Soldiers′ Stories

Military Women in Cinema and Television since World War II

Soldiers′ Stories

Book Pages: 328 Illustrations: 51 illustrations Published: August 2011

Author: Yvonne Tasker

Cultural Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Media Studies > Film

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.


Soldiers’ Stories is a useful teaching tool in multiple contexts. The depth of its historical content concerning women in the military from World War II to the present day makes a critical contribution to feminist military histories, as well as the history of women in film. It also grounds theory about social, political, and cultural negotiations regarding gender roles, particularly within institutions. Tasker’s interdisciplinary approach to military women in cinema and television is also valuable for broader inquiries into media and cultural studies, feminist theory, and studies of gender and nation.”-- — Robyn A. Epstein and Mel Michelle Lewis, Feminist Formations

“... Soldiers’ Stories does more than fill a gap. It joins a wider discussion on how gendered assumptions persist amid women’s rising presence in the real-life military and other areas of American life. As Tasker aptly puts it, even in our own time “the military woman still requires explanation” (p. 236). Thus the ultimate implication of the work is that purveyors of culture, and presumably much of the public, continue to regard the female soldier as a paradox—not quite a soldier, Tasker tells us, but not quite a woman either.” — Andrew J. Huebener, American Historical Review

“[A] provocative and important book…. [A] valuable study, clear in its purpose, and well supported by research…. [Tasker] has written a comprehensive social and cultural history of how we’ve been asked to view women in the military since World War II.” — Jeanine Basinger, Journal of American Studies

“All the chapters are impeccably researched and meticulously detailed, but it’s Tasker’s attention to small particulars, the kind many casual observers might miss (such as an offhand reference to a beauty parlor or the importance of costumes in ‘transformation narratives’), and the complicated conclusions she draws, even when the films (or television shows) seem superficial on the surface, that really make the text. . . . Reading Tasker’s analyses of these texts could make many rethink what is considered ‘entertaining’ at the expense of women.” — Catherine Ramsdell, PopMatters

“Attentive to issues of race and class as well as gender, and sensitive to the range of volatile topics associated with the figure of the military woman, including violence, sexuality, and nationality, Soldiers’ Stories conscientiously provides the military woman a well-deserved visibility in cinema and media studies.” — Elaine Roth, Journal of American History

“I don’t see how anyone can do serious scholarship that involves feminism and/or gender and/or film without having read Tasker.” — Carol Wical, Media International Australia

“Richly illustrated, the book carefully explains the evolution f the icons, showing the provocation sof women soldiers not only to their collegial male warriors but also to the cultural values of both genders in both countries. . . . Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers.” — R. A. Champagne, Choice

Soldiers’ Stories is an important, timely, and eminently readable—and teachable—cultural history. Yvonne Tasker takes the figure of the woman soldier in US and UK popular film and TV as a cultural flashpoint for examining the history of our collective thinking about war, violence, authority, sexuality, female embodiment, and gender trouble in the military.” — Sharon Willis, author of High Contrast: Race and Gender in Contemporary Hollywood Film

“What is so valuable about Yvonne Tasker’s investigation of film and TV images of British and American military women is that she doesn’t stop at the end of World War II. She keeps us attentive right through the Korean and Vietnam wars. She makes sure we track the ambivalences and confusions that women in militaries have provoked—among officials, directors, scriptwriters, and audiences—over two generations. I have learned so much from Soldiers’ Stories.” — Cynthia Enloe, author of Nimo’s War, Emma’s War: Making Feminist Sense of the Iraq War


Availability: In stock
Price: $27.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

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.

Table of Contents Back to Top
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
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4847-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4835-1
Publicity material