Blog #4: Fried Green Tomatoes
The film Fried Green Tomatoes is a story about friendships between many people, which flashes back and forth from the 1980’s to the 1920-30 era. This begins with Evelyn Couch, a woman who is in her forties, going through her “change” and she is very dissatisfied with how her life has turned out. The storyteller is 82 year old Ninny Threadgoode. Evelyn is a regular visitor to the nursing home Ninny lives in and through these visits, Ninny tells of exploits of friends from her childhood in old Southern Alabama, Depression era. This story probes relationships between families, women, murder, racism and hints at lesbianism.
In the film, flashbacks to the Depression era reflect on women as the caretakers, mostly all wearing dresses, except for Idgie, a young girl who prefers to wear ties and pants from a very young age. She idolizes her big brother Buddy, who is accidentally killed by a train very early in the movie. After her brothers death, Idgie befriend his fiancée, Ruth. Together they buy a café named Whistle Stop. Throughout this story that moves back and forth, women are definitely portrayed as the weaker sex as Evelyn is struggling with the fact that she feels useless to her husband, now that their child is gone from the nest. Her sole duty in life has been to care for home and hearth and her husband only is interested in what he wants, to watch sports and eat. Her outlook on life, as she sees herself is “too old to be young, too young to be old”. Through the series of visits that Evelyn makes to the nursing home and hearing Ninny tell her stories, Evelyn finds the power inside herself to lose weight and take charge of her own life, becoming more independent. Idgie was definitely a feminist ahead of her time in that she wore pants, kept her hair very short and spoke her mind. She worked as a hard as a man in the story and was fiercely independent. She also appeared to have a crush on Ruth that deepened into a true love for her. Ruth was a southern belle, complete with a dainty walk and speech pattern, but Idgie and her independent spirit influence Ruth away from that genre .Ruth is shown in the film to be weak, in that she marries an abusive husband who typifies a southern male as being “one of the boys”. Idgie ultimately kills him to protect Ruth who is also pregnant at the time. Ruth and Idgie raise the baby together, naming him after Idgie’s dead brother, Buddy. Throughout the story, Ruth and Idgie don’t conform to society especially by befriending Negroes and feeding them out of the back of the café. Ruth leaving her husband and raising their son without a father was also not accepted in that era. These and other occurrences in the story serve as a springboard for Evelyn to finally find a job and speak up to her husband, giving this film a feminist flair. Evelyn dumps the oppressed Southern – midlife-wife persona and emerges loving herself and who she is. Ruth and Idgie were ahead of their time by living together and persevering through many difficulties, resulting in a deep love and respect for each other.
I liked this film because even though it is fictional, it empowers anyone, gay or straight, to not conform to society’s standards. As a middle-aged woman, I can relate to Evelyn. I was raised to believe that my sole existence was to please my husband and that it should be enough. I have found this to not be true at all and believe that this myth is perpetuated by well-meaning mothers who were also raised that way. This practice actually stunts the growth of women and, if not balanced by the other partner, simply does nothing to solidify a relationship. Being a door mat is no fun and Ruth and Idgie’s relationship was one of love and respect for each other, regardless of what anyone said or did. This applies to all relationships, straight or gay.
Fannie Flagg. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Café. New York, Toronto: Random House/Ballantine Books,1987.