20 Movies 20 Years Later

A Film Looks At The Treatment Of Military Women, And Opens A Discussion About Gender Ideology And Inequality

"G.I. Jane" turns 20 this year.

20 Movies 20 Years Later remembers and explores the films that touched us back then and still resonate today. Join A Plus as we rewatch movies released in 1997 and celebrate their contributions to pop culture.

"Failure is not an option." Guts, glory, and hey, feminism, too. G.I. Jane may have just turned 20 years old, but the message within the film about gender ideology and issues of inequality for women in the military still holds true today.

The movie begins with a confirmation hearing for 50-year-old civilian Theodore Hayes (Daniel von Bargen) in front of the Senate Arms Committee, which includes Sen. Lillian DeHaven (Anne Bancroft). The reason this scene is so important is that it sets the precedence for the message within the movie itself. Hayes is reading a speech he prepared for the hearing where he covers accomplishments such as sensitivity training that he claims have been completed by military men regarding women in the military.

Essentially, Sen. DeHaven with her Southern belle, Scarlett O'Hara at 60, sharp-witted tongue appears to use the hearing as a pulpit to raise awareness of the inequality of women in the military, almost appearing to fight for women's rights, but we find out later that — although a female herself — DeHaven ends up being the most corrupt of the politicians.

Lt. Jordan O'Neil (Demi Moore) is selected firsthand by Sen. DeHaven to be the first female to enter special operations training, and hopefully, complete the training to pave the way for other women. 

"This is just a test case, O'Neil. But if it works out — if you work out — it could well change the Navy's official policy on women in combat. Or, actually, its official non-policy." It's kind of hard to turn down the role of hero when the senator is making it seem so glorifying. DeHaven isn't the only one making points in this movie, though. O'Neil makes a few of her own.

Immediately, as an audience, we are exposed to discussions about gender inequality when O'Neil goes home to tell her significant other and fellow shipmate that she's going off to SEAL CRT training. Royce (Jason Beghe) doesn't like the idea and O'Neil thinks it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

"Royce, we're the same age. We entered the Navy the same month, and yet which one of us is wearing more ribbons?" O'Neil tells him. "Operational experience is the key to advancement. Yet anyone with tits can't be on a sub, can't be a SEAL."

Fast-forward to the first day of training. Master Chief Urgayle (Viggo Mortensen) gives his speech about "I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself." This speech really speaks to O'Neil's character. She is given preferential treatment during training, such as being given an extra 30 seconds to finish the training course, and even given an aid step for an obstacle course, and she refuses to use them. All she wants is to be treated as an equal and respected; in fact, she demands it. So much so that she goes head to head with the commanding officer to demand equal treatment because she refuses to feel sorry for herself.

The most widely remembered scene from the movie where O'Neil shaves her head is a pivotal moment, not only as a celebration of her fight against preferential treatment, and to be treated as an equal to her teammates, but also as a switch in gender ideology. O'Neil starts out soft, drinking wine and taking bubble baths, and is suddenly a killing machine with a shaved head and a predilection for scotch and cigars.

There is so much going on in this film that it's almost hard to keep up, but there's one more scene that speaks volumes about the pride, courage, and fight that every military woman has in her. It's during her SERE and POW training that O'Neil fights with Master Chief Urgayle and finally earns everyone's respect. Ironically, the only one who treats her as an equal by beating her mercilessly is Master Chief Urgayle, and she still gets back up for more, even getting in several good shots of her own, but it's that one line that says it all and earns her the respect. "Master Chief!" O'Neil screams as she rises from having seemingly been knocked out. "Lieutenant! Seek life elsewhere!" He advises, to which she responds, "Suck my dick!"

Warning: The below video contains explicit language.

G.I. Jane has layers of messages and themes that are all important, and although we could go on and on about them all and the messages that lie within, the fundamental message is that regardless of sex or even sexual orientation, a woman is just as capable if not more capable of serving her country. We've come a long way in 20 years, but we still have ground to cover in equality and gender ideology. 

G.I. Jane is available on AmazonGoogle PlayiTunesNetflix, and YouTube.

Cover image: Hollywood Pictures

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