Sunday, November 8, 2009

Thelma and Louise compared with Monster

(spoiler ahead)

I know I write too much in here about TV shows and movies I've seen, but I want to spend a brief moment on Thelma and Louise. This is a movie where one crime leads to another and, like Monster, the crimes originate with men's abuse of women. First, the women leave home in the first place because of bad relationships. Second, they commit murder because of abuse. Third, even the man they befriend, played by Brad Pitt, steals all their money, shunting them into a life of crime as they rob stores for money. In the end, the women choose suicide over a life in prison and possible death penalty. The characters are strong women, women we sympathize with even after their criminal behavior, partly because of the humor that wends its way through the script. Were their actions justified? Perhaps not. Do we sympathize with them anyway? I think we do. The movie is full of women's fantasies played out... what would happen if we as women fought back? Monster gives us a terrible, horrible answer to that question. But, even though it also ends in death, Thelma and Louise gives us a better, girl power kind of answer to that question.

1 comment:

BSH said...

Do you feel that Lee was not a sympathetic character in Monster? That she actually became a "monster" and less human because of the murders she committed? I find her story incredibly human and easy to empathize with for several reasons.

First, the physical portrayal that Charlize Theron gives bursts through the screens. She is able to capture the rage, the violence, the bodily betrayal and the abuse that Wournos faced. She was able to capture the emotional conflicts that ravaged her body; that she was a good person despite the fact that no one in the world respected her or her choices. Aileen Wournos is also a real person who is now dead, and was killed through state sanctioned death. Whatever one's opinion is on the death penalty, we have to remember that a real person lived, committed these crimes, and was killed for those crimes. The magnitude of taking life - Wournos' taking of life or the state's taking of hers - remains a human story that has rattled around in my head.

I also think that Aileen Wournos gives us more than a girl power answer to the question of what happened if women could fight back. She gives us serious, feminist anger. She gives us the notion that some people cannot stand the abuse heaped upon them; that the human body and the human spirit can break if pushed far enough. The word victim and the idea of victimization is one that I grapple with often; I think it often takes away agency from victims. But Wournos was undoubtedly victimized; by men, by her family, by the police, and yes, by the (patriarchal) system. She also made choices - maybe the choices she tried to make were unable to manifest into something different, but I have a hard time believing that she never gave up hope and trying. Even as we watch her castigation, as portrayed by Theron, we see moments where she still believes in herself (when she tells Selby she'll never meet anyone else like her [Wournous]).

Monster does not destroy my faith in humanity. It gives me pause to consider violence, victimization, power, and abuse.