The Young And The Restless
When we meet Bonnie Parker, she's your typical small-town girl. She's a waitress. She lives at home. And she's bored, bored, bored.
We're going to hand the mic right over to Clyde, who has her pegged from the moment he sees her:
CLYDE: You were born somewhere around East Texas, right? Come from a big ol' family? You didn't take to school much because you was a lot smarter than everyone else, so you just up and quit one day. Now, where you were sixteen—seventeen—there was a guy who worked in a […] cement plant. And you liked him, 'cause he thought you were just as nice as you could be. And you almost married that guy. But then you thought no, you didn't think you would. And then you got you your job in the café. And now you wake up every morning and you hate it. You just hate it. You put on your […] uniform, and them truck drivers come in there to eat your greasy burgers. […] So you go on home, and you sit in your room and you think, "Now when and how am I ever going to get away from this?" And now you know.
This is totally perceptive on Clyde's part—but it's also just common sense. Because Bonnie Parker, before she was the Bonnie Parker, was a normal, restless girl. It doesn't take mind-reading on Clyde's part to suss her out—it just takes a knowledge of how small-town girls with big dreams tend to live.
Why Do The Good Girls Always Want The Bad Boys?
But while Bonnie may live like a small-town girl, she doesn't think like one. She's headstrong and adventurous enough to get up and go…and she's drawn to bad boys enough to want to go with the baddest boy she can find.
This film makes it clear from the very beginning—and we mean the very beginning—that a big part of Bonnie's small-town frustration is sexual. The very first shot of the film (after a few old photos of Bonnie and Clyde) is of Bonnie licking her lips. We then move to a shot of Bonnie looking longingly into the mirror, and then lying (buck naked) on a brass bed, petulantly hitting the bedframe.
Um, yeah. If this opening doesn't scream, "Bonnie needs to get laid," we don't know what would. (Maybe a title card that actually says, "Bonnie needs to get laid"?)
After that, Bonnie gets up to go to the window—and, yes: she's still in her birthday suit. She sees Clyde trying to break in to her mom' car, and so she says:
BONNIE: Hey, boy. What you doing to my mama's car?
Normal, right? But then, Bonnie says, "Wait there."
Wait there? Wait there?! Is she going to handcuff him herself? Nope. She's going to…go on a date with him. It's obvious from the get-go that Bonnie's not just attracted to Clyde's Warren Beatty-esque good looks. She's attracted to the fact that he's a criminal.
When they go into town, she's awed by the fact that Clyde spent time in state prison. She's intrigued by the fact that he mangled his own foot to get off work detail. She thinks it's hot that he was arrested for armed robbery. She very salaciously licks the rim of a Coke bottle as she asks:
BONNIE: So what's it like? […] armed robbery?
And this isn't even the cherry on top of the sexual imagery sundae. When Clyde pulls out his gun (it's a gun in his pocket; Clyde isn't happy to see you) and holds it at crotch level, Bonnie murmurs "Yeah," and strokes his gun.
No, seriously. We don't have dirty minds—the beginning of this film is just that innuendo-licious.
Liora Moriel's analysis backs us up:
Bonnie caresses his gun and urges him to "use it" pressing the connection between repressed sexuality and the need for some physical action to sublimate it. (Source)
Finally, when Clyde actually robs a store, Bonnie goes over the top. She leaps into his lap as he's driving (tsk, tsk—so dangerous) and starts smooching him.
Thrills And Chills
But here's the thing: Clyde's impotent. This is a massive twist in the storyline—the frustrated small-town waitress leaves with the sexy bad boy…only to find that he can't perform.
Bonnie doesn't turn tail and leave, though—even though she initially wants to. But why not? Why doesn't she find someone to satisfy her sexual desires?
Part of the reason why she doesn't leave Clyde's side is that she's not just looking for sex. After all, she can get plain ol' sex any time she wants. As Clyde says:
CLYDE: [The truckers] kid you, and you kid them back. But they're stupid and dumb boys with big ol' tattoos on 'em, and you don't like it. They ask you for dates, and sometimes you go…but mostly you don't, because all they're trying to do is get in your pants, whether you want them to or not.
What Bonnie can't get is excitement, and the thrill of something different. Clyde gives her that, even if he can't actually do the deed…or give her much in the way of material comfort.
Here's an exchange they have, when Clyde's trying to convince her to go back home:
CLYDE: I ain't a rich man. You could get a rich man, if you tried.
BONNIE: I don't want no rich man.
CLYDE: You ain't gonna have a minute's peace.
Here we have it, explained in two glorious Texas drawls: Bonnie doesn't want the security of a rich dude's love, much like she doesn't want the familiarity of a trucker's love. The idea of that is boring—and repellent—to her. What she wants is action. She wants a dude who will prevent her from having a minute's peace.
It turns out that when Bonnie was caressing Clyde's pistol so seductively, she wasn't just turned on by its resemblance to a penis. She was also turned on by its potential to turn her world upside-down.
Queen Of The World
For a chunk of the movie, we see Bonnie on top of her upside-down world. She loves her notoriety. She loves that her name's in the papers as Clyde's "yellow-haired companion." She poses for photos with a stogie in her mouth and a pistol at her hip—and she also poses for photos while she's smooching a tied-up cop.
(Someone give this girl an Instagram account, stat.)
Sure, there are some upheavals. She doesn't like Buck's wife… but a little in-law-hatred is perfectly natural. In general, she's able to laugh during car chases and snuggle Clyde contentedly in their off-hours. She also gets a promotion from driving the getaway car to helping stick up banks—and we see that she's an ice-cold, consummate professional when it comes to robbery.
Older And Wiser
But all good things come to an end. Especially a life of crime.
Maybe you've heard the military adage "too much horseplay leads to sickbay"? If not, then you've probably heard "too much laughter leads to crying."
And both are true in Bonnie's case. She was so psyched about getting her life of crime on… until she realized that she can't stop. Once the papers know who she is, her fate is sealed.
She cries to Clyde:
BONNIE: You know, when it started to happen I though we was really going somewhere. But this is it. We're just… going.
Her life is a bleak whirlwind of bank robberies, car chases, and dingy motel rooms. And there's an ever-present sense of impending doom.
During one of the most light-hearted scenes of the movie, the Barrow Gang picks up a young man and his sweetheart. They all eat burgers and laugh…until Bonnie asks the dude what his occupation is. When he says he's an undertaker, Bonnie flips out. She says:
BONNIE: Get them out of here.
She knows that death is the logical next step in their life of crime. She knows this, seemingly, before the others do. When Buck Barrow is shot in the face, Blanche Barrow shouts, "It didn't happen!" When Malcolm Moss sets up Bonnie and Clyde, C.W. Moss says, "Nobody catches Clyde. Never."
But Bonnie knows the end of her own story well enough to write a eulogy for her and Clyde before they're ever dead. The last lines of her poem "The Story of Bonnie And Clyde" reads:
Someday they'll go down together
They'll bury them side by side
To a few it'll be grief
To the law, a relief
But it's death for Bonnie and Clyde.
When the time comes, Bonnie can tell that they're about to be gunned down. Her last act is to look lovingly—and maybe even a bit seductively—into the eyes of Clyde. This shows the nuance and complexity of her character: she's still the same bad boy-crazy girl she was at the start of the movie, even though she's become wise and knowingly morbid by the film's final acts.