Thelma and Louise follows two women as they travel the country, evading the police who are chasing them for a murder that Louise committed. Starting off the weekend intending on going on a fun girls trip, the weekend turns sour when Louise catches a man attempting to rape Thelma. She punishes him by shooting him twice in the gut. As both women become more accustomed to the criminal lifestyle, they become more comfortable in their own skin. Their edges become harder, and they begin to come into who they truly are. As they ride through the rocks of New Mexico, their bond solidifies. They share something between them two alone, and they don't have any desire to return to their lives in Arkansas. The movie ends with a police chase, and with the women deciding they would rather die together than be caught by the police. They kiss, hold hands, and drive off of a cliff in Arizona.
The queer subtext in Thelma and Louise can be seen as an crucial reading of the film. While many choose to read their relationship purely platonically, understanding their relationship as queer love adds an important dimension to the film. Kohnen writes that "the insistence that seeing queerly is limited to queer spectators implies that a 'straight' view is the default view". After watching the film for the first time, I felt that the queer subtext was there but that I had to be misreading the film. I convinced myself that the film wouldn't have the popularity that it does if the characters were gay because the preferred reading of popular films is a straight one. On an online forum, a poster wrote that understanding the film as a lesbian movie means you are "missing the point of the movie". Someone else responded and argued that no, actually, the subtext and the preferred reading coexist. Although they never explicitly profess their gay love to one another, their journey can be seen as a realization and manifestation of their love. They both begin the movie as different people; Thelma the shy housewife eager to find fun on their trip, and Louise the rowdy yet rational woman who's dark past troubles her present. The murder that Louise commits and Thelma witnesses can be seen as a metaphor for their queer bond. It's necessary for their wellbeing that they keep the murder to themselves; just as it may have been crucial that their love stay between the two of them. No one but the two of them truly understand one another. This is exemplified in the scene that takes place after Louise talks to the cops for the second time. Thelma asks if Louise is gonna give up on her, and describes how something inside of her has changed. How she can't go back to her old life, and Louise understands and agrees. Both women share something so unique and personal that no one could possibly understand. Whereas the women had "settled" in their lives before the trip, going West meant their queer relationship evolved.