Beginning with the opening scenes, I was pulled into the movie – two women friends planning a weekend getaway. I identified with their easy banter, their delight in taking a break from their domestic and work situations and having fun line-dancing in the country western bar. I was totally connected to the lead characters every step of the way.
I had no idea how the movie was going to end. When the end came I was mesmerized. I remained in my seat, trance-like, as the credits rolled off the screen and people filed out of the theatre. It was as though I had been transported to another world, separate from the world around me. I went off the cliff with Thelma and Louise and I was still with them. But we hadn’t crashed into the canyon. We were still sailing across the sky. And I was still living inside the film.
Upon opening my eyes the following morning, I chose a new last name. For 32 years I had used my married name, even though I divorced 20 years earlier. Today, of course, I see this act as one of deep psychological significance. At the time, it was simply something I was compelled to do.
Over the next several days, I saw Thelma & Louise three more times. Never before in my life had I done such a thing. I didn’t try to analyze what was happening. All I knew was that this film had affected me in a profound way. Even now I find that words do not fully capture this sensation. I had never seen a film where women exuded so much power. They had ‘slain the dragon’. They were forces to be reckoned with. Even in the face of death, they refused to surrender.
I couldn’t help but wonder to what extent other viewers experienced deep emotional responses to the film. What positive or negative impressions would they be inclined to share? In addition to gender-based reactions, would there be differences based on age, education and social-standing? These were some of the questions which loomed in my mind as I made the decision to invite other viewers to participate in a research project based on an open-format questionnaire.