Hearing Madonna’s old song “Into the Groove” on the radio brought back memories of the 1985 movie DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN starring Madonna and Rosanna Arquette in which the song featured. The film, in my opinion, was one of the seminal women empowerment films whose path led to the 1991 film THELMA AND LOUISE starring Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon. And it occurred to me that this was an appropriate topic for a “look back” just before the 2017 release of the film WONDER WOMAN.
In DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN an identity mix-up worthy of one of Shakespeare’s comedies brings the suburban housewife played by Rosanna Arquette into a world where she has worth outside being married to a man. What she does with that knowledge is a compelling story.
Two earlier movies have to be considered:
THE STEPFORD WIVES came out in 1975 based on the science fiction/horror novel by Ira Levin of the same title. In this film the women protagonists, played by Katherine Ross and Paula Prentiss, did not win. Without spoiling the ending, suffice it to say that the women did not get away from the control of their husbands.
Then in 1978 the film AN UNMARRIED WOMAN starring Jill Clayburgh showed a woman who, in the end, realized she did not need to be married to have an identity. In the midst of the first decade of the women’s movement, this was a very strong declaration. (History note: The Equal Rights Amendment passed both houses of Congress in 1972 but failed to be ratified by enough state legislatures to become law before the ratification deadline of June 30, 1982.)
Six years after DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN, in 1991 the film THELMA AND LOUISE, written by Callie Khouri, appeared — a compelling story of two women who take seeking control of their own lives to the farthest degree.
(As befits the star of such a seminal women’s empowerment film, Geena Davis started the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media with the motto “If she can see it, she can be it.” Go to seejane.org to learn more now.)
Now I await the release of WONDER WOMAN on June 2, 2017, starring Gal Gadot and directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins — I already have my tickets for opening weekend. (DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN was also directed by a woman, Susan Seidelman.)
While others may have different films on their seminal women’s empowerment list, I believe these are four compelling films that tell the tale of women in the U.S. striving to achieve their equal place in society. And while women have come a long way since THELMA AND LOUISE in 1991, we still have a long way to go.
© 2017 Miller Mosaic LLC
Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller) has an M.B.A. from The Wharton School and is the author of fiction and nonfiction books/ebooks. Phyllis is available by skype for book group discussions and may be reached at email@example.com
Her Kindle fiction ebooks may be read for free with a Kindle Unlimited monthly subscription — see www.amazon.com/author/phylliszimblermiller — and her Kindle nonfiction ebooks may also be read for free with a Kindle Unlimited monthly subscription — see www.amazon.com/author/phylliszmiller