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An Officer and a Gentleman
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this film contains some brief nudity (female breasts and buttocks, male buttocks) and explicit sexual dialogue. The military training sequences involve homophobic and racial slurs as well as fistfights. Several of the female characters are depicted as trying to get soldiers to impregnate them. Characters drink heavily. In addition, one of the main characters commits suicide.
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What's the story?
In AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN, Zack Mayo's (Richard Gere) mother commits suicide, and he's left to be raised by his drunken philandering soldier father. Unfortunately, Zach's dad treats him more like a drinking buddy than a son. After college graduation, Zack follows in his father's footsteps by enlisting in the Navy's flight school. The majority of the film chronicles Zack's time in basic training -- the friends he meets, the battles he fights, the mistakes he makes, his inability to fully commit to girlfriend Paula (Debra Winger), and the father figure he finds in Sgt. Foley (Louis Gossett Jr.).
Is it any good?
At the heart of this passable drama is a boys-becoming-men theme, as well as father-son relationships, be they in the form of an alcoholic parent or an intimidating drill sergeant. Herein lays the film's most problematic message -- that physical intimidation, psychological bullying, and outright degradation are okay in the frame of military service.
In this equation, women are depicted very poorly. Paula and Lynette are painted as trashy, scheming girls on the make. They try to entice soldiers into sex, marriage, and commitment against their will. The vulgar language, sexual overtones, and predatory nature of these relationships make this film too intense for young viewers. At the same time, families who watch this together could discuss these behaviors -- and how they relate to both men and women in the military.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the relationships that Zack has with his father and with Sgt. Foley. Who do you think he looked up to more? Is Zack treated fairly by Sgt. Foley? Families could talk about the depiction of female characters in the movie. How are Paula, Lynette, and Seeger portrayed differently? Why did Seeger have a hard time in the military? How is she different than both Paula and Lynette?
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