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Women & the Law March 14, 2007

Posted by kelly in 9 to 5, Thelma and Louise, wild things.
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Thinking about a lot of the films we’ve watched recently, it seems that many of the women who feel failed by the law decide to take it into their own hands. As someone pointed out in class, Louise shot a man not out of self defense, but out of rage and frustration with his actions and words. She knew that he would never be prosecuted for his treatment of women, and so she decided to carry out her own “brand of justice.” After realizing that the law will never protect them, Thelma and Louise embark on a mini-spree of other crimes including blowing up a fuel truck after its driver makes distasteful comments to them. While these actions are extreme, we cheer the women on because we believe these men deserve it. But do we truly believe that these women should be allowed to live above the law?

In “9-5,” the three main characters are not necessarily failed by the law, but the system. Dolly Parton has to endure the sexual harassment of her boss, who can be compared to Harlan of “Thelma and Louise,” while Violet is constantly overlooked because of her sex. Once again, although it happens almost by accident, the women decide to take matters into their own hands and kidnap Hart. Somehow things all work out in the end and they are never punished for their crimes, perhaps simply because we feel their crime is justified. But is it?

Perhaps the most clear case is in “Wild Things,” where Nev Campbell’s character is directly wronged by the law in the form of Kevin Bacon. Taking into account that she is a working-class woman and Bacon is a police officer, she realizes she can never exact revenge on him through the law, and decides simply to maneuver around it. While her revenge and justice results in multiple deaths, we still cheer for her in the end because she is a woman who has triumphed in spite of the law.

All of these characters seem to consider themselves above the law, exacting their own forms of revenge and justice because the law seems to work against them rather than for them. In the films they are glamorized and seen as heroes, but I wonder if we would be cheering if the films featured male characters committing such crimes. Yes, the circumstances would change, but what if the character were a minority and/or working class, people whom we also see the law working against? It’s also interesting to look at these films after considering the Oxygen channel’s (a cable network for women) show “Snapped”, this show features real life female murderers and chronicles their motivations, crimes, and punishments. How differently do we feel when it is real women who commit these sorts of crimes? I’ve never seen the show but considering it’s on a network for woman, I wonder what message it is trying to send.

I don’t really have a strong opinion on this, I just thought it’d be interesting to consider and discuss. I also cheered during these films and will probably continue to do so!

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