It’s 25 years since Callie Khouri’s first ever screenplay became an Oscar-winning iconic piece of celluloid history. Our Sarah Millican tells us why it will always be her favourite.
Ask me what my favourite film is. Go on. It’s Thelma & Louise. Always has been and always will be. Like banoffee pie, the Lake District and missionary, some favourites never change.
Of course I love Jaws; I’m not a bloody idiot. Jaws is probably the film I’ve seen the most. Different polls, see. But at the age of 16 I saw a film (Thelma & Louise, keep up) that showed me WOMEN. Women as protagonists and bloody hell, two of them!
Sure, I’d seen women in films before that. Loads of them. As wives, girlfriends, mothers, secretaries, prostitutes and victims to much more exciting, diverse, fleshed out, well rounded and sometimes fucking awful men. Now, here are two women like the MEN in films. HOLD THE PHONE. WOMEN CAN DO THINGS TOO.
Prior to this, women in films I’d seen were in kitchens, offices, crack dens and body bags. Here were women in a car, mostly, though occasionally in motels, cafes and the bloody Grand Canyon. And however secondary the male characters are, they are still integral to the story. Without men, it would just be a film (that I’d still see) about two awesome gals enjoying a mini break. Without the men, no one would have been raped or need to rob a convenience store.
“Thelma & Louise taught me that women are not secondary, can make decisions to change their lives, can handle anything, should call out sexism, will stand up for themselves, make excellent friends and that messy hair denotes excellent sex.”
My husband has also just pointed out that it might not pass a reverse Bechdel test. Part of me is annoyed that he has pointed this out. Part of me is thrilled that my feminist training is going well.
THIS is the film that made me want to be a film director. Ridley Scott, who directed this, spent part of his childhood in South Shields where I’m from so we’re sort of pals (never met him). But this film showed me an example of stories that weren’t being told. And to be fair, still aren’t really being told now.
THIS is the film that made me a feminist though I didn’t have the vocabulary to articulate that at the time. My slightly sexist A-level maths tutor once pissed me off and the only words I had were “Have you seen Thelma & Louise? No? Then you should.”
I think I was trying to tell him that women are powerful and he shouldn’t denigrate us. But it may have come across more like, “I will shoot you if you rape me.” Or “If you give me a properly good orgasm, you can have all of my money.” Thank God I have since learned to talk about feminism and also call out sexist arseholes. Phew, eh?
I think seeing Thelma & Louise at the impressionable age of 16 made a difference. Maybe it should be obligatory and be given out in the welcome to womanhood packs all girls should get alongside Tina Fey’s Bossypants and Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman.
It taught me that women are not secondary, can make decisions to change their lives, can handle anything, should call out sexism, will stand up for themselves, make excellent friends and that messy hair denotes excellent sex. I look thoroughly humped most days.
Having rewatched it last night, I remembered that Louise’s “You get what you settle for” is a line that slipped easily into my lexicon. It’s a pretty good rule to live your life by.
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Sarah Millican is a comedian, writer, reformed workaholic, feminist, cat and dog mam, wife and lover of food.