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.

Continue reading "White Cops and Road Film Justifications" »

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.

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"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.