I faithfully watch ABC’s new submarine drama LAST RESORT each week to monitor the portrayal of the sub’s female military personnel.
On this sub the third-ranking officer is Lieutenant Grace Shepard (played by Daisy Betts), who is a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy (the equivalent of a captain in the U.S. Army).
And in the submarine book thriller LT. COMMANDER MOLLIE SANDERS that I wrote with my husband (and which was on Amazon long before the LAST RESORT premiered) the third-ranking officer is Lt. Commander Mollie Sanders, with a Navy rank equivalent to a major in the Army.
In the fictional realm LCRD Sanders deals with threatened sexual assault on the sub, and in an earlier episode as I recall so does Lt. Shepard.
In the Nov. 15th print edition of The Wall Street Journal — the same day as the “Nuke It Out” episode of LAST RESORT and in the midst of the ongoing Gen. Petraeus sex scandal, the news story “Air Force Combats Sex Misconduct” by Ana Campoy and Julian E. Barnes reported:
The U.S. Air Force said Wednesday it is taking broad measures to prevent sexual misconduct against recruits during basic training, after conducting an investigation into dozens of allegations of sexual harassment and rape by instructors at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.
I have believed for many years that the portrayal of people in fiction can strongly impact perception in the real world.
Thus it is with deep regret in my opinion that, on the Nov. 15th episode “Nuke It Out” of LAST RESORT, Lt. Shepard “hooks up” with the hot Navy Seal character James King (played by Daniel Lissing) in what she decrees as a “one time” act.
As Lt. Shepard “comes on” to King and not the other way around (he has already just slept with the woman who runs the bar on the island), one could make the argument that this is a realistic portrayal.
And one could also make the argument that Lt. Shepard “hooked up” with someone not on her submarine so she didn’t risk her chain-of-command authority. (How the Navy Seal came to be on the same remote island was explained in the first episode.) And, yes, she acted after a “near death” experience.
BUT … given how often in reality women military personnel must fend off sexual assaults, I would have preferred that this particular scene have been eliminated from the TV show.
Why? Because people confuse fiction with reality. And I can see sexual confusion resulting from such a portrayal.
(In the same episode, the captain of the sub, Marcus Chaplin — played by Andre Braugher, correctly turns down a subtle “come on” from a woman sailor on his sub.)
I do not believe that the women currently serving in the armed forces are well served by the “hook up” portrayal of the fictional character Lt. Grace Shepard.
And while the writers of LAST RESORT can certainly write whatever they want (within the network’s standards), I hope in the future they will consider how their fictional portrayals might impact real life. (According to imdbpro.com — so far there are only four MALE writers on the show.)
On the other hand, for a positive TV fictional portrayal that can help in real life, see my blog post “Truth and Fiction: News Events and Fictional Stories”
UPDATE: Just after I published this blog post, I read that LAST RESORT has been cancelled. If you want a fictional story of a woman on a submarine who does NOT “hook up” with a Navy Seal, get LT. COMMANDER MOLLIE SANDERS on Amazon now.
© 2012 Miller Mosaic LLC
Phyllis Zimbler Miller is a former military spouse as well as the author of fiction and nonfiction books/ebooks, including the military fiction MRS. LIEUTENANT: A Sharon Gold Novel and the cozy mystery CAST THE FIRST STONE with a subplot of non-combat trauma PTSD.
She also has an M.B.A. from The Wharton School and is the co-founder of the online marketing company www.MillerMosaicLLC.com