Media representation of veterans and their families is a near-constant hot topic in military circles. TV producers, film directors and other media creators can easily exaggerate or mischaracterize military families and reinforce negative stereotypes.
The Lifetime network first introduced its show Army Wives in 2007. Many segments of the military community eagerly anticipated the series, which was primarily written by a military spouse. Army Wives has since become the highest-rated show in Lifetime’s history.
Despite the success of the show, reviews and criticism have been mixed. Some viewers say Army Wives inaccurately represents the life of a military spouse and focuses on certain aspects for dramatic effect.
The show is fairly inclusive of multiple races and genders. Many television shows are criticized for being “white washed,” meaning they feature an all-white character lineup. But there have been several main characters of color during the course of the show. Similarly, even with “wives” in the title, one of the main couples, Joan and Roland, is a service member wife and civilian psychiatrist husband duo.
Unfortunately, not all aspects of the show have been so inclusive or accepted in the military community. One major criticism more noticeable in the later seasons is the issue of class representation. While income and money isn’t a common topic, the main characters live in very nice homes, drive nice cars and dress in expensive-looking clothes.
This seems to undermine the more humble means to which many within the military community can relate. Not that there aren’t wealthier segments of the community, but the characters’ perceived means only seem to further the false stereotype that military families are loaded with government money.
A more common criticism in the military community is about enlistment family representation. The main cast of characters featured in the latest season represents commander and lieutenant families. Enlisted families are ancillary characters or have been written off the show or advanced in rank.
Similarly, the overall characterization of the wives as catty and competitive has resulted in some negative feedback from the community. Many of the wives are presented as overly dramatic and focused on advancing their husband’s career and image. Many feel that presenting a character or a cast that is family-driven and struggling with issues like deployment, juggling a job and family and more would more positively and accurately represent military life to the entire country.
It’s important for media creators to consider their choices when it comes to representing the military community. But viewers should also be aware that the characterizations on television will rarely, if ever, be completely accurate. This is about good stories, creating drama and pulling in viewers.
At the end of the day, Army Wives has continued to be an incredibly popular show.
Are you an avid viewer? Do the characters on the show represent your experiences in military? Feel free to share your thoughts below and on our Facebook page.
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