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We Are Different, Yet The Same...


Idgie and Ruth, Evelyn and Ninny from “Fried Green Tomatoes”; Thelma and Louise in their eponymous film; and Sophie and Frances in “Frances Ha”. What these films, focusing on women with different worlds of their own, have in common is that they talk about their struggle against the norms, their resistance against hardships, how they have fun together, and how they feel about each other. Drawing its strength from the multilayered relationships between women and shedding light on what lies between the lines, these films may associate with different genres, yet the similarity of their language is what makes them exhilarating.






FRIED GREEN TOMATOES


Evelyn tries to compensate for her unhappy marriage by eating chocolate, and she is dedicated to her callous husband. In the nursing home where her husband’s aunt is staying, Evelyn meets Ninny, who is an old lady full of vibrancy. When Ninny begins to tell a story from many years ago out of nowhere, Evelyn feels obliged to accompany her. After that day, she goes to see Ninny to hear the rest of her exciting story. Ninny’s story is told through the sociopolitical and cultural perspective of 1920s Alabama, and it has all; family drama, exhilarating relationships, mysterious incidents and their transformations, and the friendship between two women. Jumping back and forth between two different timelines, these two stories lead to the transformation and development of all female characters.


Idgie, who is raised as a tomboy, is an “extraordinary” young woman who doesn’t conform to the norms of the maledominant American society. After losing her older brother Buddy in a tragic accident, she grows apart from her family and starts living an independent life. Ruth, who is both a friend of the family and Buddy’s favorite, is almost the opposite of Idgie with her elegant and pure look. These two women seem incompatible at first, but over time, they form a deep sense of connection with each other. No matter what befalls them, this connection makes them stronger in the face of life. Ruth and Idgie present each other with different aspects of life; together they dream, have fun, work, struggle, grow stronger, and transform. They do all this by resisting against the gender norms of the time determined by white men. They also invite other people into their lives who have their fair share of racism. As they grow closer, they mostly accept one another unconditionally. They discover new emotions in their lives, during which angry outbursts and tranquility go hand in hand. It’s up to interpretation if this deep connection has a romantic background, which adds more layers and courage to the narrative. The scene in which Idgie puts her hand in a beehive to collect honey for Ruth and the following dialogue, the little smiles and passionate outputs make the questions about their relationship have a lasting influence on the viewer’s mind. Above all, this friendship gives these two women the strength

to keep on living despite all hardships.


On the other hand, Ninny manages to tell her story in a vivid, fluent, and detailed way despite her advanced age and directs both stories with the power of her imagination. She’s like a giant source of memories; one which collects the memories of all characters in one body. This exchange creates a sense of journey for Evelyn who’s showing symptoms of depression. The two women grow closer. Evelyn, who adopts a passive approach to every situation and ignores her own feelings when they first meet, starts a transformation on par with the characters of Ninny’s story. She decides to live for herself, and her adventure of self-expression, which begins with outbursts ends in screams of happiness. Finally, she accepts Ninny into her family. Four women from two stories in different time periods hold onto each other through secrets and reveal their strength within. At the end of the film, Ninny says, “I found out what the secret to life is: friends. Best friends.”




THELMA VE LOUISE


Thelma is a timid woman who has low self-esteem and is afraid to cross her husband, while Louise is a daring waitress. On a weekend when Louise has a fight with her boyfriend, she convinces Thelma and they find themselves on the road for a two-day vacation. This is the first time Thelma does something like this without her husband’s permission. After her marriage, the young woman shuts herself to the outside world and becomes meek. Meanwhile, Louise looks after Thelma with her self-confidence and adventurous spirit. Before they reach their destination, they stop at a bar. Thelma starts to relax with the influence of alcohol. Despite Louise’s controlling demeanor, she surrenders to the life of excitement of which she has been depriving herself for a long time. Further into the night, Thelma tries to put up a fight against a man who tries to rape her. Louise finds them and shoots the man in the heat of the argument. Following this scene, the movie tells an exhilarating story of pursuit.


The two women face the fact that they have nobody else but each other to trust, long before that incident, and seem to simultaneously enjoy this horrible situation in which they find themselves. They feel liberated by this unknown journey filled with excitements, encounters, and fears they have never experienced before. On this journey, during which they have nothing to lose besides each other, they live in the moment and face their most primitive emotions from sexuality to violence. Experiencing and expressing these sensations make them feel much more alive compared to their previous “normal” lives. They’re further attached to each other through emotional ups and downs, occasional nervous breakdowns, and the magnificent strength that is revealed when they stop being afraid. Throughout this journey, in which one woman is stronger at the beginning, the balance of power keeps shifting as the sense of excitement for new experiences dominates the sense of panic. This codependency and liberation reach such lengths that they proceed towards the biggest experience they can ever share, without any hesitation. A self criticism of the system is presented when the police chief chasing after the women tries to protect them against the prejudice of men. These two women, who decide to take on everything on account of the assumption that they would be blamed even for a rape attempt, and their violent resistance against the harassment of men throughout their journey bear traces of feminism and enchants the viewer. Maintaining a balance between elements of drama and humor, the film ends with the idea of a romantic connection they might have felt for each other.



FRANCES HA


The idiosyncratic or unique Frances is a naive, child-like dancer with her juvenile happiness, ever-disorganized life, messy home, emotional ripples, and spontaneous decisions. She has an unusual way of communicating with people, and this causes her to be regarded as “weird” in new environments. She even shares her bed with Sophie, her flatmate and best friend. Although she has a bed of her own, she continues to sleep beside Sophie because she asks her to. Frances’s life centers so much around Sophie that when her boyfriend suggests living together in a different apartment, she says she cannot leave her flatmate, and they break up. Although she loves dancing and works as a standby dancer in a company, her body cannot fully align with dancing just like her personality cannot align with other people. Frances feels powerless when she learns that she has been discarded from the end-of-the-year tour she has been expecting for a long time and that Sophie is moving in with someone else because it’s a better neighborhood. Just as she starts to deeply feel Sophie’s absence and is scattered with disappointment and financial problems, she becomes flatmates with two men. She doesn’t have any romantic relationship with either of them, and they are both unusual. The three of them get along well. Frances, who spends her life following her heart rather than making plans, has to move to another place and then another. Throughout this process, the two women return to their onagain- off-again friendship just when they are about to drift apart and rediscover, each time, how much they love and care for one another. Their relationship isn’t broken when one marries and the other follows her heart, as usual, to go to another country for two days and they don’t talk to each other for months. They always pick up where they leave off and, interestingly enough, manage to be there for each other to dress their wounds even for a night in the worst of times. Unlike the characters of the two other movies, these two women try to contain their feelings for each other with the exception of a few angry outbursts. Sometimes they stay tangent to each other and follow their own paths, but other times they meet again. This process takes them to a whole new place from where they were in the beginning of the film - especially Frances. She eventually grows up, makes adult decisions, and dances in the middle of her street wearing a business suit. She finds her own place and writes “Frances Ha” on her mailbox because her last name is too long.

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