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A CRITICAL FILM ANALYSIS OF G.I.

JANE

Submitted by:
Team 16
Chris Bowden 382
Alex Cornwell 244
Megan Rosenquist 682
Connor Stirewalt 774
Ashley Thrower 173
Jephazia Townsend 685

March 30, 2017

Submitted to
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte
In partial fulfillment of the course:

LBST 1102 Arts & Society: Film


Spring 2017
A Critical Film Analysis of G.I. Jane

G.I. Jane is a film released in 1997 and produced by the small production company, Scott

Free Productions. This paper investigates the relationship between film and society using this

specific movie. The topics investigated throughout the paper include: theme, narrative, film

history, ideology, point of view, and perspective. These major topics will uncover how the film

shapes, reflects, and critiques society using these tools. Additionally, film techniques will be

pointed out to illustrate how films enhance the topics and understanding of the messages in the

movie.

THEME

Theme is the basis on which a film is built to give it meaning, but does not necessarily

equate to the moral of the story. Theme is incorporated in film to help the audience follow the

ideas, both big and small, that create important events in a movie. A film can have multiple

themes, and each can be expressed differently. Some examples would be the historical details,

stylistic details, and structural details that lead the audience to see the events that happen through

one perspective or another. (Corrigan 40). The perspectives, such as class, gender, race and

ability, allow the audience to connect with what the character is going through and follow the

characters decisions. Movie themes are tailored specifically to events that occur within the

movie to make situations comedic, sentimental or seen through the previously mentioned social

lenses. Themes must be followed from beginning to end, as they will change or lead up to the

final feeling the movie gives off.

A major theme to follow in the film G.I. Jane is introduced through the poem Jordan

ONeils drill instructor recites at the beginning of her Navy SEAL training. Its about a bird:
perceived as small and fragile, it will not feel sorry for itself and will be resilient to make it

through regardless of its fate. The main application of this poem points to Jordan fighting for

female equality. Females are often seen as small, fragile, and weaker than men. Just by being in

the military, Jordan is used to this perception others have of her and she is strong enough to

speak up in the intelligence division of the Navy. She is challenged in the SEAL training

environment, paradoxically, to see how resilient she is when in the field. This theme highlights

the connection between social lenses through intersection theory. Intersection theory is** The

obvious fact that she is at SEAL training to test whether women can be integrated, points to

gender discrimination. The black seaman relates and stands up for her by sharing his personal

story of his father who struggled for the right to fight for his country during the war.

Meaning is created through the theme of rugged individuality. Rugged individuality..

Other trainees point out the training is diminished now that it is co-ed and Jordan builds more

fuel to prove them wrong. This is a major theme because the title of the movie itself reminds the

reader of G.I. Joe. G.I. Joe represents the iconic male soldier hero. In this context, G.I. Jane

represents the ideal female military member. Jordan struggles living up to this image in the new

environment, its not what she sets out to be, but her actions prove her worthy of being the

Jane of the military. Jordan is allowed back to the training after her political problem is

cleared up and she comes back with force. Jordan demands equality for the rest of the training

and moves in with the guys. She puts in extra training and shaves her head to show her

determination. In return, she benefits by the guys finally accepting her and appreciating her

effort. Her coach also rewards her by befriending her after graduation for saving his life and his

subtle ways of showing admiration for her performance. When he accepts her, its the ultimate
honor for reaching her goal.

Trust is a smaller theme used throughout the film. Jordan believes she can trust the

military system and the senator supporting her entrance to the SEAL training program. Before

she leaves, her trust with her boyfriend is challenged when he does not immediately support the

idea of her going to the military training. He ends up proving to be the only one she can trust

because he helps in the investigation to figure out how she was being framed. The senator and

military system end up exploiting her to the world. In the end, Jordan has to trust her instructor

and he has to trust her back even after the controversy they faced earlier.

The film promotes the discipline and camaraderie of the military. Also, it demonstrates

the extra struggles women find themselves going through. In order for her to get the approval of

the other military members, Jordan has to outshine all the men, working twice as hard to be seen

the same as them. Jordan had to push more boundaries than her own. She always had to defy the

rules even in a rule bound environment in order for people to be saved. On the contrary, the film

criticizes the political agenda behind the military. Jordan was doing so well during the military

training that the senator had pictures taken of her to exploit her. They were photos of her hanging

out with her friends on the beach. The story turned into Jordan being seen as a lesbian

fraternizing with multiple other women leading back to stereotypes of female military members.

NARRATIVE

Narrative is the description of events in a way in which to tell a story or illustrate an

event. Specifically, Merriam-Webster defines narrative as the representation in art of an event or

story. There are three different parts for a piece of literature to be considered a narrative. The

parts include a story that stays focused on characters, a sense of closure at the end, and a plot
development in which there is a logical relationship between events. For it to be a narrative it

must include all three parts. There is a more specific type of narrative called a classical narrative.

For a narrative to be considered classical it must, in addition to the other three parts, it must be

able to be argued as objective.

The film G.I. Jane would be considered a narrative as it is subjective to the experiences of

the protagonist. G.I. Jane follows Jordan as the protagonist character and exemplifies her efforts

to prove that women are no lesser than men. The film seems to have a realistic order for the most

part, and at the conclusion of the movie there is closure. All the parts of a narrative are present

making this film a narrative.

As Corrigan described in the text, this film includes a prologue. The prologue in the case

of G.I. Jane is the congressional hearing in the beginning of the movie. This is before any action

occurs and sets the tone for the events to follow. Corrigan also referred to conflicts and

development occurring in a narrative. The conflict in this case is the difficult training and the

strict Command Master Chief John Urgayle. This conflict and battle to do what is asked of her

leads her to change and become something different than what she was at the start of the movie,

she developed into a new character. A conclusion is also mentioned in the Corrigan text. The

film has a conclusion which leaves the audience feeling as if the sequence of events is over. The

sense of closure at the end made it easy to tell where Jordan ONeil would continue her path.

This brought a close to a powerful and uplifting narrative.

FILM HISTORY

Corrigan explains film history can, organize and investigate films according to their

place within a historical context and in light of historical events (Corrigan, 84). Film history is
used to study film by analyzing historical film aspects themselves. Corrigan uses the example of

comparing actual film from the 1930s vs. the 1970s. Film history can also analyze the

relationship of films to their conditions of production, the trends of movies in a certain time

period, and discovering why that trend was relevant to that time period (Corriga, 84). Finally,

film history can be used to explore the relationship of movies to their reception. For example,

exploring how television in the 1950s changed the expectations of movie audiences at that

time (Corrigan,84). Film history reinforces the fact history is relevant to the mass media in the

form of movies because it can shape how a film is perceived.

To summarize, G.I. Jane is about a woman who enters the Navy SEAL program with all

signs going against her- men were the majority and the dropout rate (this rate is mentioned

several times throughout the film) being 60%. People assumed that she was weaker than most

men but she proved herself by making it through Hell week and then eventually be helping to

save the Master chief from the field and becomes an official Navy SEAL.

The release date for this film was 1997, and the movie itself seems to be set in the same

time period (if we look closely at some of the documents in the film, theyre dated for 1996).

When watching the film, questions about the history of discrimination of women in any Navy

program come up and the audience wonders where the country is in that development. As far as

women are concerned, the Navy SEALs did not have any female seals in 1997, or any time after

that although the program was opened to women starting in 2016. In other branches of the armed

forces, however, women have gained the rank of Army Ranger, but are not allowed to take

part in active duty; it seems as if their rank is in title only (although many think that the system

was rigged beforehand) (Keating). Much like Jordan, the women did not want any special
treatment (Keating).

IDEOLOGY

Ideology serves as a tool to when analyzing film to create a better sense of understanding

and connection to its deep-rooted social issues. As Corrigan explains it, ideology is identified

as a body of ideas reflecting the social needs of an individual, group, class, and culture. In other

words, ideology refers to a systematic world view which defines our concepts of self and the

relations of the self to the state or any form of the collectivism (Corrigan 97).

G.I Jane showcases many of the different ideologies related to women, as well as the

armed forces when the two worlds come together. The two most controversial ideological

practices this movie challenges is the feminist and oppositional ideology. The feminist ideology

centers on the desire for full-female equality in the fighting forces, and the fact that smart,

driven, and powerful military women are just as capable as their male counterparts. This

ideology portrays itself in the movie in one of the drill training scenes Jordan ONeil and other

recruits are shown going through grueling exercises in a field, and the opportunity to ring a bell

and forfeit to their bunks is placed. With the bell representing defeat, ONeil was left as the only

recruit standing alone.

The resistance and limitations they face are shown throughout the film and raise many

perceptions about how these dedicated women are treated in a military system. G.I Jane has

several examples that showcase and challenge many of these feminist ideals, one of them

including a brief locker-room conversation between ONeil and the Master Chief. Chief tries to

justify the lack of women fighting in the military to the fact that its ultimately harder for men to

react to women injured in the battlefield; ultimately disrupting the mission. Jordan ONeil
responds by challenging that feeling as an attempt to preserve the masculine portrayal of the

military, expressing her thoughts that she is more than capable of being treated and handling

situations the same despite her gender.

The suppression Jordan faces also brings the ideological component of opposition into

consideration. The ideal Jordan represents in the movie, through occupying masculinity by

embracing her patriarchy to showcase women are not just components to the system.

Scotts G.I. Jane certainly challenges many of these ideological ideals; while showcasing

the harsh realities of stereotypical sexist perspectives about women in the military and their

capability compared to their male partners.

POINT OF VIEW

Characters and point of view are essential concepts of film that provide essential

information about themes and ideology of the film to the audience. Characters more specifically

can be used directly to focus the action and themes (Corrigan 47). When analyzing a film a

character may change, similar to a cause and effect situation in which the audience should note

what caused those changes. The audience should also pay attention to how the characters are

defined, if they are realistic, how they represent certain values and beliefs through what they

wear, and dialogue. It is also important to pay attention to how the movie is set up as in if the

movie focuses directly on the main character as a biography and how that fits into the setting.

Point of view is defined as the position from which something is seen and the way it

determines what you see (Corrigan 49). Point of view can be cultural or psychological; for

example, European vs Asian or Adult vs Child. Point of view can be apparent in the film due to

the relation between the character and camera. Certain shots focus on different people at
different times to emphasize a specific viewpoint. Point of view in film can be objective or

subjective. Objective meaning the film does not focus on one perspective but remains unbiased,

whereas subjective films show only one perspective.

The film G.I Jane is a biography focusing on a single main character. However, the

supporting actors provide different viewpoints to the film. This film is ground-breaking because

it disagrees with the ideology seen of women in early cinema. The text, America on Film,

discusses a period called the Victorian Era which defined many gender roles that would

enforce this idea that women are, associated with innocence, purity, and the need to be

protected (Benshoff 218). Jordan ONeil represents the direct opposite of this ideology. From

the initial scenes of the film ONeil is defined as very strong-minded, almost a rebellious

character. In terms of the third wave feminist movement she represents equality in wanting the

exact same treatment as males and even changes her appearance by cutting her hair and wearing

the same uniforms (Benshoff 300). Although this film mainly focuses on one character, it

appears to have an objective viewpoint. We get specific moments when ONeil expresses how

she feels when fighting for he equality but we also get the counter viewpoints of the opposition.

Overall, this film challenges the ideology that women are not equal to men, but lesser, its

purpose being anything a man can do, a women can do as well.

PERSPECTIVE

Perspective is a particular attitude towards or way of regarding film that deals mostly

with the audiences view on the film. Perspective is important to a work in regards to how the

movie is portrayed. Differing perspectives are targeted and hit on in order to make the audience

evoke a certain feeling towards an idea presented in the film. Throughout GI Jane, ONeil is
throw in many situations that are tough and taboo for women, which grabs the woman

perspective of the audience and evokes a certain feeling toward the main character.

A woman senator is upset with the military about women not being allowed in field

operations and the reason behind it being gender discrimination. A woman named Jordan ONeil

is in a submarine with all men and is topographical navigating and is very good at what she does.

She navigates the sub to reestablish signal with communications and proves she picked the right

spot to move to. Some of higher up men on the sub give her looks as if they were mad that she

had got it right. You can already see the masculine/feminine and gender conflicts foreshadowing.

This is the first big part where the audience perspective plays a role in how the film is received.

From the perspective of a woman this evokes a feeling of unfairness and the dislike of the fact

that ONeil has to prove herself. From the male perspective it makes them feel like they are in

the wrong and a sort of guiltiness. In one of the training courses Jordan is told to use the

womens step to help her get over an obstacle but she tells them she doesnt want to use it but

they dont listen. Jordan goes through some of the most tough training and sticks it out despite

some of the males making comments here and there. By doing this, the producer target a feeling

of mistreatment and non-equality for the audience, as they do multiple times throughout the film.

By using Jordan, they tweak the perspective that the audience has of a traditional male in the

Navy, and instead use the more powerful and abnormal depiction of a woman. As her training is

complete she gets accused of being a lesbian with one of the doctors at the base with the

senators pictures, which started allegations. The senator sold Jordan out, she said American

families werent ready for their daughters to go to war. This is a prime example of what this

movie was trying to do, they put you in the hot seat about a topic that most Americans were not
okay with and used perspectives as a motif to further their argument of women in the military

and also to let people accept this taboo especially at the time of the film in 1997. The troop

eventually gets thrown into battle in Libya. The battlefield gets hectic but everyone gets out safe

and Jordan is officially part of the navy seals.

The producers of this film were trying to change a common stereotype that people had

about women. Perspective was used to achieve this. It would not have been achieved had

perspective not been used in a successful way. White patriarchal capitalism is exemplified

through the senators allegations, creating the audiences perspective of her to be one of a traitor

and along with the concept of gender, unfair. The response to the film would be one of an

eye-opener towards something that people were not used to at the time of this film.

CONCLUSION- How the film shape/reflect/critiques society

The film meant to shape the way society views women entering more combative roles in the

military

In terms of critiquing society, G .I. Jane was without a doubt a critique on the treatment

of women in positions of power. Jordan never wanted to be treated differently because of her

gender, she wanted to be treated equally. When she had to go through hell week, she technically

did not make the cut but was given 30 extra seconds for gender norming, as her commander

called it (G.I. Jane). After this, Jordan demanded to be treated as an equal. She shaved her head,

and demanded to be in the same quarters as men, etc. (G.I. Jane). She wanted it to be clear that

her gender would not slow her down, and that she could do anything that these male SEALs in

training could do.

It also critiqued the expectation of women. A lot of people expected her to fail, even the
woman who got Jordan to join the SEALs. The senator said to her, well I didnt expect you to

make it that far, after Jordan confronted her (G.I.Jane). The people she was training with

expected her to bow out and leave, and she gained a lot of respect when she refused to back

down (G.I. Jane). Jordan signified the break of a traditional perception of women as frail and

weak. She proved that she was strong and able.


Works Cited
Benshoff, Harry M., and Sean Griffin. America on Film: Representing Race, Class, Gender, and
Sexuality at the Movies. 2nd ed. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. Print
Corrigan, Timothy. A Short Guide to Writing about Film. 9th ed. Pearson Education, 2015. Print.
G.I. Jane. Dir. Ridley Scott. By Danielle Alexandra. Screenplay by David Twohy. Perf. Demi
Moore, Viggo Mortensen, and Anne Bancroft. Buena Vista Home Entertainment,
1997.Film.
Keating, Susan. "Female Rangers Were Given Special Treatment, Sources Say."PEOPLE.com.
Time Inc, 25 Sept. 2015. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.
<http://people.com/celebrity/female-rangers-were-given-special-treatment-sources-say/>.
Times, Meghann Myers Navy. "Navy SEALs Won't Change Standards for Women, Admiral
Says." USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network, 21 Dec. 2015. Web. 16 Mar.
2017.