(Warning: Minor Spoilers Ahead)
A film I’ve enjoyed rewatching over the last few years is Fried Green Tomatoes. Although it was released in the 90s, it will always be one of my favorites. With stars like Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy, Mary Stuart Masterson, Mary-Louise Parker, Chris O’Donnell and Cicely Tyson, audiences may recognize at least one familiar face.
Set in the late 1980s Alabama, timid housewife Evelyn (Bates) and her husband, Ed, travel to a nursing home to see an elderly relative of his. While there, Evelyn meets Ninny Threadgood (Tandy), a lonely resident from the abandoned town of Whistle Stop, Alabama. Over the course of several visits, Ninny tells Evelyn about her sister-in-law, Imogen “Idgie” Threadgood (Masterson), who grew up in the Great Depression.
After witnessing the accidental death of her brother, Buddy (O’Donnell), Idgie isolates herself, always staying close to home. Worried about her, her family brings in Buddy’s old girlfriend, Ruth (Parker), to befriend Idgie. Although standoffish at first, Idgie eventually warms up to Ruth and accepts her friendship. However, eventually, Ruth leaves to get married.
Years later, Idgie visits Ruth and discovers her husband is abusing her. Idgie convinces her to leave her husband, and come back to Whistle Stop. The two women move in together, and open a cafe.
With the film transitioning between past and present, we can see how Ninny’s friendship positively affects Evelyn too.
Although she starts out shy, letting people walk all over her, after hearing about Idgie and Ruth, Evelyn starts becoming more confident in herself. She gains the courage to stand up to Ed, as well as other people around her.
In the book the film is based on, a romantic relationship between Idgie and Ruth is heavily implied. While the film does not directly state whether or not they are a couple, many believe a romantic relationship is hinted at numerous times. While criticized by many for lack of strong LGBT+ representation, the film received an award by GLAAD for best film with lesbian content. While I realize it wasn’t common to see the LGBT+ community represented by media in the 1990s, I do wish the film had done a better job showing the relationship between Idgie and Ruth.
The film also addresses racism. Ruth’s husband, a member of the KKK, is an antagonist in the film. While I won’t give away what happens to him, I can promise it’s exactly what he deserves.