When it comes to Ridley Scott’s G.I. Jane, we are a nation divided. Ask someone about this 1997 film and you are likely to get one of two responses: a dismissive eye-roll accompanied by a jerk-off gesture, or a fist-pumping “Fuck yeah!” Rotten Tomatoes supports this observation, where the movie earns 55% on the Tomatometer and an audience score of 53%.
G.I. Jane tells the story of Lieutenant Jordan O’Neil — played by Demi Moore and her supernatural lats, quads, and glutes — the first woman to be accepted for U.S. Navy Combined Reconnaissance Team training (a fictional stand-in for U.S. Navy SEAL BUD/S). There is a plot here, something to do with Anne Bancroft’s Senator Lillian DeHaven making a deal to keep military bases open in Texas. But honestly, who cares? The power of G.I. Jane, its ridiculously strong heart, has nothing to do with plot and everything to do with action.
O’Neil is taunted and ostracized by her fellow trainees. Her military higher ups are a bunch of Sexist Evil White Men™, all of whom are conspiring to get her to ring out of the program. In one pivotal scene, her master chief (Viggo Mortensen and his lush mustache) beats the crap out of her and then threatens to rape her during a simulated POW training. In an environment known for pushing trainees to the absolute limit physically, mentally and emotionally, she is on her own, a pawn in a game she doesn’t even know she’s playing, and staring down institutional sexism that’s locked and loaded. But does O’Neil waver? She does not. She rejects any accommodation to her training (fuck that helper step on the obstacle course), does her push-ups like a man (no knees), and shaves off her hair while The Pretenders sing The Homecoming. As for the master chief’s attack, she breaks his nose with her head while her hands are tied behind her back and then tells him to suck her dick.
It will come as no surprise that, in the matter of G.I Jane, I am firmly in camp “Fuck yeah!” I love this movie, despite its predictable plot, stereotypically drawn characters, and unambiguous politics. I love it for its warrior heart and brutal training sequences, for Viggo Mortensen’s tiny shorts, Anne Bancroft’s silver-bobbed badassery, and Demi Moore’s buzzed head.
Among the eye-rolling set, a common complaint about G.I. Jane is that it’s an impossible scenario; that there is simply no way any woman could ever complete SEAL training.
This has always seemed a ridiculous argument to me.
This is an action movie. Last I checked, there are few complaints about a lack of it-could-happen-just-like-this-in-actual-life-as-defined-by-my-own-experience-and-abilities realism in action movies. Instead, we eat it up when a millionaire playboy is a secret superhero, humanity is enslaved to robot overlords, a regular cop defeats all the terrorism, a college professor takes on Nazism with a whip and a hat, and a lady in a yellow tracksuit is a sword-wielding assassin who can punch her way out of a buried coffin and kill you by tapping on your chest.
It may very well be true that no woman will ever have the physical ability and mental toughness to complete SEAL training. None have been allowed to try, although with the U.S. military lifting the ban on women in combat that is changing as I write this. We do know that most men who attempt it ring out, because it is hell. That anyone gets through elite Special Forces training is utterly remarkable.
For my money, I think there will be a woman SEAL one day. Women have a history of doing the “impossible.” But for those of us who cheer, “Fuck yeah!” at the mention of Jordan O’Neil, that’s not quite the point. Even if no woman ever makes it all the way through BUD/S, G.I. Jane will always be a clarion call, will always matter, because there is something deeper here, a truth we know in our bones and muscles.
G.I. Jane is a goddess myth in fatigues.
Jordan seems so much larger than life because she’s nothing less than Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and courage, law and justice, and war. She is the stuff of myth, and like all myth, she rides in the place where awe crosses mystery. You may not know her name, but you do know her. She is the grit that stiffens your backbone when it would be easier to quit. She is the fire in your belly that burns hotter than fear. And when the world tells you what you cannot do, what you must not do, what has never been done before and will never be done, not ever, it is she who speaks when you say, “Watch me.”
What should you eat while you watch G.I Jane? I think you should go ahead and have whatever it is you’re truly hungry for. Whatever the hell you want. Tear it up.
Want to know what to eat with that movie? Leave a comment here or tweet me at @stefgunning and I’ll suggest a pairing for you!