I love road movies. If asked, I could make a list of 50 of my favorites right now and many of those would likely be on your list too.
In fact, I love road movies so much that I made my thesis film about a silent, mystery woman tragically wandering the back roads and train tracks of Maine (thank you to Agnès Varda's "Vagabond" and Barbara Loden's "Wanda"). When I showed my first cut to my advisor and other professors, nobody liked it. I was shocked by their patent dislike, and I didn't understand, at first. Then, over time, it dawned on me. I'd made a film with a main character who was a woman and a free spirit, unwilling to compromise herself for the male character. Could it be that my male professors were simply unable to connect with the character because of her gender and attitudes? Of the two professors who did encourage me to keep going with the film, one was — surprise! — a woman. I will admit to some small internal voice saying, “nyah nyah” when my little film was selected to be one of only 30 films at the 1992 Film Festival of International Cinema Students in Tokyo, Japan. Sweet road movie revenge!
Yes, the female-driven road movie is a rare bird. If you google "road movies," you'll get thousands of relevant entries, but if you google "female-driven road movies," there is literally a single "list" in the top 10 entries. I'm sure there are more but after page 3, I was tired of seeing repeated references to Mad Max: Fury Road. Maybe I was using the wrong search terms?
"True quest is about agency ... a test of mettle, a destiny." (Vanessa Veselka)
In order to take our rightful place in on-screen road narratives, women and girl characters must be given more to do than serve as a foil to the main male character's quest. Where are our quests? Our adventures? Our driving need to find ourselves? We know we’re capable, ready, willing, and able to hit the road. And if “the road” is the major cinematic metaphor for the quest for freedom, women deserve to take their place right on the center line. Because women are disproportionately portrayed as victims in road movies (and are frequently victims of violence in real life), this becomes our only route to visibility. And we've been down this road before. (Forgive all the puns!)
The point is: we need more female-driven road movies, movies that allow us the freedom to succeed or fail out there, movies that allow us our own quests. What we seek won't necessarily look like or be the same as what men seek on the road, but the narrative of a search for self-actualization on the metaphorical and literal road of life belongs to all of us, no matter our gender.
"You can’t go anywhere if you can’t step out onto a road."
William Jennings Bryan said, "Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved." We women are restless ... we’re ready to set out along that lonesome, dusty road.
Our call for entries for Bluestocking Film Series 2016 will open later this year and we want to see your female-driven road film. We encourage all genres, from drama to comedy to thriller to horror ... as long as your film features a complicated woman in the leading role (and passes the Bechdel Test, of course), we want to see it. If filmmakers are willing to create them, the stories of women “on the road” will be heard!