On Judith Warner and Thelma and Louise

22Sep07

In yesterday’s Times, we read an “Op-Extra” column by Judith Warner called ‘Thelma and Louise’ in the Rear-View Mirror,” in which we were informed that such a “dark” and “disturbing” movie could not have been made in the present, given that in 1991, “[a]ll the talk, nationally, was of sexual harassment, date rape and crimes against women generally,” whereas now, “date rape is no longer a contentious concept; it’s a known reality…[r]ape itself is down – its incidence having dropped 75 percent since the early 1990s, according to the Department of Justice.” In conclusion, we are told, “[t]hese are profound and meaningful changes, and we should celebrate them — and revel in “Thelma and Louise”’s passage into history.”

We–it is fair to say–are not reveling. Rather we are disturbed by the shallow optimism on display here, one that is certainly emblematic of the present leadership of this country in comparison to 1991, when–though it pains us to praise him–a certain president at least had enough sense not to fight 3000 years of history to invade ____. But already we digress; what we would like to say to Judith Warner is that while it is perhaps understandable for one who now presumably lives in an upper-class, suburban enclave in or near Washington, DC–or at least cavorts with senators and representatives–to opine nostalgically about the “fear and anger and outrage” that marked her life in 1991, for those of us in 2007 who do not share her circumstances–and we estimate this figure to be 99.9 percent of the world’s population–we are not inclined to agree that rape is down, any more than killing or vandalism or any other form of violence and injury that have always marred civilization is down (Department of Justice figures notwithstanding). Nor, consequently, without commenting on the merits of “Thelma and Louise,” can we “thank goodness” that such a movie would not be made today; to the contrary, the best works of art — just as they always have done — can be expected to explore the more disturbing but universal elements of the human condition. In short, Judith Warner, while the gay recluse shares your desire to insulate yourself from these most unfortunate crimes, we would never be so naive as to forget the (admittedly brutal) truth with regard to the world around us; that you have done so in this unfortunate piece is a disservice to us, i.e., your faithful readers.

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