Men and the Male Gaze: Thelma and Louise March 12, 2007Posted by lindamc in "the gaze", Thelma and Louise.
The men in Thelma and Louise seemed to fall into two brackets: pigs who see the women through the traditional objectifying male gaze, and those whom we were supposed to view the women, or those holding the “male gaze” for the audience viewers.
The “pigs” clearly represented what the women were fighting against: sexual violence against, and general oppression of, women (the dirty trucker, the guy they shot outside the bar (Harlan), Thelma’s husband, Darryl). They are played so over the top in these roles (the trucker has female bodies engraved on his truck to clearly show his objectification of women, and Harlan and Darryl clearly have no respect for the women in all of their assigned dialogue. By having such a clearly negative group to fight against, viewers are drawn into the female protagonists’ plight, and feel sympathy for all their brushes with the law. However, I feel as those this is compromised throughout the film, by the other male characters, who provide their own “male gaze” on screen.
The main detective, Investigator Slocomb seems to be oddly sympathetic to the girls, because as we randomly find out, he “knows what happened to [Louise] in Texas” referencing her own rape. Also, Louise’s boyfriend, Jimmy, is wonderfully supportive and loving towards her, offering her the money she needs, and even proposing in order to keep her by his side. After Jimmy serves this purpose, however, he is rarely seen again, his part as supporter seems lost, as if when he heard that she was in trouble with the law, he would do nothing. Darryl follows the investigation closely, but Jimmy seems to disappear. These two men in particular, seem to distract from the main focus of the audience, which is to support Thelma and Louise, and draws then into a man’s world, where some guys do understand, and makes the audience ask: why do they have to keep running? Slocomb and Jimmy will work it out, they’re nice guys. I feel as though those loose ends make the film less about female empowerment, and more about two crazy women getting beat up and lost in a man’s world.
The last shot of the film, Slocomb chasing the car, could show, if one were to argue this way, that he was running after them to try and pull them back into the man’s world, that they had broken free and he was trying to reign them in. However by not having the camera follow the girls off at the end, but having a shot from behind Slocomb’s shoulder, and then the car flying over the edge on the side, I feel like we end disconnected from the girls. We follow them from the point of a male detective who, while clearly (and in my mind strangely) is empathetic and supportive of the girls, is also a man, and a representation of the police (controlling men).