Wild Women and the Wild West

By Chris Nashawaty
Updated February 10, 1995 at 05:00 AM EST

Ever since Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon whooped it up while speeding through the desert, singing oldies and ducking cops in Thelma & Louise, the West has been a magnet for movie women on the verge. Consider: Jessica Lange riding a horse onto a Nevada nuclear test site in Blue Sky; Gas Food Lodging‘s mother and two daughters teetering on the spiritual edge in a New Mexico trailer park; two soul-searching women Leaving Normal to cruise the countryside; Uma Thurman hitching a ride to the Rubber Rose Ranch in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues; and Juliette Lewis’ Mallory riding shotgun with her beau to Gallup, N.M., in Natural Born Killers. What gives?

”The whole Route 66 mystique,” says Matthew Bianco of the Arizona Office of Tourism. ”You can always be by yourself here and think about life.” Is the West really as full of women who let loose as it looks on the big screen? ”There are a lot of redneck men here and liberated women are still disliked,” says Dr. Judith Tingley, a Phoenix psychologist and author of Genderflex. But, she adds, ”there are a lot of wide-open spaces…and more independence, risk-taking, and adventure. You can’t drive off the Grand Canyon in New Jersey.”