From Skirts Ahoy! to M*A*S*H, Private Benjamin, G.I. Jane, and JAG, films and television shows have grappled with the notion that military women are contradictory figures, unable to be both effective soldiers and appropriately feminine. In Soldiers' Stories, Yvonne Tasker traces this perceived paradox across genres including musicals, screwball comedies, and action thrillers. She explains how, during the Second World War, women were portrayed as auxiliaries, temporary necessities of "total war." Later, nursing, with its connotations of feminine care, offered a solution to the "gender problem." From the 1940s through the 1970s, musicals, romances, and comedies exploited the humorous potential of the gender role reversal that the military woman was taken to represent. Since the 1970s, female soldiers have appeared most often in thrillers and legal and crime dramas, cast as isolated figures, sometimes victimized and sometimes heroic. Soldiers' Stories is a comprehensive analysis of representations of military women in film and TV since the 1940s. Throughout, Tasker relates female soldiers' provocative presence to contemporaneous political and cultural debates and to the ways that women's labor and bodies are understood and valued.
Yvonne Tasker is Professor of Film Studies in the School of Film and Television Studies at the University of East Anglia. She is the author of Working Girls: Gender and Sexuality in Popular Cinema and Spectacular Bodies: Gender, Genre and the Action Cinema and a co-editor of Interrogating Postfeminism: Gender and the Politics of Popular Culture, also published by Duke University Press.
List of Figures ix Acknowledgments xiii A Provocative Presence: Military Women in Visual Culture 1 Part One 19 1. Auxiliary Military Women 23 2. Invisible Soldiers: Representing Military Nursing 71 Part Two 3. Musical Military Women 115 4. Women on Top: Comedy, Hierarchy, and the Military Woman 139 5. Military Women and Service Comedy: M*A*S*H and Private Benjamin 173 Part Three 201 6. Controversy, Celebration, and Scandal: Military Women in the News Media 205 7. Conflict over Combat: Training and Testing Military Women 235 8. Scandalous Stories: Military Women as Victims, Avengers, and Investigators 255 Afterword 277 Notes 281 Bibliography 301 Index 309