Viggo Mortensen

Viggo Mortensen
GI Jane 1997

I've seen this movie many times. Demi Moore is great in this story about Jordan, a quite capable military woman who is chosen to become the first female Navy SEAL. Jordan isn't sure she wants to go through the hassle she knows will result from her presence at the training, but the congresswoman who is behind this encourages Jordan to try her best. Nobody expects Jordan to survive the harsh training program, and Jordan exceeds all expectations.

Viggo Mortensen plays the Master Chief who is in charge of the training program. He is quite harsh, as you would expect from someone who is trying to separate the "best of the best" from a group of individuals who are all quite talented. Viggo isn't a mere brute - he reads poetry by D.H. Lawrence and truly cares about his trainees. He knows that if he doesn't do a good job at his training, the men here will die (and cause others to die) when sent out into combat. I understand and applaud all of that. Viggo throughout the film shows a good balance of concern for his trainees, a desire to push them to be their best, and a desire to weed out those simply not cut out to be SEALs.

Viggo Mortensen

However, being a fan of the military and its task of protecting the weak, I had HUGE issues with the "pivotal scene" in the SERE camp. The movie is directed by Ridley Scott of Alien fame and you would think that this man would have respect for a strong female character and the situations that result. I very much equated Jordan to Ripley, both strong women who held their own and earned respect of those around them. But instead of just having Ripley and the others tied up or left in the sun or other "see if you can resist the concerns of your body", Ridley decides to have the Master Chief *brutalize* one of the soldiers and then almost rape Jordan. What????

If we know ANYTHING about real torture situations, it is that a torturer can eventually break anybody. We all have pain limits. There are always ways to inflict more pain! At some point either our body gives out or our mind snaps. That's why spies carry cyanide capsules, because you can't be "trained" to resist torture indefinitely. So what was the point of beating up on the first soldier? What was the point of almost raping Jordan? To prove she could be raped? Heck, any GUY there could have been raped too. Is it important for them to learn what rape feels like, just in case? Would the guys have been any more or less upset to see one of their fellow GUYS being raped vs a girl? Heck they might be MORE upset to see a fellow guy be raped because that would be even less "acceptable" to them. For Viggo's character to delve to those depths after everything he'd shown us previously was amazingly out of character - or indicated that Viggo was a depraved man who had no business training soldiers.

Viggo Mortensen

The movie was supposed to show us that women can be just as strong as men are. Heck, real life shows us that. There are plenty of strong female characters in movies - from Ripley in Alien, to Sarah Connor in Terminator 2, and more come out every day. There are plenty of real life female police officers and fire fighters who are depended on by their coworkers every day. It was almost an insult to have the GI Jane character go through what she did, sort of an Archie Bunker situation where you are ashamed that there really are people left out there that think a woman with strength must be a lesbian. While I applaud the movie's intentions to say "hey you remaining bigots out there, it's time to wake up", to have to involve a supposed rape to make your point is very sad. To have to taint Viggo's character with a sadistic view towards woman (as much as he tries his best to be fair much of the time) is really saying that ALL guys will always have this power/lust attitude towards women that they have to keep under control. Which is entirely unfair to men. It weakens the entire point of the story.

For those who are interested, the poem Viggo quotes is titled Self-Pity:

I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.

D. H. Lawrence

The point is that you do what you have to do to get by in life. You don't waste time or energy on feeling sorry for yourself, because it does little good.

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