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Recently my husband and I watched the film WHISKEY, TANGO, FOXTROT on DVD. We weren’t expecting much. The trailers had led us to anticipate a slapstick comedy about women gone berserk when they’re set loose as war correspondents in Afghanistan. Sex, alcohol, and cluelessness. More dopey women. Yawn.
Whoever chose the scenes for the trailer did the film a grave injustice. While war correspondents (regardless of gender) living under pressure to produce good copy in perpetually dangerous situations undoubtedly do act a little crazy when the time comes to relax, this was NOT a women-gone-berserk movie. I can only imagine that someone said, “You know, this picture features female war correspondents in the Middle East; that’s not a big draw. What we do have that’s a big draw is Tina Fey in the lead. What is Tina Fey famous for? Comedy. Let’s play up that! Whatever we do, we want to avoid any hint that it’s a female empowerment movie!” I can’t imagine that audience members who bought tickets simply so they could see Tina Fey mugging it up were thrilled with this film. While the action and dialogue were often amusing, this was not a slapstick comedy.
Not only do we get a glimpse into the lives of modern war correspondents in action, but WHISKEY, TANGO, FOXTROT also plays deftly with its themes. Tina Fey embodies a video journalist plucked from her mundane job stateside who discovers precisely how clever, resourceful, and brave she is when the risks and rewards are suddenly gigantic. Even her attractiveness seems magnified. In fact, like her male counterparts, she becomes addicted to the adrenalin rush of taking immense chances in order to deliver exciting stories back to her audience. Her inhibitions—both sexual and ethical—are stretched thin. She soon understands why some soldiers sign up for repeated tours of duty in spite of being in harm’s way. Their sense of “normal” changes, so that life back in the States seems insipid in comparison.
I’m vaguely insulted that a thoughtful, well-written film like WHISKEY, TANGO, FOXTROT was marketed using only the lowest common denominator. The female characters—including local women—are anything but stupid. They are multi-dimensional people not entirely unlike the men—as likely to be rescuers as to need rescuing, as likely to use as to be used. For me, watching this film reminded me of the many sexual stereotypes we’ve come to expect. Maybe we help perpetuate them.