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KIDS ON FILM

Girls Pin Five Stars on Demi Despite Unrealistic Scenes

September 18, 1997|MARK CHALON SMITH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

IRVINE — In "G.I. Jane," Demi Moore stars as a woman determined to become the first female Navy SEAL. Along the way to glory, she's subjected to brutal training, gender stereotyping and back-room politicking. (Rated R.)

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Girls love "G.I. Jane." They think she's baaaad. So bad she can survive boot camp, kick her drill sergeant's tail and take on a U.S. senator who has the scruples of a mealy bug.

And that's not all. This would-be Navy SEAL, the first woman to have such a dirty, dangerous job, is hot no matter what.

Whether sporting a buzz cut or crawling through the muck, Demi Moore looks gooood. And the girls loved that.

"She was so cool, the way she could do everything," said Karin Schartoff, 14, of Irvine. "I wouldn't want to do what she did [but] it makes you feel good" that Moore's character, Jordan O'Neil, is a woman. "And the guys [she trained with] really thought she was awesome too!"

Most girls, when pressed, agreed "G.I. Jane" was preposterous. Although the notion of a woman becoming a SEAL is not far-fetched, the way O'Neil accomplishes it struck them as absurd.

She doesn't break, no matter what, even as several of the men in drill camp with her fold like pup tents.

"That was weird, how she had so much [pressure on her] but hung in there," noted Alicia Stallings, 15, also from Irvine. "That part was hard to believe."

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That said, Alicia echoed what most young women felt: that even though the movie isn't realistic, it stands as a satisfying symbol of female empowerment. When O'Neil becomes not just a SEAL, but one of the troop commanders, the girls were thrilled.

"It was, like, she didn't let anything stop her," Alicia said. "It's OK to feel that way."

Young men also were enthusiastic about "G.I. Jane," but they seemed to enjoy the grueling scenes of life in boot camp.

They didn't respond to O'Neil's feminized machismo as much as to the idea that anybody, a man or a woman, can be severely tested and still come out on top.

"She was really strong [but] so was everybody else, too," said Eric Petersen, 13, of Yorba Linda. "It was bomb [meaning good] when they had to do weird stuff" like maneuver an obstacle course while bullets whizzed overhead.

Eric's friend Carter Lane, 14, also from Yorba Linda, enjoyed the movie's intensity. He was especially impressed by scenes at the end of SEAL training, when O'Neil leads her group on a simulated mission. She is captured and subjected to brutal mental and physical interrogation.

"It was cool the way she didn't lose it," Carter said.

But some of the passages upset Alicia. She was disturbed when O'Neil's sergeant beats her and then comes close to raping her to test her will. Karin also thought "G.I. Jane" went too far at that point.

"He didn't have to do that," Karin said. "She already showed how good she was."

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Parent Perspective: "G.I. Jane" has sporadic violence and more than a little profanity, which parents should keep in mind.

None of that, however, seemed to bother Marilyn DeHaven, who attended a screening by herself but wouldn't hesitate bringing her 13-year-old daughter, Joan. "I hated the rape scene, that's true, but really liked the basic message," said DeHaven, 42, of Irvine. "The fact that [O'Neil] overcomes so much to do what she wants is a valuable message."

Henry Petersen, Eric's 46-year-old dad, also didn't object to the film's intensity and cursing. He felt his son and teenage friend were mature enough to handle it. What Petersen didn't like was how predictable and manipulative "G.I. Jane" turned out to be.

"It's not very good, is it?" he said. "You know right off the bat that she's going to win out and show everybody how great she is. . . . What's the fun in that?"

* FAMILY FILMGOER, Page 22

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