*This article contains spoilers from the novel and movie adaptation of Fried Green Tomatoes
“You’re just a bee charmer, Idgie Threadgoode. That’s what you are, a bee charmer.”
The novel: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is a beloved 1987 novel by Fannie Flagg. This novel transitions seamlessly from past to present, following the quick-built friendship between Evelyn Couch and Ninny Threadgoode. Evelyn first meets Ninny when she travels to Rose Terrace nursing home.
Evelyn becomes annoyed with her husband Ed as well as his mother, Big Momma (she recently became a resident at Rose Terrace). So, naturally, Evelyn plans an escape. She escapes to the visitors’ lounge, and that spot is where Evelyn meets Ninny.
They begin talking, and the love story between Imogene “Idgie” Threadgoode and Ruth Jamison begins. It certainly blossoms throughout the novel. Ah, love!
Readers gather that Ninny was close to Idgie Threadgoode because she was a neighbor, and later married her brother, Cleo. Additionally, Ninny grew up knowing everything about Idgie. This includes her personality, mannerisms, and character as a young girl.
Idgie wears a green velvet suit to her sister, Leona’s wedding. She wants to be like her brother, Buddy. Idgie is a tomboy through and through. She loves pranks. She wears overalls and prefers to be barefoot. This doesn’t change as Idgie ages.
In the novel, Idgie Threadgoode meets Ruth Jamison, but it’s more than a meeting. Idgie is, in fact, a suitor for Ruth’s love. Yes, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is wholeheartedly a lesbian love story. And, a perfect, magical one at that.
The film: lesbian erasure?
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe became a film in 1991. With the creation and release of the film came lesbian erasure.
The film, which goes by the name Fried Green Tomatoes paints Idgie Threadgoode (Mary Stuart Masterson) and Ruth Jamison (Mary-Louise Parker) as best friends.
Buddy Threadgoode (Chris O’ Donnell) is a victim of a tragic death. His death occurs on the train tracks in town. After Buddy’s death, Idgie hides from society and her community. After all, Buddy is her favorite person and the one she looks up to. The town holds too much devastation for her.
Idgie’s family does not accept her coping mechanism. They quickly contact Ruth Jamison, because she was Buddy’s former girlfriend, and knew Idgie when Idgie was younger.
Ruth finds Idgie and they quickly form their “friendship” with a few days and nights of fun and adventure.
After Idgie and Ruth’s short time together, Ruth leaves Whistle Stop, Alabama to marry Frank Bennett (Nick Searcy). She moves to Valdosta, Georgia with Frank.
It is important to note that while Frank is present in the novel, in the film, Ruth had previously been in love with one person, Buddy, not Idgie. Additionally, Idgie is not a suitor for Ruth.
When Ruth moves to Georgia, Frank quickly becomes violent. Idgie, having formed a deep attachment to Ruth, rescues her. Ruth returns to Whistle Stop to begin her life with Idgie.
Ruth and Idgie, being best friends, open up The Whistle Stop Café, and with it comes a lot of laughter, love, drama, crime, and tears. I won’t give too much away!
This film is certainly a classic.
Was the film’s lesbian erasure successful?
While Fried Green Tomatoes is an excellent film, it is disappointing and upsetting that the film does not portray Idgie as Ruth’s suitor. Moreover, it does not portray them as lovers, at all. The film erases lesbianism and representation. Idgie and Ruth’s lesbian relationship is nonexistent. Or is it?
I believe that Fried Green Tomatoes was semi-successful with its lesbian erasure. Although Ruth calls Idgie her best friend, their flirtatious chemistry permeates each scene. Especially, the food fight scene… symbolic love-making?
Also, they totally look like a couple:
Also, it’s important to note that Grady Kilgore (Gary Basaraba) attempts to flirt with Ruth when he stops at the cafe. However, Ruth ignores his advances as she only has eyes for Idgie. And, Idgie only has eyes for Ruth.
In addition, this tends to occur a lot between heterosexual men and lesbians. If you want to read more further on this topic, you can do so here.
Lastly, Idgie admits that her life is exactly how she wants it to be. With Ruth.
Sadly, Ruth becomes very ill with cancer and she passes away. But, we still see the love between Idgie and Ruth, a love that will last forever.
In the end, viewers can assume Idgie still visits Ruth’s grave, as a jar of honey and a card rest on her tombstone.
Perhaps the book, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe and the film, Fried Green Tomatoes are lesbian love stories. A pure love story between a bee charmer and an extraordinary woman.
If you want to read more about Fried Green Tomatoes, you can do so here.