to understand how these aspects define the direction of one's line (and their particular journey) much more than a title.

Angela Shelton and Grace Lee...

Though both of these documentaries seemingly set out to embark on similar journeys, their outcomes are quite different. The way the road was used in each documentary lead to many differences. Angela Shelton used the road as a means to come to peace with her abusive past. In a way, the road more served as a quest for her in the sense that as she continued to travel it, her story would unravel and then finally, her quest was fulfilled. Grace Lee on the otherhand had no personal set-task while she travelled the road. She wanted to find other Grace Lee's and see if she could break the stereotypes that followed the name. Grace's journey on the road was not a self-centered one, like Angela's.

Another key difference between the two documentaries was that Grace Lee's road was raced, while Angela Shelton's was not. While Grace travelled the road, she tried to keep the documentary's focus on Asian Americans named Grace Lee, seeing as they are the ones who fit the stereotype she was looking to debunk. Angela Shelton's road was not raced, seeing as she looked up every Angela Shelton, regardless of their race.

Overall, I would say that I liked Grace Lee's documentary better than Angela Shelton's because I enjoyed hearing more about all the Grace Lee's stories in depth, rather than just one Angela Shelton's. I also thought the concept of showing how different and unique all the Grace Lees were was better than showing how much a like all the Angela Shelton's were.

Grace and Angela

Both films, Searching for Angela Shelton and the Grace Lee Project, use "the quest" and "the road" in order to tie all of the stories and women they find on the road together. Both women are on a quest, one on a road to recovery and the other to find her identity, and they do this by finding other women and listening to their stories and through them, both Angela and Grace do eventually "find" themselves and complete their quest. Although one main difference is that in the Grace Lee Project, the road isn't as prevalant in the film as in Angela's and we actually only see one or two sequences when Grace is actually on the road. In addition, Grace stays behind the camera more than Angela and seems to play more of a passive role in her quest - which allows her interviews and the other Grace's stories to tie the film together more than the road itself. Whereas in Angela's film, the road is more necessary to connect everyone as not all of the Angela Sheltons that she meets have been abused or share her same story.

I think that in both documentaries the road is gendered but only in the Grace Lee Project is the road also raced. In Searching for Angela Shelton the road is gendered in the way that Angela focuses on only women abuse. Granted searching for only "Angelas" limits the film to female abuse but in addition all of the facts and statistics that she put on screen were related to women's abuse. In the Grace Lee Project, however, the road is seemingly gendered by default in the fact that she is looking for Graces which are usually female. But for Grace Lee, her road is raced. She does this by defining the stereotype of Asian women and then in her search she tries to defy the stereotype of the quiet, smart, passive Asian woman in order to find her identity. And in all of these stereotypical "perfect" Asian women Grace does in fact find an identity after speaking with all of the women. Although both films try and connect stories and people through the road, a quest, and through a name, it's amazing how different the films are from one another and how the different styles of the films play such a huge role in how the audience responds to them.

Two Very Different Personal Quests...

In the Grace Lee Project, the road was not a central feature to the film. Rather, the quest was used more as the theme. Grace Lee had a goal, which she used the road to help her accomplish, but the road was not the foremost theme. She documented her journey through the people she interviewed, rarely, if ever showing portions of the journey she had to take to get to those people. Angela Shelton, however, had the road be the central feature to her film. Use of objects such as the RV and symbology such as signs or views of her on the road helped to make the road the central feature. Angela too had a goal, or quest, but the road symbolized her journey rather than existing in the background as the means of travel.
The Grace Lee Project made the road "raced" since she was focusing on Korean Americans- she was focusing on one ethnicity and one gender (females), which were a significant part of the film. She did not however, exclude races or genders from her film, as she included short pieces on the history of the name Grace Lee in early America, and also included interviews with men on the Grace Lees that they knew. In Angela Shelton's film, the women were sort of defined by their experiences with men, therefore making the film "gendered" towards men, which I would assume was not the original intention, as she set out to interview women. Angela's film was not "raced" though- race was not a defining feature or a dominant theme- she interviewed any Angela Sheltons she could find, regardless of who they were, and treated all in the same way. She did not pruposely include nor exclude anyone or their story based on race.
The Grace Lee Project and Searching for Angela Shelton were distinctly different films, even though they both set out on a journey towards a goal while using the road as a means of completing this goal. Beyond that, however, the differences are blatantly obvious, as one focuses on the quest and the other focuses on the road in order to tell their stories.

"Racing" and "Gendering" the Road

Compare and contrast the use of “the road? and “the quest? in Searching for Angela Shelton and The Grace Lee Project. In what different ways is “the road? raced? and “gendered? in these two personal quest documentaries? Give specific examples.