At the time of this year’s Olympics, I saw a preview for a new reality show: military-themed.
Real ammunition. Real explosions. Real danger.
Real Special Forces train Hollywood Stars in this new “reality show,” Stars Earn Stripes (SES).
I’m sure by now you know the one. Like me, you may have even been real skeptical. I checked out the website and laughed when I saw a video of Dean Cain (a former love as Superman) low-crawling, I think, tired and asking, ‘Are you kidding me?” I rolled my eyes.
“Yes, NBC: Are you kidding me?”
Is this the stuff Real Soldiers want to see? Is it what America wants to see?
But, dang it; my interest was piqued to be sure: what’s so “real” about this?
There is: No war. No sacrifice. No evil.
I’m not saying there isn’t one of these celebrities who, under different circumstances, wouldn’t join the military or have it in them to “fight for our freedom.” I think I’m just saying that while that is truly going on, could we NOT use words like “Real,” “Danger,” “Earn” or “Epic” unless we’re talking about the real deal.
Those were my initial thoughts, and I stick by them.
But while I am known to judge quickly, I’m also known for taking second-looks and challenging my own judgment. So, I tuned in to all three episodes so far. The criticisms ranged from “too Hollywood” to “boring” and from “insulting” to downright “offensive.” All points of view worth reading.
To Each Their Own (in chronological order)
My opinions, For What They’re Worth
There is a silver lining; the contestants are earning money for various charities, like these examples of 3 and 4 Star rated ones:
- Pat Tillman Foundation: Investing in Veterans and their families through education and community
Charity Navigator rating: 3 Stars
- USO: Proudly serving the men and women who serve our country
Charity Navigator rating: 4 Stars
- Wounded Warrior Project: The greatest casualty is being forgotten
Charity Navigator rating: 3 Stars
There is no direct link from the NBC page, which makes no sense to me. I think the coverage of their work could be featured more prominently in the show, web site, and commercials. But if you want to learn more, you’re welcome to search the Army Wife Talk Radio podcast archives or Resource Database for the few of these charities who have been guests on our show. Over $150,000 have gone to charities these first few weeks.
Real things are going on if you look for them. I tried to figure out the ratio of good to bad sound bites, but that was very tedious. Did one of the operatives really brag about his “kill count”? Did a celeb really ask if the operative partner ever killed anyone? Did one momma share this was one of her ways to get out of the house and “do something for momma.” Yes; those things were said. I stopped writing them down. Instead I decided to focus on what the celebrities (and maybe viewers) were learning in a positive light.
Real education. In episode one, Laila Ali learned that “funkiness” is a “whole other thing.” I said the other day on a show that I imagined that desert sand was an equal opportunity irritant. The mud and muck couldn’t be much different. Sometimes the plain dirtiness of what service members endure makes me appreciate their hard work, and Laila did get a taste of that.
Real fear. There was no mistaking Nick Lachey’s face when he watched another squad carry out an air-assault type mission that included rappelling. He was scared. I would be too! But he overcame that fear, and his buddies helped him through his emotional struggle.
Both the fear and education are components spouses and families encounter when they seek out their own “taste of real military duties” through weapons familiarization, physical training, and basic maneuvers at Jane Wayne Day, various organizational days, or programs such as USO’s Operation Basic Boot Camp. We are naturally curious, every one of us.
And almost every one of us loves our military. So I choose to take this show for its intention, however unsophisticated its execution.
Producer Mark Burnett says:
As you know I am a veteran and served in the [British Army] Parachute Regiments. I love the military. What this show is, and what you’ll see, is a love letter, in a fun way, to those who protect and serve us, showing how hard it is to do their job.
So it is heartfelt, but can it be impactful? I asked the same thing about the hometown “welcome home parades” that came under fire last spring. “What comes before the parade [or this war-game fundraiser, Stars Earn Stripes] and after? What vets really need are their entitlements, resources, jobs, and support systems.”
I say if you tune in, don’t get caught up rooting for these stars, when we have real men and women in stripes who’ve otherwise earned our time and attention.
And I’d like to suggest some other ways to get to know and support our military in a more
Read Marlantes’ What It’s Like to Go To War.
Write a soldier or military family member to tell them you appreciate them.
Don’t forget to contribute to the real dollars it takes to keep military family and veteran support programs going long after these episodes stop running.
What are your suggestions?