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Film / G.I. Jane

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G.I. Jane is a 1997 action film directed by Ridley Scott, starring Demi Moore and Viggo Mortensen.

Senator Lillian DeHaven of Texas (Anne Bancroft) publicly criticizes the United States Navy for its failure to integrate both male and female recruits to all its services. She strikes a deal, arranging for a series of test cases. A single woman will join each branch currently fully-staffed by males service and try to perform as well as her male colleagues. The first test case has Lieutenant Jordan O' Neil (Moore) joining the U.S. Navy Combined Reconnaissance Team.

The Lieutenant has to contend with the brutal training regime of Command Master Chief John James Urgayle (Mortensen), trumped up charges of being a lesbian (violating the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy), attempts to relegate her to desk jobs, and double-crossing allies. Her graduation test involves an actual operation in the Libyan Desert.

Not to confuse with G.I. Joe.

The film features examples of:

  • Abuse Mistake: Jordan and her crew are out celebrating at a bar when she goes to use the restroom. As she washes her hands, another female customer pauses as she passes by and, spotting Jordan's badly bruised face, remarks "Ain't really none of my business, but I say 'leave the bastard'." before exiting, which causes Jordan to laugh. (The abuse really happened, but it was part of her special forces training.)
  • All Abusers Are Male: Averted but mentioned. Jordan has a black eye (among other injuries) after her POW training. While at a bar in the bathroom, another woman sees it and says "Not that it's any of my business, but I'd say dump the bastard."
  • Anti-Villain: Urgayle (type IV) is a pretty decent guy outside of training. And even when he's making his recruits' lives hell, it's what they pay him to do.
  • Artistic License – Military:
    • The all-black "Johnny Cash" office uniform with black slacks and long-sleeved shirts worn by Lt. O'Neil and the Captain when she arrives at the training center, while technically a proper uniform for the time period, is extremely rare in everyday use. Most officers would use a khaki version of that uniform with short sleeves.
    • When standing at attention just before training begins, all the trainees stand in ranks with their palms flat at their sides and arms fully extended in the European style. All American military branches stand at attention with their hands in fists and arms slightly bent so their hands sit at their hips.
    • Time-sensitive special teams training may put somewhat severe limits on the time allowed for food, but certainly not enough to compel trainees to shove each other through the galley just to down a few mouthfulls. On the contrary, such trainees are normally encouraged to eat heartily, as the consistent training requires an increased calorie input to keep up. And, for health reasons if nothing else, they certainly aren't forced to eat out of garbage cans.
    • The command master chiefs of any given command rarely involves himself with direct work in the same way Urgayle does with his instructors. The command master chief's job is to be the liason to the commanding officer in regards to matters and concerns involving enlisted personnel at the command. In a training command, he would have a say regarding the training cirriculum and preparation and in the guidelines as to how the instructors go about fulfilling such, but he personally would not be involved in the training evaluations himself.
  • Artistic License – Statistics: Having 100% of a test set of 1 woman undergoing SEAL training pass or fail wouldn't prove anything. Especially since most men who apply for said training also fail.
    • Justified in that setting her up to fail was the explicit goal of putting her in the SEAL program, and someone who is actively seeking confirmation bias isn't going to be much interested in what the statistic would or wouldn't actually indicate.
  • Badass Boast: After one of the new recruits idiotically decides to laugh during Command Master Chief Urgayle's opening speech, the latter walks up to the recruit and responds with a boast where he basically compares himself to God.
    Urgayle: The ebb and flow of the Atlantic tides, the drift of the continents, the very position of the sun along its ecliptic. THESE are just a FEW of the things I control in my world! Is that clear?
  • Bald Head of Toughness: After realizing she is being treated much more delicately than her male counterparts, Jordan shaves her head completely and demands equal treatment from her peers. Cue a Training from Hell that was meant to break her, but only served to make her that much more competent and stronger.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted. Jordan gets beaten all to hell during SERE training and has large grazes and scabs on her face for several scenes following.
  • Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Jordan is the first woman to join the the U.S. Navy Combined Reconnaissance Team, as part of a program to test the viability of allowing more women to do so.
  • Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: Command Master Chief John James Urgayle is Captain Smooth (only once does he ever bark at a trainee), while his two subordinate instructors jointly fill the Sergeant Rough position.
  • Chekhov's Skill: The fact that Jordan used to be a Navy intelligence officer.
  • Corrupt Politician: Senator DeHaven to the point where she frames Jordan for being a lesbian in order to avoid military bases closing in her home state of Texas.
  • Determinator: Jordan endures physical and emotional abuse, sexist discrimination and rigorous physical challenges during her training to join the Navy SEALs, but refuses to drop out.
  • Double Standard:
    • Jordan receives preferential treatment in her training at first such as being allowed an additional thirty seconds to finish a training course and being given an aid step for an obstacle, until she goes to her CO and points out that this is only making her male comrades resent her and defeats the purpose of the argument that women are equal, and demands it stop.
    • When Lt. Blondell, Jordan's physician, asks her why she's going through the training, Jordan asks if Blondell asks the men the same thing. Subverted; Blondell replies that she does ask the men the same question.
    • During the POW training the interrogation instructor doesn't want to harm Jordan, but Urgayle, understanding the necessity, has no such reservations and proceeds to beat her mercilessly, and even asks her while he has a headlock on her if he thinks they should treat the women differently to which Jordan screams, "Never!"
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Command Master Chief John James "Jack" Urgayle is a more sedate, erudite version, but no less nasty. He also personally conducts torture on Jordan for SERE training. He is however one of the few characters that displays no sexism, treating Jordan just like any of the other recruits, and doesn't seem to tolerate it either. He also eases off a bit when she proves herself, same as he would with any of the men.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: Not stated outright but the Real Life equivalent of women in the military is used by Urgayle when he brutally beats Jordan in front of the male trainees during POW training in order to get information from them, and it proves more effective than interrogating the male trainees themselves, as they are clearly about to crack.
    Newberry: O'Neill, tell him something or I will!
    O'Neill: Don't you tell him shit!
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: In-Universe. Senator DeHayne practically drools at the idea of getting a woman accepted into SEAL CRT training, thinking she'll reap massive political gains even if her protegee flunks out in two weeks.
    • Averted by C.O. Salem in his opening speech to dispel any romantic notions the applicants might have: not only are they in for the Training from Hell, but the only "privilege" enjoyed by those who pass the course and become CRTs is being deployed more often (and to the most dangerous warzones) than any other unit in the U.S. military.
      That is all that is to be said about the "special" nature of the CRT training program.
  • Forbidden Fruit: Jordan tells her boyfriend that the more she is tried to be forced out of the program, the more she wants to complete it.
  • Forced to Watch: As part of their POW training, Urgayle brutally beats Jordan and pretends that he's about to rape her in front of the male trainees in order to get them to give up information.
  • Gender-Blender Name: "Jordan" is both a male and female name.
  • Gender Is No Object: The film's aesop is that militaries should be this way. The main character runs into the gender barrier when she joins up for the grueling SEAL training program (even receiving preferential treatment at first that defeats the whole purpose of integration) not simply because she's a woman, but because Men Are the Expendable Gender. Interestingly, Master Chief Urgayle also cites a real-world limitation of this trope, discovered when the Israelis and Russians both tried to field gender-unified combat units: men seem to have an instinctual urge to protect women, even when the women in question are fellow soldiers. In the case of the Israelis, this led to a degradation of unit cohesion, as the male soldiers would abandon their mission to rescue wounded female colleagues. (The Russians abandoned the idea of employing female combat soldiers, while the Israelis began using segregated combat units of both all-male or all-female combat soldiers.)
  • Hauled Before A Senate Subcommittee: Jordan uses the threat of this to get Senator DeHaven to drop the trumped-up charges against her.
    Jordan: If I have to ask anyone again, Senator, I'll be asking on C-SPAN.
  • Important Haircut: Jordan shaves her head during her special operations training.

  • I Am Not Leonard Nimoy: Critics reacted to Jordan's character as if Demi Moore herself was going through what she did. Even on This Very Wiki, posts will refer to Jordan as Demi instead.

  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Used on the trainees during their POW training, most notably by Urgayle on Jordan.
  • Jackie Robinson Story: Pretty much the entire plot.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Urgayle is a hardass, but he is shown to care about Jordan the same as any of his other trainees after she proves herself, and is a polite, refined gentleman in his off-duty hours. He is one of the few characters who Jordan's gender never seems to be an issue for, one way or another.
  • Kill Sat: The operation at the end of the movie is to recover one of these.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Jordan discusses this with Senator DeHaven after DeHaven reveals she had never intended for Jordan to succeed in the program, and it was all just a ruse to score political points.
    DeHaven: The truth is, the choice isn't yours, and it isn't mine. American families are just not prepared to have their daughters and young mothers in harm's way.
    Jordan: You don't know that.
    DeHaven: Yes, I do. Roper, Paris, Gallup, all the polls, they all come back the same way.
    Jordan: What are you saying? That a woman's life is more valuable than a man's? That a woman's death is more hurtful than a man's?
    DeHaven: No politician can afford to let women come home in body bags, especially me.
  • Metaphorically True: Jordan cannot pick up Urgayle by herself, but her heroism inspires her squaddies to help get him to safety. This is enough for Urgayle to give her his Navy Cross, which had been awarded to him "for pulling a 240-pound man out of a burning tank."note 
  • Multi-Take Cut: Used in the scene in which Jordan shaves her head.
  • No Periods, Period: Averted. When Jordan moves into the male barracks, Slovnik is disgusted when he finds a box of tampons.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "SUCK... MY... DICK!" Made into a Moment of Awesome by the fact that a shorn-haired and yet STILL uber-beddable Demi Moore (yes, a woman) is shouting it — and into the face of a Super-Soldier of a NAVY SEAL who's acting as the mentor and had spent the last few minutes kicking the crap out of her.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: During the POW training, when Urgayle is brutally beating Jordan in front of the male trainees, he starts to cut off her pants as if he's about to rape her, simulating what would most likely happen if they were captured for real.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: C.O. Salem gives one to Lt. O'Neil when he talks about the concessions he's had to make to accommodate her:
    Salem: Most of all what I resent is your perfume, however subtle, interfering with the scent of my fine three dollar and seventy-nine cent cigar, which I will put out this instant if the phallic nature of it happens to offend your goddamn fragile sensibilities!
  • Sensitivity Training: Before the title character starts SEAL training, all of the instructors have to receive sensitivity training so they know not to sexually harass her.
  • Shower Scene: Jordan showers while Urgayle talks to her.
  • Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: Subverted. Before deploying the SEAL trainees, the submarine captain takes Urgayle aside and demands Brutal Honesty, saying that if Urgayle has any reason to believe they're not ready for real combat, he must say so now. Urgayle doesn't even hesitate:
    Urgayle: We'll be fine, sir.
    Captain: Excellent.
  • The Squadette: Jordan.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: When Lt. Blondell, Jordan's physician, asks her why she's going through the training.
    Jordan: And what do they say?
    Blondell: "'Cause I get to blow shit up."
    Jordan: Well, there you go.
  • Things Get Real: The final phase of training, an operational readiness exercise, is interrupted by an emergency that requires the CRT trainees' support: A reconnaissance satellite powered by weapons-grade plutonium fell into the Libyan desert, and a team of U.S. Army Rangers was dispatched to retrieve the plutonium, but their evacuation plan failed, and the trainees are sent to assist the Rangers.
  • Torture Always Works: Not stated outright, but Urgayle mentions how waterboarding is a very effective interrogation technique while Jordan is having it done on her for a training exercise.
  • Training from Hell: Jordan experiences Navy SEAL training, which is generally considered among the toughest, if not the toughest, training in the US military, including actual tortures like waterboarding (so they can learn to withstand torture if they fall into enemy hands). Truth in Television: SEREnote  school is universally reviled by everyone that goes through it and everyone that runs it, specifically because normal, reasonable circumstances are thrown out. The only rules are: nothing sexual, and the trainee can't be killed. Everything else is fair game. It messes with the trainees' heads (the thought that "They can't be allowed to do this" takes a while to go away), and the trainers' heads.
  • Wicked Cultured: Master Chief Urgayle. A conoisseur of fine wine and poetry and reader of classic literature. In a rare twist, these traits are applied to a senior enlisted personnel rather than an officer where they would be more expected.
  • Womanliness as Pathos: This trope is exploited by several characters to try and justify their beliefs that a woman is unfit to join and inherently disruptive to a Navy Seal unit. The main character, O'Neil, is put through miserable hazing and bullying, is accused of being a predatory lesbian, and Master Chief Urgayle begins to sexually assault her during a training exercise to show what is "likely" to happen to a woman captured by the enemy — an action that all of the male trainees fiercely object to but do not try to stop. O'Neil fights off Urgayle before things go too far, leaving it ambiguous whether or not he would have truly gone that far.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: During the POW training the interrogation instructor doesn't want to harm Jordan, but Urgayle, understanding the necessity, has no such reservations and proceeds to beat her mercilessly. The other instructor is forced to leave when he raises a stink about it.