Girls On The Frontline Review: GI Jane

March 25, 2010 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

GIRLS ON THE FRONTLINE: Thursday 25th March, BBC3, 9pm ALERT ME

As the narration kicked into life, my conceptions of this programme formed in an instant. With the predictable narrative talking of ‘gutsy girls’ and ‘hair and make-up’, I began to see Girls On the Frontline as the result of a very short board meeting in the depths of the BBC. However, Paris Hilton-esque school-brats roughing it in an Iraq dorm this show is not.

Turns out, these women are in the army. It’s their job. Indeed, this programme should be renamed ‘Girls doing what they’re contractually obliged to do’. Next week: Girls who work in pubs give up periods and gossiping to pull pints for a FULL 6-11pm shift. Find out what goes wrong next week!

The utterly patronising narration rolls on with a smug whisper. “They’ll be giving up the parties and the good life – no more booze, no boyfriends, no make-up and DEFINITELY no glamour.? The helpful voice warns us. “Ha!? You’re supposed to think. “They’ll never drag themselves away from the ‘glamour’.? I wonder how the female narrator dragged herself away from the ‘glamour’ (whatever the hell ‘glamour’ even means) long enough to say these words she’s saying now. Girls are so brave! What about the lack of glamour!?

The narration seemed to have been recorded for the type of demeaning scream fest I thought it was going to become. Because of the way the show begins, you have to keep reminding yourself they’re not going to ‘pretend war’ or something. It loses any pathos and tension it may be attempting to capture by the fact that the programme itself can’t get over that women have a use in warfare.

The women are rational and calm about their tasks. It’s the narrator that makes you think that just around the corner will be Sheniqua and Carly trying to text their friends on mobile phones whilst a Corporal attempts to instruct them how to fire a gun as a heavy war grumbles on in the background ‘Ahhh I cant doo diss! Wherez my lipgloss. Carly…CARLY…have you seen dat man in dat outfit?…What’s dat noise?’

Carly and Sheniqua don’t come, and the female soldiers crack on with what they’re paid to do. As the half-way point of the documentary passes, the true rigours of war are shown as the battalion endures a sustained Taliban attack. This is where things get truly interesting, and as the clearly shaken cameraman shows, war is a serious business. Forget Saving Private Ryan, this is pretty terrifying.