" Oh no you don’t. I don’t want to be a politician. "
— Raymond Massey as Abe Lincoln, Abe Lincoln in Illinois

MRQE Top Critic

The Great Train Robbery

(review...)

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With the United States military involved in various battles of the sexes, G. I. Jane seems especially relevant. If the men and women of the armed forces can’t work together without problems of fraternization and sexual harassment arising, how can we expect them to be effective in combat situations?

G.I. Jane argues for allowing women in combat. The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Lilian DeHaven of Texas (Anne Bancroft), is pushing for complete gender integration of the armed services, in other words, putting women in combat units. She wants to start with a single test case in the most extreme environment possible, Navy SEAL training.

Lt. Jordan O’Neil (Demi Moore) is offered up as a perfect candidate for the SEALs. She is athletic, strong-willed, intelligent and heterosexual. Jordan isn’t interested being a symbol; she just wants the chance to go the distance on the same playing field as the guys. She doesn’t want a double standard for women, like the “female aids” which she alone may use on the training course. Although she may seem too perfect to be real, we are able to identify with her as the underdog.

The movie follows Jordan as she endures grueling physical training, the negative attitudes of her fellow trainees and commanding officers, and the political maneuverings of Senator DeHaven and the leaders of the navy.

G.I. Jane easily draws us into its agenda. It dutifully addresses and discounts various reasons for not allowing women in combat: lack of physical strength, men’s protective feelings toward women, negative effects on morale. These problems, the movie suggests, are in the minds of men.

In fact Jordan’s fellow trainees and their trainer, the master chief, are ultimately not the real problem. Even those most resistant and resentful of her presence come to respect her. The true bad guys are the politicians and the top brass who are too afraid to deal with change and would rather use Jordan as a pawn in their power games.

The movie falters a little towards the end when Jordan’s unit faces an actual combat situation. Although this type of movie requires the hero to prove herself in the end, it felt like a plot device instead of a natural continuation of the story. That criticism aside, the movie convincingly argues that women who are willing and able should have the same opportunities in the military as men.