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Thelma & Louise Live!

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    Thelma & Louise Live!
    Book Description:

    When they floored their Thunderbird off a cliff rather than surrender to the law, Thelma and Louise became icons of female rebellion, provoking strong reactions from viewers who felt either empowered or outraged by the duo's transgressions of women's traditional roles. The 1991 film quickly became-and continues to be-a potent cultural reference point, even inspiring a bumper sticker that declares, "Thelma & Louise Live!"

    In this insightful study ofThelma & Louise, six noted film scholars investigate the initial reception and ongoing impact of this landmark film. The writers considerThelma & Louisefrom a variety of perspectives, turning attention to the film's promotion and audience response over time; to theories of comedy and the role of laughter in the film; to the film's soundtrack and score; to the performances of stars Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis; to the emergence of Brad Pitt as a star and male sex object; and to the film's place in the history of road and crime film genres. Complementing the scholarly analysis is an in-depth interview of screenwriter Callie Khouri by editor Bernie Cook, as well as reviews ofThelma & Louisethat appeared inU.S. News & World ReportandTime.

    Offering myriad new ways of understanding the complex interrelations of gender, identity, and violence,Thelma & Louise Live!attests to the ongoing life and still-evolving meanings of this now-classic film.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79465-8
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION “I Can See Clearly Now”
    (pp. 1-6)
    Bernie Cook

    Fifteen years after its initial release,Thelma & Louise(1991) remains culturally resonant and politically potent. A bumper sticker still in circulation in 2006 proclaims, “Thelma & Louise Live,” asserting that the characters survive in cultural memory despite their textual demise and, further, that the film remains a dynamic intertext, generating new meanings as new viewers encounter it in new contexts. As this anthology argues, the film is profoundly polyphonic, both textually and contextually, offering viewers ways of crossing gender and identity, of gaining insight into the interrelations of gender and violence.Thelma & Louise’slegacies are multiple and complex, extending into production,...

  5. 1 “SOMETHING’S CROSSED OVER IN ME” New Ways of Seeing Thelma & Louise
    (pp. 7-42)
    Bernie Cook

    Toward the conclusion ofThelma & Louise, Thelma (Geena Davis) explains to Louise (Susan Sarandon) that she will not surrender to police, that surrender is not an option because of a new sense of self. She explains, “Something has crossed over in me. I can’t go back.” True to the conventions of the road movie, Thelma has been changed by her experiences on the road. Screenwriter Callie Khouri has structured the film to provoke change in both of her main characters, and at this final juncture both characters have shifted from initial fixity (imprisonment in rigid, narrow gender and class roles)...

  6. 2 GETTING HYSTERICAL Thelma & Louise and Laughter
    (pp. 43-64)
    Victoria Sturtevant

    It is my intention in this chapter to deal withThelma & Louisethrough the lens of comedy theory, though that is not quite the same thing as labeling the film a comedy. The brutal sexual assault at the film’s core stands as a constant reminder that the issues that confront the women in this film are real, dangerous, consequential, and unfunny. In light of the many generic analyses of the film, including those in this volume, however, I think it is safe to argue thatThelma & Louisedefies narrow generic categorization. It is, at its heart, not exactly nongeneric, but...

  7. 3 HEARING THELMA & LOUISE Active Reading of the Hybrid Pop Score
    (pp. 65-90)
    Claudia Gorbman

    Like Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Jonathan Demme, and George Lucas, the best known among New Hollywood’s directors for being musicminded, Ridley Scott takes extraordinary care with music in his films.Thelma & Louiseis one of his most remarkable achievements, its musical soundtrack elaborated in collaboration with composer Hans Zimmer and music supervisor Kathy Nelson. Zimmer’s moody instrumental music features electric and slide guitar, harmonica, and other acoustic and electronic sounds that help set the contemporary western atmosphere of this saga of two women on the lam. The film’s eighteen songs range from soul and reggae to roots-rock and country, from...

  8. 4 INTERPLAYING IDENTITIES Acting and the Building Blocks of Character in Thelma & Louise
    (pp. 91-121)
    Susan Knobloch

    Even in the hands of a director as aesthetically distinctive as Ridley Scott, acting is its own discourse, whose ideological effects can be read from its physical grammar as placed into action in the smallest details of film texts. We can begin to garner that grammar’s generative rules from acting textbooks. Following such books to define acting as the players’ observable bodily and vocal gestures within a film’s frames, this essay will show that the actors inThelma & Louise(1991) deploy physical signs of attention and interconnection to denote and connote their own specific meanings within Scott’s very tightly unified...

    (pp. 122-145)
    J. David Slocum

    The locus classicus of the “outlaw-couple-on-the-run” film isBonnie and Clyde(Arthur Penn, 1967). Important earlier examples exist, of course—You Only Live Once(Fritz Lang, 1937),Gun Crazy(Joseph H. Lewis, 1949), andThey Live By Night(Nicholas Ray, 1951)—but it is Penn’s film that most incisively draws together the three defining elements of outlawry, coupling, and being on the run. In part, this is an outgrowth of the 1960s’ crisis of public authority, self-conscious cinematic storytelling and cultural mythmaking, and destabilization of prevailing regimes of vision and movement.Bonnie and Clydeillustrates the potentially potent convergence of...

  10. 6 “WHAT ALL THE FUSS IS ABOUT” Making Brad Pitt in Thelma & Louise
    (pp. 146-167)
    Cynthia Fuchs

    Partway throughThelma & Louise, the inadvertent outlaws meet a cowboybooted hitchhiker named J. D. (Brad Pitt). He acts the proper young man, apologizing when Thelma (Geena Davis) trips over him on her way from the phone booth to her car. As she slumps in the passenger seat, waiting for Louise (Susan Sarandon) to emerge from a convenience store, Thelma spots J. D. behind the car, posing with his duffel bag slung over his shoulder, so that his “cute butt” is framed by point of view shots in her rearview and sideview mirrors.

    A “signifier of freedom and power,” J.D.’s body...

  11. 7 INTERVIEW WITH CALLIE KHOURI December 19, 2002
    (pp. 168-190)
    Bernie Cook

    Bernie cook: I wanted to begin by asking you about what some scholars call intertextuality or the relations between films. You’ve mentioned in other interviews some of your personal experiences that helped lead to the genesis of the script for this film. I was interested in finding out which films were important to you in the writing ofThelma & Louise.

    Callie khouri: I liked a film calledLonely Are the Brave(1962), which I think in some strange way was inspiring in that it was a person who was on the outside of the law and yet we were very...

  12. APPENDIX I Commentaries
    (pp. 191-204)
  13. APPENDIX II Filmographies
    (pp. 205-212)
    (pp. 213-216)
    (pp. 217-218)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 219-228)