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Critics Rave About This New Show For Its Authenticity, But It Still Stereotypes Vets
Looking for a new sitcom to binge on while on overnight duty? You might be tempted by the Netflix reboot of “One Day at a Time.” The new version of the series is about a family of military veterans and the critics love it. Fusion said it “achieved the authenticity we’ve been missing from television.” CNN insisted it “gives reboots a good name.” The New York Times declared it “better than the original.”
I disagree. There are some laughs, but those become stifled under the show’s obviously liberal, politically charged slant. The show’s plot follows Penelope, a Hispanic Afghan War veteran and recently separated single mom as she battles parenthood, her Cuban mother, and the VA. Penelope’s biggest beef by far is with her soon-to-be ex-husband Victor, a former Army infantryman, now working as a contractor in Afghanistan.
Unfortunately, Penelope’s veteran backstory comes off like ill-applied camouflage paint, designed to conceal Hollywood-style political ideology beneath a veneer of virtue. Over the course of the first season, the audience learns that Penelope previously served in Afghanistan as an Army nurse, having sustained a shoulder injury during a mortar attack. So far, so good, but the writers get the details wrong. For example, there’s a scene where Penelope gives her daughter’s friend her old “leather” Army combat boots. Never mind that jungle boots were phased out in 2008. Later, Penelope is shopping for a car and is surprised to learn that her car salesman is a woman and also an Army vet. The two talk about how they had enlisted, but as an Army nurse, wouldn’t that make Penelope an officer? Such sloppy errors show up throughout the first season, and though the details are minor, it makes the rest of the veteran backstory feel like the writers are playing vet bingo, marking off common misconceptions about former service members and applying them to their lead character.
My biggest criticism of the show, however, is in the writer’s treatment of Penelope’s ex-husband, Victor. It’s presumed that they served together as sergeants in the Army. Suffering from a traumatic brain injury, he began drinking heavily upon his return from Afghanistan, prompting Penelope’s decision to separate. He re-enters her life toward the end of the season, apparently a changed man but estranged from his wife and out of touch with his daughter. That’s when the writers blow it. Spoiler alert: Victor eventually relapses revealing that his change is not sincere. That’s right: Victor, a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, is the bad guy. In the end, he abandons his daughter right before the father-daughter dance at her quinceañera, a few hours after she tells him she’s a lesbian.
In its strenuous effort to portray members of the armed forces in a positive light, “One Day at a Time” makes Penelope a strong female veteran who is seeking help for her service-related injuries. Then, to make her even more sympathetic, they trash her male veteran counterpart. Victor is the opposite of Penelope: He’s the stereotypical bad vet. He doesn’t move on from Afghanistan. He refuses treatment for his PTSD. He struggles with alcoholism. He’s, heaven forbid, a conservative.
The worst part is, it didn’t have to be this way. The writers set up a perfect opportunity to redeem Victor at the season’s finale by having him show up at his daughter’s quinceañera, despite his misgivings about her sexuality. By allowing the character to make that final, conciliatory gesture, the writers could have displayed depth and empathy for his character. But they thought it worked better like this. Where veterans are concerned, it seems, Hollywood is still in no rush to portray the veteran demographic authentically, or with real empathy.
To be fair, the show does have a strength, and that’s in its portrayal of the Hispanic-American family, one that crosses several generations. The airing out of cultural and intergenerational differences is what the show is really about and where many of the laughs come from. But it’s not enough. This show does nothing to improve the negative image of the male combat veteran, but instead has thrown more stereotypes and misconceptions into the mix.
The show’s producer, Norman Lear, gave us some of the most classic shows ever made, including “All in the Family,” which perfectly captured the fraught politics of the 1970s. And Lear is a veteran himself, having enlisted after Pearl Harbor and served as a radio operator/gunner on 52 combat missions. And he’s a supporter of veterans telling their own stories on film.
That said, Lear’s 94, and he’s probably not the main force behind the show. Let’s hope he gets more involved in season two.
13 Marines at Camp Pendleton charged with crimes related to smuggling of undocumented immigrants from Mexico
Thirteen Marines have been formally charged for their alleged roles in a human smuggling ring, according to a press release from 1st Marine Division released on Friday.
The Marines face military court proceedings on various charges, from "alleged transporting and/or conspiring to transport undocumented immigrants" to larceny, perjury, distribution of drugs, and failure to obey an order. "They remain innocent until proven guilty," said spokeswoman Maj. Kendra Motz.
The recruiting commercials for the Army Reserve proclaim "one weekend each month," but the real-life Army Reserve might as well say "hold my beer."
That's because the weekend "recruiting hook" — as it's called in a leaked document compiled by Army personnel for the new chief of staff — reveal that it's, well, kinda bullshit.
When they're not activated or deployed, most reservists and guardsmen spend one weekend a month on duty and two weeks a year training, according to the Army recruiting website. But that claim doesn't seem to square with reality.
"The Army Reserve is cashing in on uncompensated sacrifices of its Soldiers on a scale that must be in the tens of millions of dollars, and that is a violation of trust, stewardship, and the Army Values," one Army Reserve lieutenant colonel, who also complained that his battalion commander "demanded" that he be available at all times, told members of an Army Transition Team earlier this year.
According to an internal Army document, soldiers feel that the service's overwhelming focus on readiness is wearing down the force, and leading some unit leaders to fudge the truth on their unit's readiness.
"Soldiers in all three Army Components assess themselves and their unit as less ready to perform their wartime mission, despite an increased focus on readiness," reads the document, which was put together by the Army Transition Team for new Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville and obtained by Task & Purpose. "The drive to attain the highest levels of readiness has led some unit leaders to inaccurately report readiness."
Lt. Gen. Eric J. Wesley, who served as the director of the transition team, said in the document's opening that though the surveys conducted are not scientific, the feedback "is honest and emblematic of the force as a whole taken from seven installations and over 400 respondents."
Those surveyed were asked to weigh in on four questions — one of which being what the Army isn't doing right. One of the themes that emerged from the answers is that "[r]eadiness demands are breaking the force."
The Army thinks China will surpass Russia by 2028. Here is how the service is planning to take them on.
If you've paid even the slightest bit of attention in the last few years, you know that the Pentagon has been zeroing in on the threat that China and Russia pose, and the future battles it anticipates.
The Army has followed suit, pushing to modernize its force to be ready for whatever comes its way. As part of its modernization, the Army adopted the Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) concept, which serves as the Army's main war-fighting doctrine and lays the groundwork for how the force will fight near-peer threats like Russia and China across land, air, sea, cyber, and space.
But in an internal document obtained by Task & Purpose, the Army Transition Team for the new Chief of Staff, Gen. James McConville, argues that China poses a more immediate threat than Russia, so the Army needs make the Asia-Pacific region its priority while deploying "minimal current conventional forces" in Europe to deter Russia.
In leaked documents, Army family reports waiting weeks to have gas line and roof leaks fixed in on-base housing
As the saying goes, you recruit the soldier, but you retain the family.
And according to internal documents obtained by Task & Purpose, the Army still has substantial work to do in addressing families' concerns.