Desert Storm. A female Army Captain. Friendly fire killings. Mutiny. White Phosphorous. Lies and cover-ups. The story of the writing, and rewriting of Courage Under Fire has it all. In this episode we take a dive into the film and its production history, looking at the first draft of the script, over 6 months of arguments with the Pentagon, and the finished film.
This is going to be the first of a pair of episodes looking at films from 1996 – the next episode is going to be a deep dive on Independence Day, the most popular movie of the year. I did intend to do this one with Henri as a guest but the recording screwed up, so I’ve folded a lot of Henri’s comments from that conversation into this analysis.
Like Independence Day, Courage Under Fire was rejected by the DOD after a long period of script negotiations, with several drafts going through the military review process. You do find this a lot with 90s films – my impression is that when Strub took over, and in the wake of Top Gun showing how to do a different kind of military movie – the whole Hollywood-Pentagon relationship shifted somewhat. The DOD were opening up to a wider range of projects, but that meant engaging with film-makers who wanted to push the limits of what can be put on screen. Hence, lengthy negotiations and arguments over content.
One of the provocative and tricky aspects was that the story is based on real life incidents from the Gulf War, including ‘friendly fire’ events where US troops died at the hands of other US troops. You will notice, there aren’t many films about the Gulf War. It’s a little odd, the quick success of the war actually provoked more applications to the DOD for production support, it helped boost the military movie genre. But very few of those productions were about the Gulf War itself, it was films like True Lies and Executive Decision – Islamophobic action thrillers. Courage Under Fire stands out as perhaps the only movie to take a critical look at the Gulf War – albeit through two very specific events and their ramifications after the war.
On top of that, Courage Under Fire is one of the few military films with a female lead that’s actually good, in places very good. Captain Marvel is an abomination, GI Jane is a failed experiment, The English Patient is boring, Megan Leavey is annoyingly saccharine. Home of the Brave, with Jessica Biel playing a disabled veteran, and Private Benjamin with Goldie Hawn, both have some good pieces, though the overall stories are a bit ropey and shallow. You will notice, most of these were rejected by the DOD even after the film-makers made major changes to try to compensate for the entertainment liaison office’s concerns. The only one they got fully in on was Captain Marvel, where the Air Force have no script notes because they were so deeply involved from such an early stage.
I’m sure you can see why this makes Courage Under Fire an interesting film to look at, quite different to many of those that we’ve examined before. As Dale Dye observed at the Naval Institute’s conference, there aren’t many movies that would encourage women to join the military. And yet, join the military they have – according to the USO they’ve been part of the US military for over 200 years. In WW2, for example, 432 serving American women were killed despite non of them being in combat roles. Even being a nurse in a war can be very dangerous.
This is presumably why the DOD were so protective of their WW2 nurses that when it came to Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor they removed dialogue where the nurse characters talk about being horny. They literally said that nurses did not get horny in the 1940s, which seems like a gigantic assumption that’s certainly wrong.
Thus, the Pentagon’s Hollywood officers have a curious relationship with military stories with female protagonists – sometimes, especially more recently, they’ve pushed them. But when Hollywood comes to them with something like Private Benjamin or GI Jane, they get a bit nervous. As we’ll see with Courage Under Fire, this was one of their numerous problems with the script, struggling with how to depict women in the military.
But, we’ll get to that. First, for anyone who hasn’t seen it, Courage Under Fire is a mid-budget military drama starring Meg Ryan, Denzel Washington and a lot of other people in a broad, almost ensemble cast. It cost about $46 million (though $10 million of that was Denzel’s fee), and took a little over $100 million worldwide. A modest success commercially, it also earned positive reviews, but almost no awards nominations whatsoever. It is an example of a film that was ahead of its time, so while it found an audience and reviewers appreciated what it was doing, the establishments both in the Pentagon and in Hollywood weren’t ready, and rejected it.
The film begins with an extended sequence set in the Gulf War, with Denzel playing a tank commander, Nat Serling. During a chaotic, night time battle where Iraqi tanks infiltrate US lines, he fires on an American Abrams, believing it to be a Soviet-made Iraqi T-54. This kills one of his friends, a Captain Boylar. The Army hushes the whole thing up, transfers Serling to a desk job and begins an investigation. Serling goes to see Boylar’s parents, but tells them he died heroically in battle.
In his new job, Serling is a paper-pusher, looking into cases where soldiers have been nominated for medals. He gets a high-profile one, the first woman to be nominated for the Medal of Honor. Plus, she’s dead, which makes it even better.
The established facts are that a Blackhawk was shot down, the crew all injured, and they were surrounded by dozens of Iraqi troops and a tank. It looks like they’re done for, but then a medical rescue chopper – a Huey – comes flying in. The Captain of the Huey crew is Karen Walden, played by Meg Ryan, and by dropping a fuel bladder onto the tank and then firing a flare at it, she and her crew disable the tank and stop the Iraqis from wiping out the Blackhawk crew. But then, the Huey is also shot down, some distance from the Blackhawk crash, and both crews have to fend off the Iraqis for a day and a night until the cavalry turns up. In the process, Walden is killed in action but pretty much everyone else survives. Some have serious injuries, all are suffering emotionally to some extent.
What I love about this setup is that it’s a near-perfect premise from a structural point of view. Denzel is suffering from guilt over the friendly fire killing of his friend, and is drinking heavily and distant and moody with his wife and family, but is offered a chance at redemption by getting to the truth about Karen Walden. He goes on a journey to try to find that truth, and in the process learns about himself – the investigation is a kind of therapy for him.
It also works extremely well cinematically – this is a film that’s primarily about people talking, it’s very dialogue-heavy. But each time Serling talks to a new person there’s a flashback showing their version of events, helping break up the dialogue with action. It also helps draw us into the mystery – we see the same events replaying several times, each time quite different to the last. This is the same technique used in Rashomon, Kurosawa’s psychological thriller where everyone recalls radically different versions of the same events. The only other American film that I’ve seen that does this is Vantage Point (2008), where the attempted assassination of a president is re-told from different angles. They clearly ripped off the structure from Courage Under Fire, and the emotional anchors are absent – it is just a film about solving a mystery, not overcoming the psychic scars of combat.
The Rashomon Effect
What’s especially effective about this multi-perspective flashback structure is that it allows for Meg Ryan to play the same character, mostly doing the same things, in different ways. For example, there’s a moment during the night where she starts crying, just briefly.
When Serling goes to see a medic who worked under Walden, played by a very skinny Matt Damon (who went on a special diet to lose weight for the role), he doesn’t even mention her crying, she just gets some dust in her eyes. That’s because he is giving a semi-fictional account where Walden did everything right and was heroic at every moment. She is a strong woman superhero, like Captain Marvel.
However, when Serling talks to Monfriez, played by Lou Diamond Phillips, he calls her a coward, and she’s shown crying quite pathetically with Monfriez openly berating her for showing weakness. His version is also a lie, designed to make her look bad to cover up for his own actions. She becomes the stereotype of the weak woman who is out of her depth. Other, subsequent accounts add to this diametric opposition, and eventually we get quite a complex and contradictory picture of Karen Walden.
So we’re invited to judge not only who, if anyone, is telling the truth but also whether the Captain made the right calls, what sort of person she was, whether she deserves the medal. This hooks us into the story and makes us care about someone who we never see in real time, in the contemporary storyline, only through memories and flashbacks and other people’s words. It also helps us buy into Denzel’s quest to find the truth, because we want to know what really happened. It’s a structural masterpiece, really, and the writer Patrick Sheane Duncan and director Edward Zwick did excellent work.
Adding to that, the production values and attention to detail are very good. The little things, like paperwork and uniforms, smart use of locations, are all carefully executed. The result is a film that, as Henri put it, veterans could watch and not get pissed off. Thus, one of the audiences they’re trying to speak to will find Courage Under Fire easier to watch.
There’s also the realism of the characters – no one in this movie is a superhero or supervillain, they all come across as ordinary, which keep the experience of watching it more grounded and relatable than many military movies. While Jack Nicholson’s character in A Few Good Men is enormous fun to watch, he is hyperbolic and not especially believable. He certainly isn’t easy to relate to, easy to connect to. Unless you’re actually like that, I guess.
One of the reasons that Duncan and Zwick and the others chose this route, rather than the more dramatised, punchy version of the story they could have told, is because the whole thing is based on real events. The Gulf War was known for its friendly fire incidents, so called blue on blue or fratricide events. This is partly because it was conducted in a fairly slapdash, rapid deployment, shock and awe manner. In the chaos, people shoot the wrong people.
Two events in particular provoked the Courage Under Fire film makers, both from February 27th 1991. The first was when Rhonda Cornum, a Major in the US Army, was aboard a Black Hawk helicopter on a search and rescue mission looking for a downed F-16 pilot. Cornum was a flight surgeon, and when her helicopter was shot down she suffered broken arms, was shot in the back, other injuries too. But she survived, was captured, survived captivity and was released about a week later.
The other event was the accidental shooting of Sgt Douglas ‘Lance’ Fielder, a case that drew national attention due to the cover-up that followed. Eventually, three soldiers were reprimanded but their citations were wiped from their records a few years later. As the DOD documents show, a GAO (Government Accountability Office) report into the Fielder killing came out, leading to a rewrite of the script for Courage Under Fire. While the earlier scripts didn’t incorporate much of a cover-up, in the midst of the negotiations with the military they actually made the story more radical and more critical.
In the film, the story combines these into a fairly complex narrative so I won’t take you through all the twists and turns. The way the true story is finally told is that during the night, the crew of the Huey argue about whether to wait for sunrise, try to escape into the night, or surrender. The argument leads to an attempted mutiny, led by Monfriez. This leads to a stand off between the Captain and Monfriez, her pointing her gun at him, but a surprise Iraqi appears out of nowhere, she shoots him, and Monfriez reacts by shooting her in the stomach. The implication is that he believed she was shooting at him, but there’s also the suggestion he was actually trying to kill her.
The Captain forces Monfriez to surrender his weapon, and they wait until dawn, with her telling him there will be a reckoning for what he’s done. In the morning, as the Iraqis have them pinned down and are advancing, a bunch of helicopters and an A-10 Thunderbolt (a big, armoured, heavily weaponed plane) turn up. They mow down a bunch of the Iraqis, and the Huey crew escapes to a rescue helicopter – except for the Captain, who tells Ilario, her medic and friend, to come back for her with a stretcher. She continues to shoot at the Iraqis while the others make good their escape.
Then, Monfriez tells the Captain of the rescue helicopter that they are the only survivors, and the others keep their mouths shuts, worried by the threat of court martial for their attempted mutiny. Then, the A-10 drops napalm on the whole area, destroying the remnants of the helicopters but also the bodies of the dead US soldiers.
The First Draft of Courage Under Fire
However, it wasn’t always like that. The original script, which Henri found and sent to me, tells much the same story but there are some key differences. For one thing, they used White Phosphorous rather than napalm, and the excuse was that they didn’t want the bodies of their soldiers to be dragged through the streets of Baghdad. Seems a bit like overkill – if you have that kind of firepower then why not use it to repel the attackers long enough to recover the bodies?
For another, the opening of the film is not an extended sequence showing Serling’s friendly fire killing of his friend, but a short flashback. There is a longer flashback later in the story, but they reversed these in the movie – I assume to help establish his character and set up his arc nice and clearly from the off. Otherwise you’re giving the audience a mixture of flashbacks of different events, which could become confusing.
In the first draft it isn’t Monfriez who leads the mutiny, then leads the cover-up, before eventually confessing and then committing suicide in a fiery deathcrash, driving his car into an oncoming train. Instead it’s Altermeyer who has some of this role, but in the film Monfriez becomes the major instigator and Altermeyer ends up slowly dying in a VA hospital, unable to even talk meaningfully about what happened.
Otherwise, the core story is essentially the same – Serling goes on his journey, he gets all these radically different accounts of events, he struggles with his own guilt as well as with trying to find out the truth. Then, at the end, the still-alive Monfriez turns up when Serling tracks down Ilario, and tries to kill them both. This culminates in another fiery deathcrash involving a gas cylinder on wheels where Serling takes out Monfriez.
This is where I think the studio’s influence can be seen. This ending feels like it’s from a different movie, possibly a 1970s James Bond rip off, so it obviously got scrapped for good reasons. But they kept in the part where one of the soldiers kills himself in a ridiculous fashion, which also feels like it doesn’t belong in this otherwise clever and emotionally balanced story.
Henri pointed out to me that it’s the only action that takes place contemporarily, in the current storyline. All the rest happens in flashbacks. That’s one problem I have with the train crash scene, certainly, but tonally it interrupts an otherwise nice build-up to the climax and the revelation of the truth.
So, I think they kept that bit in to satisfy the studio, because they could have had Monfriez kill himself a hundred different ways. Then, there are a couple of bits of mawkish sentimentality that weren’t in the original script that feel written-in to satisfy some studio executive. The main one is about halfway through the film, when Serling has heard an overly-heroic sounding version of events from Ilario, and a very cowardly sounding version of events from Monfriez.
He goes to see Karen Walden’s parents to try to learn more about who she was, trying to make sense of these contrasting images from her own troops. In the movie this becomes a montage with tinkly music showing Karen with her daughter in full on best mother in the world mode, really laying on the sentiment with a shovel. It seems to me that an executive saw the script and said ‘the audience have to feel sympathy for her, how about a bit with her and the kid, really help sell the idea we should like her’.
Because apparently having a kid with a guy then immediately divorcing him then dumping her kid on her parents so she could pursue her military career then dying in combat, leaving her young child without a mother is all OK, because look, 30 seconds of tinkly music kiddie montage.
I kid, I don’t necessarily think of this character as a bad parent but I also don’t need to be slapped in the face with how good a mother she is in the midst of this film about her dying in fairly horrible circumstances.
In the first draft this scene ends quite, quite differently. At the end of the scene Karen’s father asks whether, if she receives the medal, they will get to meet the President. He then gives a nice little speech on what he wants to tell the President, saying:
I know that Kuwait thing wasn’t his cross to bear. I know that. But I want him to know something. If he gets ready to send our kids off to fight he better have tried everything he could to avoid it first. I’m talking negotiating like it was his own life — or his kid’s. It seemed after Vietnam, for a while there, we thought twice before sending our kids in harms way. Lately, though, it’s more like every time some half-assed politician starts dipping in the opinion polls he invades some pisspot country. And American kids die. If he’s going to do that — it damned sure better be worth it. Damned sure.
While this is in part an expression of grief from a bereaved father, it’s also an interesting and largely correct point about US foreign policy post-Vietnam. There was a period where the US was more hesitant to just throw people into combat, the whole Reagan doctrine was based around finding other people to fight America’s battles. But gradually that changed, and before long Panama, Kuwait, Serbia, Bosnia, Iran, Libya and other countries started to receive some devastating air mail and sometimes saw troops marching in too.
Obviously that changed post-9/11 to a hyper-aggressive mode of operations but when this film was written America was at something of a crossroads, at least in the minds of a lot of Americans. To have all that expressed in just a few lines is not only good writing, it’s a purposeful way to end this little detour scene. Instead, we got tinkly music montage.
The other peak in the original script comes near the end, during the second meeting between Serling and Ilario, where Ilario reveals the truth about what happened. Ilario makes a startling admission, saying:
I figured out what all those veterans have in common. Fear. They’ve all been scared as they will ever get. They’ve plumbed the bottom of fear. Petrified scared. Until your heart stops, your lungs can’t get air, scared sick. And nothing can ever scare you like that again. You’ve seen yourself at your worst and so…
Then Serling interrupts and admits that his friendly fire killing was the result of fear, and saying it’s OK to be scared in combat. You can probably guess what the military’s Hollywood people made of this, but it went missing from the film even without the DOD’s help. I do want us to pause for a moment and consider whether we’ve ever seen this idea, this admission elsewhere.
Because fear of death is about the most rational fear anyone can feel, and when someone is actually shooting at you, trying to hit you, you should feel fear. Whether you can admit to that is another question, whether you’re allowed to admit it yet another. But almost everyone would feel that fear.
The Pentagon vs Courage Under Fire
The relationship between the DOD and the film-makers began innocently enough – in July 1994 Duncan went on a research trip to Fort Hood, while developing his screenplay. It was nearly a year later, in March ‘95, that producer Stratton Leopold (what else was he going to be with a name like that?) submitted the first draft to the Army’s Hollywood office.
The following 7 months of arguments have never been properly documented before. In David Robb’s Operation Hollywood he mentions the film getting rejected, quotes some lines about the lack of military heroes in the story and then includes an anonymous quote from one of the film’s producers. I’m assuming this is Zwick, but whoever it was said:
The military is not in the movie business. They’re in the protection business. They’re in the recruitment business. They’re in the business of promoting their own image. So there is no incentive for them to participate in a movie that from their perspective does not make them look good, or which in any way contributes to a controversial image in the marketplace.
Larry Suid’s Guts and Glory provides more details, but doesn’t criticise the military for their decision not to support this very accurate, plausible movie inspired by real life events.
The full file from the Suid archive runs to nearly 150 pages so you’ll have to read the whole thing in your own time, but there were a lot of problems. The mutiny, just as in Crimson Tide the previous year, was a stumbling block. It is more of an attempted mutiny that fails, but also sees one soldier shooting his Captain in a way that could be construed as intentional. Again, not a full on fragging, but something in that ballpark.
They found the plot of the Army appointing an officer to head an investigation, while the investigation into his own friendly fire incident was still ongoing, implausible. I agree, but I accept that as necessary to establish the stakes of the movie, so who really cares?
The Army didn’t like Serling being told to lie to Boylar’s parents about how he did, saying it was heroically in combat rather than because Serling fucked up and shot the wrong tank.
Another problem were references to a mysterious illness, i.e. Gulf War Syndrome, which do not appear in the finished movie, or in the draft script. It seems they were written in part way through the script’s development.
The White Phosphorous being used to destroy the downed helicopters, but also the bodies of the dead soldiers (including Walden), produced sustained objections. But in a memo written by the film-makers in response to one round of negotiations they said ‘We love this, so this is the one we fight for’. In a pencil note underneath, presumably by one of the Army officers handling the script, it says ‘You love this? Were you a crack baby?’
There was another argument over Serling being effectively promoted following the Al Bathra incident, i.e. the friendly fire killing. As the producers memo put it:
My reading of the GAO was that several soldiers/officers involved with friendly fire incidents received promotions. Is the script being read that Serling has received his promotion because of Al Bathra? Is the problem that the DOD is asking that reality not be reflected?
Then there was the cover-up, both by the members of Walden’s unit but also by the Army more broadly – at various points Denzel’s General puts pressure on him to wrap up his investigation and just let the medal be awarded. There’s also White House pressure, because they want their photo op. The producers pushed back, writing:
Medal of Honor being given for political reasons: This has also always been in the screenplay. It was originally stated by Hershberg and now is driven home more clearly by Bruno. Also, in the GAO report medals were clearly given for “political” reasons to officers involved in friendly fire incidents. The fact that this story claims there is political pressure to award the medal to a real hero who actually deserves the medal seems a point that we can convince the DOD on.
The film-makers did change various elements of the script – originally Monfriez shoots Walden intentionally, eventually killing her, but this was changed to more of a panicked reaction to Walden shooting near him to kill the surprise Iraqi. They also modified the cover-up to make Ilario and Altermeyer less guilty, in line with the DOD’s requests. One memo describes the whole storyline from the Army’s preferred point of view, in which the shooting is entirely accidental, the mutiny implied or very limited, the other two don’t really go along with Monfriez, then he lies during the rescue to ensure Walden gets left behind to her inevitable death, and the other two go along with it without realising she’s still alive.
The modified script went halfway towards this version, leading the Army to actually being staffing the project. In memos sent by Kathleen Ross, acting head of the Army Hollywood office, she says:
Though these are controversial subjects, the Army is treated fairly and accurately in this depiction. The motion picture shows that there is true leadership in combat and that we investigate our own problems, do not attempt to cover them up and move to correct them ourselves. Additionally, this motion picture shows true leadership, the abilities of female soldiers, and the human side of soldiers.
Similarly to in Purple Hearts, the successful investigation shows the military fixing their mistakes. This is the same way they treat mental health and sexual violence in the military – you can depict it, you can talk about it, but only if you show the military helping to solve the problem. Same in this film with Serling’s alcoholism and Ilario’s heroin addiction – the Army didn’t like these, and could only tolerate them if the dialogue flagged up support and rehab programs.
Other memos listed the changes made to accommodate for the Army’s concerns:
As for the friendly-fire incident, we feel, in light of the Fielder incident, that the Army is treated fairly and in a realistic manner. We are shown to investigate our own problems and to find solutions to them. The mutiny has been toned down to the point where only one soldier wants to disobey the commander. His shooting of the commander is left unclear as to whether or not he did it on purpose.
It goes on:
The helicopter is now a logistics helicopter, so arming it is no longer a problem [having weapons on a medical search and rescue helicopter is actually a war crime], the napalm is dropped on the attacking Iraqis and what is thought to be dead soldiers (the commander who ordered the drop also receives a reprimand), the Army is no longer trying to cover-up the friendly fire incident that Serling was
involved in; Serling is no longer seen drinking in a bar in uniform; and Serling no longer fights an enlisted man without provocation. The idea that the White House is pushing for the medal to be awarded to Walden has also been toned down.
However, criticisms remained at DOD level. Amusingly, in a slightly mis-written memo one line says:
Phil Strub, Special Assistant for Audio Visual for the Department of Defense, indicates that he told the production company that “people should view the government in general and the Army in particular with extreme suspicion and cynicism”.
Obviously, this means Strub said the film would make people view the government and Army in that way, and handwritten notes clarify what this paragraph is meant to say, but it still made me laugh. There’s also a memo on the script from Captain Rory J. Aylward, the proposed technical advisor on the project, to the First Assistant Director Skip Cosper (what else was he going to be with a name like that?). It is unclear if this memo was ever sent, because it has been heavily annotated by a higher-up, trying to tone down some of Aylward’s comments.
For example, Aylward notes how tanks hit by depleted uranium shells burned and gave off radioactive smoke, leading to some US troops returning from Kuwait with radiation sickness. This entire note is crossed out. Another line where he questions why people on a refuelling convoy would be smoking cigarettes is struck out. Ditto, a bit where he criticises a line in the script referring to the Iraqis isolated against the skyline, calling it ‘the worst kind of amateur mistake’ and not one the Iraqis would make.
This is, in the whole 150 page file, the only line referring to the depiction of the Iraqis in any substantive way, and it was taken out of the memo. Furthermore, it’s the stereotype of the Arab enemy skylined, isolated against the sky in menacing yet anonymous fashion, which you’ll have seen so many times in movies. It’s so common that Ed Neumeier satirised it in the third Starship Troopers film, where the Arachnids do the same thing. Consider, the Army officer was objecting to this because it makes the enemy look stupid and amateurish, but this change was never requested, let alone made. Why not? They sent them dozens of pages of notes, had several meetings, all kinds of phone calls and conversations. But never objected to this except in a memo that got scrubbed by a higher up.
There’s a lot more to this particular memo, it’s worth reading in full (p55 onwards), but one more line caught my eye. Throughout the story Serling is himself pursued by a journalist trying to get the truth about Serling’s incident and the investigation into it. The journalist is a Vietnam veteran, so he is older, has more distance from his experiences in combat, so he functions as a nice character reflection of Serling while also implying this whole process is generational, something repeated in cycles. Evidently, in the script that Aylward read there was an exchange between Serling and the journalist where they refer to each others jobs as a ‘necessary slime’.
Personal note: I have a big, big problem with GARTNER [the journalist] depicting the Army as ‘necessary slime’. Call me close-minded, if you will, but any comparison between the Army and the press on that level is going to make me queasy. Then again, Channel 2 tried to get my lads killed once, so I guess I’m still bitter.
The whole file is littered with hilarious remarks, so we’ll look at one more. Eventually, the script was rejected for still having too many problems and the Army shut down support before shooting had even begun. The film-makers had to come up with other solutions, mostly private hire companies providing ex-military vehicles. They found a bunch of British Centurion tanks in Australia and welded on extra metal panels to make it look more like the Abrams. In the midst of the decision to withdraw support, a memo from Fort Benning Public Affairs listed the problems they had with the script, including:
The American public does not need to go to a movie to learn about Army cover ups and see the capabilities of women pilots challenged. They need only follow along in their local newspapers.
Before we wrap up there are two final points to this story that I want to highlight for you. The first is a consistent note throughout the file concerning the scene where Serling goes to see Rady – the pilot of Walden’s helicopter, who was seriously injured in the crash and hence was unconscious for the shooting, the mutiny, the rescue. Rady’s girlfriend refers to Walden as ‘butch’, and Rady agrees.
The Army didn’t like this, because to them it meant that Walden was a ‘known lesbian’, which was ‘contrary to Army policy’. This was before Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, when simply being a lesbian wasn’t allowed. Now, I’m not saying that a woman who gets married, has a child, instantly divorces and then never shows any further interest in men is probably a lesbian, but I do think that concluding this simply from someone saying they are butch is a bit of a stretch.
Also, it speaks to the problem the military has with having women in its ranks. If they’re feminine, they’re too soft. If they’re masculine, they’re probably dykes, and you can’t trust them. So, what sort of women do they want? Wives and girlfriends, it seems. And the occasional stripper, maybe.
The other thing I wanted to bring up was how, when Courage Under Fire came out, it was lauded for its realism, including by veterans. Same thing happened with Platoon and Jarhead – films rejected by the DOD for being unrealistic, despite being based on real events. Courage Under Fire was so accurate in its portrait of the military that it was given a special award at a dinner hosted by none other than the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.