I thought that I would post a review done by a guest. Jason saw my review of Lauren (here) and we started a dialogue. I challenged him to write a review of the show. So here it is.
I first discovered Lauren, and the subject of military rape, back in October. I was just browsing Troian Bellisario’s Wikipedia page and discovered a short film on her filmography called Lauren, in which Troian played a soldier. Wow, that sounds awesome! And it was available to watch on Youtube, so I went and checked it out. Boy, was I not ready for it! While it wasn’t beyond my comprehension that rape can happen in the military, what did shock me was the lengths that the military goes to cover it up, including making the victims out the be the bad guys. After watching all three episodes, I felt like a part of me had died on the inside. I tried hard not to come back, but I just couldn’t ignore it.
Lauren tells the fictional story of SSG Lauren Weil (Troian Bellisario), a young soldier trying to report to her CO, Mjr. Jo Stone (Jennifer Beals), that she was gang raped by three of her own men. Stone seems concerned, but tries to discourage Lauren from getting justice (for her own safety).
The Report is by far my favorite episode. The episode starts with Stone reading over Lauren’s report, somewhat indifferently, and referring to Lauren’s plight as “the incident”. It isn’t really until Lauren brings up the word “rape” that we really understand how serious things are. Since this is a short story (~10 min.), the story depends on emotion and subtle performances to be memorable. And it succeeds. Stone continues trying to discourage Lauren (you start to realize that she does in fact care) even by laying out the facts that most rape cases never see the light of day, and for many, the results are unsatisfying, but Lauren persists, much to Stone’s annoyance. Troian’s performance is brilliant, it’s so emotional. You can’t help but feel for her, and maybe wonder why Stone is refusing to help. The one misstep of this episode, is when Stone uses Lauren’s 5-year-old daughter as an excuse not to go thru with her charge. “Think of what happens to her in all this. You have her livelihood to consider. You have responsibilities.” How dare she! If anything, that should be a reason to get the charge going. Think about Lauren going home and having to hide that burden from her daughter. Stone, how dare you! The highlight of the episode comes from Lauren’s speech. After Stone orders Lauren to get out and think about what she’s doing (also she reminds me of a whiny 12-year-old as she turns her back on Lauren and waits for her to leave), Lauren brings up her family’s military history and says that she wants her daughter to be proud of her when she goes home. “Baby, I did right!” She then says some kind and inspiring words that melt Stone’s heart and make her want to help. She dismisses Lauren and then rereads her report. To bookend the episode, when Stone first read the report, it was “just an accusation”, now as she rereads it, it’s Lauren getting in Stone’s face and saying “Look what these men did to me!” Lauren’s report is so detailed that that she can actually see the rape. We get to see glimpse of the rape and it’s actually quite an emotional scene. You feel so terrible for Lauren as she’s beaten, raped and humiliated by three @#$% who look like they’re having a ball. They disgust me! We come back to Stone’s office, where Stone starts to cry as she realizes what she’s trying to overlook (for some reason, Jennifer Beals does good crying scenes). The episode ends with Stone nervously reaching for her office phone to have this reported, but she still has her doubts that it’ll be taken seriously.
The Third Man opens with Lauren at the base’s shooting range practicing her grouping. It’s one of the few times in the series she gets to look bad ass. After that, she goes to meet with Masters (Navi Rawat) (rank unclear), an army legal rep. to start compiling evidence for her case. I hate Masters with every fiber of my being. Instead of getting Lauren’s side of the story, or asking useful questions, she asks inappropriate questions like, ‘Are you sexually active on base?’, ‘What did you do to lead the men on?, and ‘Why didn’t you think to have your weapon with you the night of the assault?’ Again, how dare she?! Isn’t she supposed to be helping her? And I know, true to life, but still…
It’s really hard to judge Navi’s performance. I know she’s playing a character and actually does a pretty good job, all things considered, but given how much I hate this character, it’s really hard to separate the character from the actress. I really don’t get what she represents either. Is she helping Lauren (as she was ordered) by getting her fighting mad, or is she making Lauren believe that the rape was her fault (“Don’t come @#$%ing to me that you had sex and changed your mind!”) The scene ends with Masters turning Lauren from a frightened but honorable young soldier into a bloodthirsty, she-devil, hell-bent on revenge. I don’t approve. Lauren leaves Masters’ office, refusing to salute her.
In the next scene, Stone meets with her CO, Col. Harold (Sam Hennings), and has confidence that Lauren will at least get to face her accusers in a court martial. Harold, however, informs her that Gen. Prince has ordered the case to be terminated. What? Why? (Also, when did he find out? A minute ago he was just discussing the case with Stone, and suddenly, he just found out the case of terminated. Did his invisible messenger just leave him a memo?) The details are classified. Stone is furious, but quickly figures out that Lauren’s third attacker, the one she didn’t know, was Lt. Prince, the general’s grandson. Col Harold isn’t as infuriating as Masters, but he’s still a chauvinist pig. “I abhor what happened to this girl, but her plight does not take precedence over our mission.” You can just tell he doesn’t care. ‘I abhor what happened to her, but not enough to do anything.’ Also, the Taliban don’t seem to be attacking at the moment (and I know that could change really quick), but Harold is just making it clear that no one cares. Also, I’ve actually seen this before, in the documentary “Roger and Me”, Michael Moore attempts to confront business mogul, Roger Smith, about the collapse of the small town of Flint, MI because he closed their GM plant. Like Harold, Smith feigns sympathy but has no reason to care. That’s what welfare is for. So I already don’t approve of his logic. When Stone complains, Harold reminds her of her place, and reminds her that if she persists, she could lose opportunities for advancement. Also, the responsibility of giving the bad news to Lauren falls to Stone. Stone states that she’s strong enough, and she’ll take care of it. Col. Harold, I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.
The Suck more than lives up to its name. Stone meets with Lauren, and as sympathetically as possible, breaks the news to Lauren that not only has her case been terminated, but her file has been buried and the evidence (the rape video) destroyed (all to protect her identity, of course). Lauren takes it about as well as you’d expect. What follows is a screaming match of epic proportions, with Lauren revealing how stubborn she can be, and Stone trying to hide behind her rank. Also, I feel like this story is written specifically to break down Lauren. They list off all of the crappy events in her life, being punished for something her brother did to her, her dead husband, her inconvenient daughter (okay, maybe I’m exaggerating that one a little), and now she being denied justice for something that should be punished. It sucks. Finally, Stone gives Lauren the worst advice I’ve ever heard; “Embrace the suck.” Lauren leaves infuriated.
Outside, Lauren meets up with Masters, who has suddenly decided that she cares about Lauren…for some reason. I love how Lauren tries to ignore her at first. I would too. She tells her about two other female soldiers who were raped and denied justice, with painful consequences. She has a proposition for Lauren; take the rape video she still has and send it to the Huffington Post and get the word out about military rape. She would be getting justice for not only herself, but so many women who’ve been denied justice. And given how stubborn Lauren is, she’d be the perfect soldier to lead the charge. Lauren seems interested, but says that would mean having to choose between with she loves (the army) and what’s right. “What’s the alternative?” asks Masters. Lauren sighs and then bitterly replies, “I embrace the suck!” (There it is, I just felt something die inside of me.) Lauren salutes a shocked Masters, and walks off to an uncertain fate.
So that was Lauren. How was it?
First of all, I know this story was meant to be upsetting, so I can’t judge it on how it makes me feel (Infuriated, by the way). However, I did think there were some problems.
The biggest problem, and I think most of my problems can be covered by this, is time. At three ten-minute episodes, this story is way too short. Because of this, we don’t get to see much of the characters of our two heroines, and important details are just crammed into the story and/or glanced over. As I said before, part one is the only episode that seems properly paced.
Second, this story is about the rape and nothing else. I know the point of this story was to draw attention to the subject of military rape and how it’s rarely dealt with, but show us something else. What does Lauren do in the military? How long has she served? What motivated her to serve? What has she accomplished? What’s her family life like? All good questions that are never answered, because we need to focus on the rape. While not their intention, what Lesli Linka Glatter and her cast and crew have made is a message to all women to get out and/or stay out of the military, not because they’re no good as soldiers, mind you, but because it’s not safe for them. (No joke, a friend of mine told me that the daughter of a friend of hers was thinking about joining the service, but when her mom told her what happens to women in the military, she immediately changed her mind.) I’m not saying that women don’t belong in the military (quite the opposite, I think any woman serving should be considered heroic, especially after this), but based on this story, there’s nothing for women in the military but pain, abuse and humiliation.
Finally, my last problem, I feel like they had to change the heroes’ personalities for the sake of a dramatic ending. In episode one, Stone refuses to take Lauren’s case, because it will just end badly. It’s almost safer not to report rape crimes in the service. But in the end, she’s moved by Lauren’s courage and sense of honor, she moved by what Lauren thinks of her, she appalled by what Lauren’s rapists did to her, that she thinks that this case might be worth fighting for. The case is terminated, as you’d expect, and Stone just gives up. I know the army holds all the cards, but given how much this case meant to Mjr. Stone, she would’ve tried to fight a little bit harder, or at least, she wouldn’t have left Lauren to fend for herself. As for Lauren, part 3 seems to turn her into a rage-driven monster. And I know she’s angry, but she’s still a far cry from the honorable soldier she was in part 1. I partly blame Masters for that. She rants that this fight isn’t over, but when Masters approaches her with a solution, she turns it down. It’s not worth giving up her job.
This just killed everything! To the cast and crew of Lauren, if you’re expecting praise for this scene, you might want to bring a sleeping bag.
First, “I embrace the suck” is just the worst line in film history. There’s nothing heroic about this line; it doesn’t make Lauren look brave, it’s her official surrender. Her rapists have won, she’s given up the last bit of her dignity, because it’s not worth defending. I hate this line! I never want to hear anyone, let alone Troian, say this line again. Thanks for killing my hero.
Second, what happened to Stub? A minute ago, Lauren wouldn’t shut up about how she wasn’t done with this issue. Then when Masters offers her help, she turns it down. That doesn’t make any sense. Not only because she said she’d keep fighting, but she has so many reasons to get out anyway; she could get away from her rapists, she can go home to her daughter who doesn’t need to lose another parent to the war, and she can fight this great injustice from the outside, like so many women before her. But no, Lauren can’t give up the thing she loves.
While we’re on the subject, this story has a theme of choosing between what you love and what’s right. And personally, I think it’s stupid. It’s a stupid attempt to make the story deep and it’s implying that if you keep your mouth shut, there are benefits. And there aren’t, the abuse and harassment doesn’t stop, you still have to live with the painful memory of what happened, and at worst, it will probably happen again. The only “benefit” is that the higher-ups don’t punish you for coming forward. Doing what’s right seems smarter no matter how you look at it. I understand that most victims don’t come forward because their afraid of reprisal, but making it seem like it’s a choice with benefits makes the whole thing sound stupid. I’m sure no victims are thinking about this when faced with the choice. All they’re thinking is that they want justice.
And finally, I could have accepted Lauren’s decision to stay, but only if it was done right. “I embrace the suck,” was NOT the way to go. As I’ve said above, this story implies that Lauren still wants to stay in the military without giving us much explanation as to why. We don’t know what Lauren does in the service, we don’t know what drives her, we don’t even know how her rapists have are doing since the incident. If she’d ended by saying, “I’ll take my chances,” or “I won’t let them think they’ve beaten me,” or “I’ve accomplished so much,” or even “I want my family and daughter to be proud of me,” I would have no issues with her decision to stay. But no, why would Lauren Weil want to leave and organization where she can be raped by her own men, and harassed and humiliated for trying to fight back?
I’ve heard rumors about further episodes of Lauren. I would love that so much. First off, Lauren has to come back. I’m worried that if they make another military story, I would be a spin-off about Mjr. Stone or Masters, or a new story about a completely different character. And while I wouldn’t mind that, I want to see Lauren, I want to know she’s okay, and I want to see her in a more heroic role, not just more about her failed rape case. Also, I’d love to hear about what she does exactly in the army, (medic? MP? Mechanic? Driver? Artillery? Engineer? What?!) Also, I’d love to hear about her family (both her parents and her husband and daughter). WIGS, puh-leease think about this!!!
All things considered, I give Lauren a final score of 8/10.
Yeah, as much as I hate the end results and what happens to our heroine, I don’t hate this series. I can’t. The acting is top-notch, I have a huge new appreciation for Troian Bellisario, Jennifer Beals, and Lesli Linka Glatter, and the story has woke me up to the issue of military rape. Seriously, before this, I didn’t know the military covers up rape crimes. After this, I wanna help, any way I can, even if it’s just showing people this series. I’ve also started researching everything I can find on the military, particularly the roles women have. After watching this, female soldiers are some of the most heroic people I can think of.
Up until the end, Lauren is my hero. She’s brave, strong, honorable and heroic. She actually makes me wonder if I should have thought about joining the army. Eh, I have a condition, and I probably wouldn’t have made it past boot camp, but it’s interesting to wonder.
I like the character of Mjr. Stone, but felt she was underused. She basically seems like the middle man, telling Lauren what she knows from experience and what the higher-ups would have her tell her. I feel like she and Lauren are the same character, except that Stone is twenty years older and more cynical. I wish they’d done more with her, (especially more scenes with Lauren) and feel like she actually drew strength from Lauren (another reason why the ending was so disappointing). Also, wait, she’s a CO, so even if she can’t get Lauren a court martial, there has to be something she can do. After all, these men still answer to her. Dang, I wish Stone was more developed, but I still loved her.
However the story still has its problems, it’s way too short and it shows too much rape victim and not enough Lioness. Don’t get me wrong, Lauren is still my hero, I just wanted to see more of her.
I would recommend this series to everyone, but only if you can handle it. The story is so heavy and painful that I almost thought I was going to be sick when I first watched it. I still recommend that everyone see this series at least once to see what our troops have to deal with besides enemy fire. If you come back for more, watch episode one; it’s the best paced, and Lauren seems truly heroic here. If you’re a fan of hardcore drama, or if you’ve served, I would definitely recommend this series.
Lastly, I’d like to give a shout-out to our brave men and women serving in our military. And to the victims of MST, just know that someone really does care.
I’ll give them to you tomorrow. While I agree with him on some points, I disagree heavily with him on others.