Social and Moral Policies of Government: Thelma and Louise


Watch the movie "Thelma and Louise" and interpret the movie to relate one of two of the movie’s characters to the philosophies of Thomas Hobbes and Jean Jacques Rousseau.

You will relate your character selections to the following:

Thomas Hobbes and his theory of the state of nature and government as an artificial creation.
Jean Jacques Rousseau and government and society as the inhibitors of our natural freedoms.
Thomas Hobbes

Thomas Hobbes lived from 1588 to 1679 and his best known work is called Leviathan. The word Leviathan means an artificially created animal. For example, in older English translations a leviathan was created to swallow Jonah. It was not a whale which is part of the natural world. The leviathan was a specific creature created by God for a specific purpose. And so it is with government: Hobbes did not think government was part of the natural world. It had to be a leviathan created by men: that is, government is the artificial creation that allows men to live the Good Life.

Thus, for Hobbes, government and society are not institutions existing naturally in nature. Hobbes believed that government is the artificial creation by man to protect us from each other. In other words, we are savage and predatory by nature and a strong central government is the only guarantee of peace and security and, thus, the Good Life.

He felt that we all live in a state of nature that was a war of all against all. As a result, men appointed the strongest among them to be a king and to enforce peace and safety at all costs.

Hobbes is also known as the father of totalitarianism in that he believed in a strong central government with enforcement powers. Thus, for Hobbes, censorship is good, rules are good, behavior is watched, punishment applied and peace is ensured. Government is the solution and the Good Life is ensured.

In your character selection, analyze the relationship between government and its citizens. How do you think the social theory of Hobbes has both a positive and a negative influence on the lives of your characters?

Jean Jacques Rousseau

Jean Jacques Rousseau lived from 1712 to 1778 A.D. He was a French philosopher of the Enlightenment period. One of his most famous quotes is, "Man is free; and everywhere he is in chains" (Rousseau, 1762).

His theory of government, along with Hobbes, is referred to as the "Social Contract Theory." Meaning: There is an implicit contract between the citizens of the state and the State itself. Note: The contract can be broken and a new one instituted. Thus, the attainment of the Good Life is entirely in our control and it is our responsibility to create a government leading to its attainment.

For Rousseau, and in opposition to Hobbes, government and society are the problem. In his view, governments create artificial rules and regulations that hinder man’s free, natural, and uninhibited moral development. And, when government stands in the way, the social contract should be broken and new one agreed upon.

In your character selection, consider what social obligations should bind and obligate citizens to the State. What is the responsibility of government to its citizens—and, what is the responsibility of individuals to their governments? How do your characters exhibit the Enlightenment philosophy of Rousseau?

As you write your paper, consider the following questions:

How do your characters reflect the nature of government as the guarantor of peace and security?
How do your characters reflect the social obligation of government to its citizens?
How have your characters removed the chains of social convention and government imposition?
You will be graded on your ability to demonstrate your specific knowledge of these theories, as well as your ability to apply these philosophies to the various characters and scenarios in your movie selection.

You are expected to use a minimum of 3 citations from your source reading and from the Capella University Library.

Assignment Requirements:

Paper Length: Approximately 950 words.
Written Communication: Written communication should be free of errors that detract from the overall message.
APA Formatting: Resources and citations should be formatted according to APA (6th edition) style and formatting.
Font and Font Size: Arial, 12-point, double-spaced. Use Microsoft Word.
Number of Resources: Cite a minimum of 3 sources.


Thelma and Louise is a tragic and fascinating story of two women who are fed up with life and are looking of new horizons in their life.  The two women are tired of living a life regulated by the society and want to find freedom. They are in oppressive relationships where their life is dictated by men and together they go out on trip, apparently to nowhere, to try and find a new life.  As the events turns out, the road ahead of the two women is rough and dangerous. What starts out as a trip turns out to be a tragic life of running out as fugitives. Both women commit crimes along their way which makes them criminals sought after by the state. Louise, who was a former victim of rape, shoots a man who tried to rape Thelma and immediately they are linked to the murder. Louise therefore cannot go back home and keeps on running while her friend Thelma is not ready to leave her side.   When the two friends become broke, Thelma remembers to have learned a line from JD and she storms into a gas station and robs it speeding off with unknown amount of money.  Before they decide to tragically end their life by running their car over a canyon, the two girls commit a number of crimes which puts them in the list of wanted crimes. This film can be used to analyze the relationship between people and the government. Through analysis of the major characters in the movie it is easy to construct the relationship between government and the society.