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Red Riding Hood’s Gone Crazy March 11, 2007

Posted by Rob Anne in Big Bad Wolf, Ellen Page, Freeway, Hard Candy, Red Riding Hood, Reese Witherspoon, Thelma and Louise.

I’d seen Thelma and Louise years before and didn’t take too much away from it except that it was a cliche feminist/woman power/”we’re gonna wrong the men who’ve wronged us” flick and that it was a bit long for my taste. Looking back, I realized in some ways it created the cliche, or at least perpetuated it. Guess I’ve seen too many parodies of this movie to take it as seriously as people did in 1991.

I’m not trashing it or going to go on about how it was actually NOT empowering because of such, such, and such. I’m looking at it in the eyes of someone from 2007 and I don’t think I have the same perspective of someone viewing it in 1991. There were plenty of moments I wanted to roll my eyes, but that’s because I’m jaded. For example, the scene it which Hal Slocumb is telling J.D. that he’s going to blame him if Thelma and Louise get hurt – well, it’s not as though Thelma didn’t have a choice about robbing the store. Though she did it because J.D. stole their money, it was still her choice. The way Slocumb makes it out is that they were powerless pawns to a male force – but I disagree. Their actions were motivated by men doing them wrong, but they still made their decisions – that’s what’s feminist about this movie. They’re feminists because they made the choice to be fugitives, they’re not feminists because men victimized them and forced them to avenge the wrongdoings. Slocumb saw them as victims, as though they were dainty until a MAN stepped in the way and turned them bad. But they turned themselves bad – and they liked it.

That said, there were a few things I did notice on second viewing. First of all, it really struck me that this was a Little Red Riding Hood story with a twist. Both Thelma and Louise represent Red (though we see Thelma a little more in that role because she starts out so much more vulnerable than Louise does.) Instead of to grandmother’s house they go, they’re off for a girls’ weekend in the mountains. On the way they meet the big bad wolf, Harlan, and instead letting him devour their innocence, they shoot the son of a bitch. The would-be savior woodsman is actually Detective Slocumb, though he doesn’t get to be the hero in this film, as much as he tries to be. Maybe it’s a stretch, but the image of both the women’s red hair seems to me more than a coincidence, as it could be both a throwback to Red and the idea that redheads are feisty.

The fairy tale itself has been subject to several interpretations that suggest that it’s definitely more than a cautionary tale for youngsters against strangers. Says Wikipedia:

“Red Riding Hood has also been seen as a parable of sexual maturity. In this interpretation, the red cloak symbolizes the blood of the menstrual cycle and the entry into puberty, braving the “dark forest” of womanhood. Or the cloak could symbolize the hymen (earlier versions of the tale generally do not state that the cloak is red–the word “red” in the title may refer to the girl’s hair color or a nickname). In this case, the wolf threatens the girl’s virginity. The anthropomorphic wolf symbolizes a man, who could be a lover, seducer or sexual predator. ”

Also included in the article are links to other “women power” movies based on the archetype, such as Freeway an early, forgotten, and BIZARRE Reese Witherspoon movie from the mid-90s and Hard Candy, a recent indie starring Ellen Page and Patrick Wilson. Take a look, it’s really interesting.



1. neath - June 5, 2007

you are right about Thelma and Louise. When it came out it had it had an almost, stress almost, Bonnie and Clyde edge to it but also that it seems that comedy shows do the parodies the same day as the film comes out so it s easy to see things get swept into clichedom. Susan Sarandon was one of the hottest women in American film in the 80’s because she was a kind of a throwback, something familiar yet hard to label her based on her roles, so this rebellious women who won’t go into Texas, which is sort of why they got “caught”, became iconic. I haven’t seen it in many years, curious about how it has aged though. It was a strange film in that it had great commercial success yet was being patronized by rednecks and feminists alike, though there was plenty to make both groups uncomfortable enough.

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