Naval gazing

G.I. Jane is liberated, all right--from good acting and a good story

Perhaps this explains why Ridley Scott pumps the film with hyper-engineered action sequences--the cinematic equivalent of testosterone. Scott is being given undue credit in the press for championing strong women in his movies--Jordan, Thelma and Louise, Sigourney Weaver's Ripley in Alien. What seems closer to the truth is that he's transposing the most stereotypical male action traits onto women and, in the process, reaping kudos for being "liberated."

But there's nothing liberated about, for example, those body-work montages or the way Scott deals with the gays-in-the-military issue. When a false story about Jordan being a lesbian is leaked to the press, she reacts as violently as if she'd been crucified. It's one thing for Jordan to go haywire, but the filmmakers too? Suppose Jordan were gay? G.I. Jane takes the narrow view that homosexuality in the military exists as a weapon to besmirch heterosexual crusaders. If Jordan were actually gay, the film would come apart at the seams. A better film wouldn't.

Especially in the '30s and '40s, Hollywood knew how to create tough-cookie women who could cut men down to size and make us love them for it. (Just about any Howard Hawks heroine could do it.) The excitement of such women--Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday or Myrna Loy or Joan Blondell or Bette Davis or many others--was in the way they cauterized the maidenly mush of four-hankie femininity. When these dames parried with men, their patter really smoked.

It's a measure of how far we've sunk since then that the blank and bulked-up Jordan in G.I. Jane should be hailed as some kind of feminist icon. It's bad enough that throughout the world, male muscleheads are Hollywood's reigning champs. Must we now gear up for female zombie warriors as the latest line in phony-baloney empowerment?

G.I. Jane.
Demi Moore, Viggo Mortensen, Anne Bancroft, Scott Wilson, Jason Beghe, Lucinda Jenney, Morris Chetnut. Written by David Twohy and Danielle Alexandra. Directed by Ridley Scott. Opens Friday.

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