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Gi Jane Essay, Research Paper
Women in military positions is an issue that has been very controversial for many years. Today, the typical occupational field of female service members is mainly administrative or medical but filmmakers are attempting to show otherwise. In the 1997 hit movie G.I. Jane, directed by Ridley Scott, one female whose determination reaches heights beyond anyone s expectations smashes this image of females in the military. The portrayal of women in the movie G.I. Jane not only suggests that women can do anything the military men can do but also shows some political corruption and manipulation.
Historically, female military members served as primarily medical doctors, nurses, typists, translators, seamstresses and other clerical occupations. There were a few instances where women did seem to have an interest in joining the men in infantry type positions during the World War II era, but all attempts to enlist were denied. The roles women played in the military were very important and essential for support of the armed forces but limitations were soon challenged. The women in some areas of the military, (ie. The Navy Nurse Corps), were not even given a rank equivalent to those of the men, and in 1942 President Roosevelt approved a congressional enactment to give those women a relative rank. The interests of women to attempt to enlist into infantry positions and contribute in wartime situations grew after WWII due to the increase in women s rights activations and demonstrations. New women s rights leaders came forth to fight for equality of women and made large gains, but women in combat situations was still an issue the military could not approve of.
Today, women rank highly amongst all military members and fill many important positions. They are today s aircraft mechanics, computer operators, air traffic controllers, sailors, Commanding Officers and leaders in all branches of the United States Armed Services. Women have come a long way and are continuing to fight to ensure women get the same treatment as their male counterparts. The number of women in the armed services rose dramatically from 2% in 1973 to 12% today (New History 2).
In the movie G.I. Jane, the main character Lieutenant Jordan O Neil played by Demi Moore, is a naval intelligence officer based in Washington D.C. O Neil enlisted into the United States Navy in the past but was denied because she was a woman. Her self esteem was lowered greatly because of this denunciation for a short time but was soon reversed with motivation to do what she thought was right. She attempted another enlistment as a naval officer and was successful. O Neil was very competitive throughout her intelligence training and gained a lot of reverence for her accomplishments. She was thought of very highly by her superiors but has always had difficulty competing with her male peers. Her largest obstacle was dealing with her relationship with her boyfriend who is also a Navy officer. He went into the Navy at the same time as O Neil yet he was promoted far quicker and higher than she, possibly due to his combat experiences (doubtful). Maybe this explains why he does not understand why O Neil is so indomitable to be the best because he did not go through the refutation and adversity she did throughout her military career. This issue sometimes leads to conflict between the two but O Neil does not let that reduce her fortitude. This suggests Scott may see the servicewoman as a minority and uses this matter as a reason for a woman s efforts to become equal. It seems soon that finally the efforts to become superior pay off.
A domineering female senator from Texas sees the opportunity to force the current Secretary of the Navy to allow a test case of selected women through the elite U.S. Navy SEALS training program. If this test case succeeds, women will be able to become a permanent part of this team. By approving this request, the views of the public of the new Secretary of the Navy would be favorable and denying it would cause the people to turn away. Obviously the Secretary of the Navy approves of this test case, but is very reluctant, and Lt. O Neil is notified that she has been chosen to attend SEAL training and she is very elated and accepts. Little does she know at this point she is just being used to help raise the public support of the Senator and Secretary of the Navy.
In preparation for training, O Neil ensures she is physically and mentally ready for the grueling training she is about to endure. As she well knows, the United States Navy SEALS are the most demanding and most vigorous military team in existence and preparation for O Neil is of utmost importance.
It is the toughest, most barbaric military training known on the planet, involving physical and mental abuse, live fire training and the most psychotic instructors still in service after the Waffen SS. 60% of all candidates fail, drop out, or are invalided off the course leaving the toughest, best-trained force to complete (Schlafly 127).
With what little time she had, O Neil pushes herself everyday to the extremes and her progression towards readiness is apparent. She shaves her head, some say to rid her of the feminine image, and looks very strapping but maintains a strange feministic character. Ridley Scott seems to believe O Neil can successfully complete training right from the beginning of her short preparation for training because from then on he shows O Neil in a positive manner, nothing going astray and all her expectations being met (Press 2). She tries to fit in with the guys by going to the bars with them, smoking cigars, using foul language and even pretending to have male genitals. It seems at this point in the movie O Neil is superwoman and may possibly mislead female viewers into thinking they may be able to do the same things as G.I. Jane when is reality most women can not do most of these feats (Coleman 2). Ridley shows O Neil doing countless pull-ups, one-handed push-ups, inverted sit-ups and other astounding physical exercises. Soon enough, preparation becomes initiation and it s time for O Neil to report to SEAL training.
When O Neil reports for training she arrives wearing only a white Navy issue t-shirt, (no bra), and shorts as if the men aren t supposed to notice. If this were a real life scenario, the men would be running away in fear of being caught taking a glimpse and being reported for sexual harassment but that doesn t happen in G.I. Jane (Donnelly 1). The head instructor, Master Chief John Urgayle, plays the domineering male who attempts to drive O Neil out of training preventing her from graduating from SEAL training. He starts training by inviting any of the trainees to ring a large bell strategically placed in plain view if they feel they are unable to complete the training. In the movie, the viewer can notice that Urgayle is constantly looking at O Neil while he is asking if anyone would like to quit, almost taunting her to do so. He tries to make the training as miserable for O Neil as he can and it seems to be having an affect on her quickly. At one point, Urgayle casually walks in on her while she is in the shower, neither reacting to her nudity. This scene demonstrates the sexless ungendered vision of civilian feminist theorists, whose goofy law journal articles are currently being used as manuals for social engineering in the gender-integrated military (Donnelly 1).
The Master Chief continually harasses O Neil throughout training, treating her like no other trainee. He wallops O Neil in the face, shoves her head underwater until she gasps for air, kicks her down a flight of stairs – and in an earlier version screened by reviewers but subsequently removed even proceeds to sexually assault her from behind in the plain view of the rest of the platoon (Donnelly 1). This type of treatment does not directly represent the actual treatment of any military member, in training or not. Such physical contact would cause a military member to be court marshaled and possibly given a dishonorable discharge from the armed forces. Ridley attempts to create a gender-blending environment into a degrading, bloody battle of the sexes and does a good job in expressing his views of woman in military positions through these scenes.
As training progresses, O Neil becomes stronger willed and physically stronger as well. She becomes quickly agitated by her treatment from Urgayle and takes out her frustrations by proving to Urgayle that she has the ability to endure the physical challenges of training and also withstand his abuse in order to prove everyone wrong and she can complete the training and become a Navy SEAL. To everyone s surprise, O Neil gradually increases her position in the platoon by becoming a squad leader and leading and the troop aiding the other trainees through the training series. This display of leadership alters the views her peers and leader have on her and the determination is very evident at about the halfway point of the movie (Kong 2).
At one segment of the movie G.I. Jane, O Neil even fights back when she explodes in anger after yet another beating from Urgayle. After suffering several blows to the face and abdomen she gets to her feet and delivers numerous punches to the face of Master Chief Urgayle knock him down to the ground in a bloody pulp. Does this portray reality? That gets left for the viewer to decide but does serve as a shocking moment of the movie. As quoted by Price, distorting reality is nothing new for Hollywood, but the savagery of O Neil s SERE (survival, evasion, resistance, and escape) training marks a new low.
After training is completed, a situation arises in Libya and O Neil team is called to put the training outcome to the test. The team is to conduct a covert mission in Libya and the main objective is to rescue a fellow serviceman. O Neil definitely shows that she is better than able to perform in a wartime situation. Toward the end of the film, Master Chief Urgayle is shot and injured and O Neil risks her life by running into the enemy line of fire to carry Urgayle to safety and succeeds. A little far fetched like most of the movie, but again Scott lets his mind take the side of the woman and attempt to relay his message of the movie (Shannon 3).
The gender-integrated military is an irresistible playground for feminist writers and producers, but when young women are forced to experience the real thing, no one will be around to shout cut or to reshoot the scene until it has a happy ending (Donnelly 1). Many movie reviewers express similar views on this movie and all have one basic outcome; Ridley Scott attempts, as Coleman puts it, abolish the stereotype that men and women are different, and to make Americans believe the myth that women can perform in combat just like men, even in the toughest branch of the service, the Navy SEALS.
G.I. Jane. Dir. Ridley Scott. Hollywood Pictures, 1997.
Coleman, William P.. GI Jane. (21 August 1997).
Kong, Steve. Hard Boiled Movie Review GI Jane. (1997).
Donnelly, Elaine. GI Jane/Hollywood s Fanciful Tale Perpetuates Feminist Myths. San Diego Union Tribune 31 Aug. 1997: G-4.
Schlafly, Phyliss. Movie Review GI Jane. (1997).
Price, Michael H.. G.I. Jane Fails Basic Training. Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Shannon, Jeff. G.I. Jane. Cinemania Online. .
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