Why Thelma & Louise Was Really Frustrating For Geena Davis

Ridley Scott’s 1991 film Thelma and Louise will surely go down in history as one of the great female empowerment films. Stars Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon were given bold, strong, take-action characters to sink their teeth into, and the result is a fantastic and unfortunately rare bit of woman-led entertainment. But while most of the movie-going world reflects back on the movie positively, part of Geena Davis’ reaction is sadly dedicated to frustration, as it never actually sparked the start of a significant feminist wave in Hollywood – despite a lot of conversation on the matter.

Davis - who has become intensely dedicated to better jobs and roles for women in the film industry, founding the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media – recent participated in an interview with The Guardian, and it was during their conversation that the actress expressed her thoughts about Thelma and Louise 24 years on. Discussing moments in her career where she thought things were about to change, she pinpointed both Ridley Scott’s movie and Penny Marshall’s A League of Their Own as both ultimately having disappointing macro effects on the movie world. She explained,

After Thelma & Louise, which was pretty noticed and potent and significant, [people were saying] ‘This changes everything! There’s going to be so many female buddy movies!’ and nothing changed. And then the next movie I did was A League of Their Own, which was a huge hit and all the talk was, ‘Well now, beyond a doubt, women’s sports movies, we’re going to see a wave of them because this was so successful.’ That’s balls. It took 10 years until Bend It Like Beckham came out. So, there was no trend whatsoever.

Of course, it’s not as though Geena Davis is the only one staring in films with a strong sense of female empowerment – the problem is that those movies don’t seem to actually be sparking any kind of actual change in industry philosophy and approach. In the interview, the actress also points to the year 2008, when both Mamma Mia! and Sex and the City were huge successes – and yet statistics gathered by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media last year reported that only 23 percent of films feature a female protagonist. It’s a problem that’s doesn’t seem to be getting fixed – or as Davis puts it,

It keeps happening, and we keep falling for this notion that now there’s Bridesmaids, now there’s Hunger Games… It hasn’t started a trend.

The bright side in this is that Thelma and Louise will forever stand as evidence of just how great "female buddy movies" can be – and while it feels like we have to be patient, one day will surely see the release of a film that will light the necessary spark in Hollywood – of course, working alongside a few other fundamental elements that need to change about the industry.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.