Ridley Scott’s G. I. Jane (1997) Navy SEALS, Military Life, Sexism and a Whole Bunch of Unanswered Questions

Ridley Scott’s G. I. Jane is an extremely entertaining movie. I just need to enumerate who’s in it and you might be tempted to watch it if you haven’t done so yet. Demi Moore, Viggo Mortensen, James Caviezel, Anne Bancroft. The story is interesting if somewhat implausible but certainly providing us with some food for thought about different things.

Lt Jordan O’Neil (Demi Morre) is an ambitious young woman. She would like to climb the career ladder no matter what it takes. Being pretty sure this will need some combat experience she is willing to go the whole way. Only women aren’t really allowed to undergo combat training. Senator DeHaven (Anne Bancroft) is equally ambitious. Sensing that supporting the admission of women to the Army might boost her career she does everything to get permission to let a test candidate, G.I. Jane, undergo training. To make matters worse the people against her and this undertaking decide to choose the hardest possible training, namely the Navy SEAL training.

The selection of the right candidate takes some time. Senator DeHaven doesn’t want a masculine looking woman, she doesn’t want a homosexual woman either as this could undermine the exercise. When she sees as picture of beautiful Jordan O’Neil, she knows, it is her and no other that she wants for this test run.

What follows is one of those stories that show us how a resilient human being can fight even the most adverse circumstances, overcome weakness and prove her strength.

Jordan undergoes the SEAL training and where many men fail, she excels. She makes it through the initial week and the following weeks. During this time she is closely supervised, challenged and in the end also brutalized by the Master Chief (Viggo Mortensen). Of all the boot camp bastards that we get to see in this type of training focused movies he is by far one of the most complex and interesting. Not just because he quotes poetry but also because he changes considerably and ultimately because he isn’t a bad sort at all. He has to be mean. Sure, there is this one scene in which he overdoes it but doesn’t he have his reasons?

The movie shows 2/3 boot camp and 1/3 actual combat. This las part is highly fictionalized and serves mainly the purpose to show how worthy a soldier Jordan has become.

The movie is a bit on the sentimental side and – yes – it is stretching quite a few things but I like it and have watched it before. I think Demi Moore was a terrific choice and it is one of Viggo Mortensen’s best roles. Also Anne Bancroft as a real b**** is great.

Does it say much about women in the military? It certainly does look at the adversity a woman would have and does face, it looks at the prejudices and preconceptions. Jordan has to start to do it exactly like the men before she is only half accepted. It shows also that it isn’t only that men think women can’t do it but that men are constantly tested by the presence of women. Temptation as well as compassion play into it. Seeing a wounded female soldier might be harder to take than seeing a wounded man. And what If she has to rescue you and she is a slender woman while you are a big, bulky man, weighing twice as much?

My top favourite scene is when a bunch of soldiers, one of them of African-American origin, discuss if a woman should be admitted to this type of training and the African-American soldier points out that his grandfather was only allowed a s a cook during WWII. It is obvious that the prejudices African.Americans had to face were similar to those women had and have to endure.

Don’t watch it, if you are looking for answers, watch it when you want great entertainment and a probably very realistic look at the Navy SEALS training.

I am left with quite a lot of questions. Are there women today in the Navy SEALS? Is it in any way a realistic movie or not at all? Why exactly did the Master Chief mistreat her like this?

Answers anyone?

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12 thoughts on “Ridley Scott’s G. I. Jane (1997) Navy SEALS, Military Life, Sexism and a Whole Bunch of Unanswered Questions

  1. warmoviebuff says:

    Never seen it. Might watch it now. Positive I will not like it.
    I do know the answer to question #1 – there are no women in the SEALS because American law prohibits women in combat except as fighter pilots. It’s a cultural thing which will probably change someday, but not any time soon. This is one reason why I think I will dislike this movie. It appears to be a stunt to get Demi Moore (she was hot – popularity wise- at the time) into uniform. It is not based on reality.

    As far as the references to this being a situation akin to segregation of blacks in the military – there are some major differences. Women are not allowed into combat units partly because of the fact that if a woman was between the lines in mortal danger, men would try to rescue her no matter the consequences. Also, sad to say, there is the problem of raping of female prisoners. Plus, in a country the size of the U.S., there is no necessity to dip into the female population for combat soldiers.

    Of course, along with the stated reasons for the policy, there is the unstated fact that women are not physically strong enough to be in combat units. Modern soldiers carry up to 70 pounds of equipmment routinely. I am talking about real women, not Hollywood’s idea of a female warrior.

    • warmoviebuff says:

      BTW based on the poster, apparently the SEALS do not equip their members with bras. Is there a scene where Jane sues for this act of sexism?

    • It is entertaining, I guess that is how you have to watch it and I’m sure it gives at least a bit of an impression of what SEALS training is like. Thiking of how many men get raped in prison I am not sure this only applies to female prisoners and as far as strength goes, I would suppose it would still be possible if they underwent a training. I don’t think most men would get through the training either so why shouldn’t there be a few women able to do it. But I have really no idea.

      • warmoviebuff says:

        Men getting raped in prison does not equate to male prisoners of war being raped. I have never read about that being common. I think it would definitely be a possibility with a female prisoner.

        As far as the strength issue, I agree that some women could carry the load and I am not against women being given the chance, but we are talking about truly extraordinary women. So extraordinary that the military might be thinking, why bother opening the SEALS up to such a small pool of women. Plus, if we stay with our training standards, an embarassing percentage of female trainees would wash out. It is not the female gender’s fault that they do not have the bodies to carry that much weight.

      • I agree, there would be many who couldn’t do it but it should be open. I am sure that all the reasons that are given why women shouldn’t be allowed are fishy in the end. If women really wouldn’t last a day in such a training why not allow them? They would give up automatically. I am sure the real reason is purely sexist. I don’t think why it would be worse to be raped than to have your **** electrocuted. Male prisonders undergo torture. It is a different form of torture, isn’t it? Being burned, strangled, etc. is horrible. Now, if this isn’t done to male prisoners because of the Geneva convention why would female prisoners be raped? And what if a female pilot is taken prisoner? If female soldiers are raped then female pilots wuld be raped as well. You see? There is no real reason. The only reason is that if women could do it, the tough-guy, top hard, top enduring image the SEAL have would be in danger to be undermined.

  2. Guy Savage says:

    The biggest beef I had about the film (and I had a few) is the so-called training–the part which is supposed to mimic real-life torture and interrogation techniques. She would have been gang-raped if it was real. Since there are limits under training conditions, of course, that could not be done, so simulation only goes so far. But it sort of blew the whole ‘real’ training idea out of the water.

    • I have a lot of open questions one of them also what the director actually wanted to achieve but I still think it is thought provoking. I thought she pervented the rape… I don’t know how far the torture training really goes. I would be curious to know. I just know it is not exclusive to the Navy SEALS, I believe all soldiers under go that to a certain extent. At least my father did.

  3. Novroz says:

    I have the same thought toward this movie….it is purely entertainment. This is the kind of movie that will never be taken seriously.

    While watching this movie, I like Viggo’s character more than Jane’s character. He is the one that gives color to this movie.

    I can’t remember all the details in GI Jane anymore because I watched a long long time ago and its not the kind of movie I like to rewatch.

    • I did rewatch it beacuse I wanted, amongst other things, concentrate more on Viggo Mortensen this time around and he is really good. PLus I like all these movies in which someone achieves the impossible. I see this much more as another type of Erin Brockovitch than a real war movie.

  4. Sam says:

    BTW the training in the movie is SERE training, not SEALS. SERE is survival evasion resistance escape.

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