To focus, as the debate about Thelma & Louise did, on those men who disliked it is to miss what I think is the far more significant fact that large numbers of men both saw and did like it. Precious few American films have had women at the center and men on the periphery, and what ones there are have not, for the most part, drawn large male audiences -- a pattern that has sustained the claim that whereas women are willing to "identify" with screen males, the converse is not the case. What the success of Thelma & Louise with male audience suggests is that if you write the parts right and execute them with conviction, the sex of the players is no object: if the buddy-escape plot is conventionally male, it is not intrinsically so, and lots of men were evidently happy to enter into that very American fantasy even when it is enacted by women, even when the particulars are female-specific, even when it is enacted by women, even when the particulars are female-specific (rape, macho husband, leering co-worker), and even when the inflection is remarkably feminist.
And you can find the entire review in Film Quarterly: Forty Years -- A Selection. It's probably hard for people today to realize what Thelma & Louise was like. Today, it's just a film. Back then, people argued over it. Over whether it was about 'hating men,' over whether it was a 'bad' movie (morally) because Thelma and Louise elected to die at the end. Over everything. The script and the direction made that film. If you doubt it, neither Susan Sarandon nor Geena Davis was ever that good again. Sarandon was especially a disappointment because one of the arguments then was that she gave the better performance.
She really didn't. She's given that tired performance over and over. Geena, by contrast, did actually create a different character and inhabit her.
One of the most interesting things to me about the film today, something I only learned of from C.I. and her friends, was how scared people were of the film. And how Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep wanted to do the movie and there were a thousand excuses why they couldn't be cast. Then it was going to be Michelle Pfeiffer and Jodie Foster but that fell apart and so it ended up Geena and Susan. And that's why the film has the flaw it does.
The two women are supposed to be close in age, remember. They're lifelong friends. We all know Geena is about 10 years younger than Sarandon -- and looked it in the film. So how they became friends didn't make sense.
But it is still one of the strongest films of the 90s. And there was no way they couldn't die at the end. If they'd backed out, it wouldn't have been the film it was. If the movie had stopped with them deciding what to do, it wouldn't have had the power. They had to go off the cliff.
Callie Khouri won the Oscar for her brilliant script and I don't think any writer deserved it more in than 90s than she did.
Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"