Apparently, there’s only one way to tell a war story: combat, booze, and sex.
In the latest installment of The Pacific, the Marines head to Australia, where the Aussies (mostly) greet them with smiles, cheers, and all that. Most of the Australian and New Zealand Forces are up in Burma, so the Marines are apparently the largest contingent of military men around. Of course, a copule of local military guys are still in Melbourne and aren’t too thrilled about the Americans taking all their booze and women, which makes for the briefest of fist fights.
But in a nutshell, we could call this episode “what happens when the boys get off the little island and away from the enemy and have a little fun.” Additionally, this episode gave us a closer look at Robert Leckie (“Lucky”) and John Basilone in particular.
In this week’s oral history interview segment, one of the veterans notes that they didn’t know anything about Australia. I thought this was a bit intresting, given that in 1942, there was Instructions for American Servicemen in Australia. Maybe the Marines didn’t get copies? Or, maybe they just didn’t get read, or got forgotten in the midst of time.
Really, this episode is all about reinforcing war stereotypes: boys will be boys, women put up with it and play along, and yes, girls will do anything for a guy in uniform (or so the story goes). And this seems to be my major problem with the episode. Do I doubt the veracity of these experiences – Marines shooting at cattle from the traincar as they go through the countryside, Marines flirting with and feeling up women, Marines getting drunk, and Marines having sex all over the place?
No, I’m sure in some sense it’s all true. But I think this episode says something important about the war stories Americans tell and how war is remembered and portrayed. Certainly, we can probably all imagine a version of this series that doesn’t higlight the “boys will be boys” stereotypes. Why is there this insistence on perpetuating a certain stereotype of how men behave at war and how civilian women interact with those men?
And seriously, when will folks like Hanks and Spielberg wise up and realize that there are other ways to tell this story – and other people’s stories to tell? It’s high time the Women Marines and the other women in World War II had their stories told, too. I suppose that’s a tale for another day, though.