Susan Murphy is struck by a meteor and grows to be 50 feet tall, which, needless to say, jeopardizes her wedding plans with a television weather reporter. Also, she is captured by the military and imprisoned with other monsters they’ve captured over the years. Susan, as the “50 foot woman” meets the Missing Link, Dr. Cockroach and B.O.B., which are homages to the monster movies of the 50s and 60s: the Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Fly and the Blob. Meanwhile, a hostile alien robot has come to earth to “extract” the special substance that made Susan grow big and strong, so that he can become powerful and take over the earth, destroy it and start his own civilization of clones of himself. This bad guy alien is an expression of colonialism that imperialistically exploits other “worlds” for their natural resources and then destroys the inhabitants in order to make it his home.
This appears to be a feminist woman’s empowerment story. We follow the journey of Susan, who begins her story as a weaker woman who gets her self worth from supporting or following a man, her fiancé. The fiancé is a self-obsessed man only concerned with his own career, and not with Susan’s concerns at all. So when Susan becomes huge and even saves the city by destroying a robot, the fiancé breaks off the engagement because as he says, he can’t be in someone else’s shadow, and her shadow is particularly big. In other words, he wants a woman in HIS shadow and any “powerful” woman, or a woman who has become “big” (an obvious metaphor for a successful career woman) is too intimidating for him. He perceives that the relationship exists to serve his interests, not hers, a common accusation against “patriarchy.”
Susan realizes that her fiancé is a jerk and was only concerned with himself, so she muses to her monster friends that she doesn’t need a man to accomplish great things in life, after all, it was she who fought and destroyed an alien robot, not HIM. She stands to her full 50 foot height with clenched fists of empowerment (lacking only the Virginia Slims cigarette due to Hollywood political correctness) and says, “I’m not going to short change myself ever again.” And at the climax, when she has the chance to “become normal” by becoming small again, she chooses to become 50 feet again to save her monster friends, who have become more important to her. So at the end, when her fiancé asks for her back (for obvious selfish reasons again, to benefit his career), she stands him up and makes a fool of him and walks away, not needing a man as a fish needs not a bicycle.