Stars Earn Stripes

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Stars Earn Stripes TV Poster Image
Fire-powered reality contest tries to honor U.S. servicemen.

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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Stars Earn Stripes attempts to pay homage to people who serve in the U.S. military and law enforcement and constantly draws attention to the dangerous jobs they do, but the result trivializes their work more than honors it. It also reflects some of the military's patriarchal culture, including sexist comments like "treat the gun gently, like a woman."

Positive Role Models & Representations

The U.S. operatives are presented as patriots -- brave and honorable. They're all male and Caucasian; the celebrity contingent is more diverse.


Lots of firepower, including machine guns, grenade launchers, explosions, etc., but all in a controlled environment. Many of these weapons are described in detail. Bullets are real and are shown being shot in slow motion. Celebs are sometimes shown panicking or screaming for help. Questions are briefly asked about operatives' experience at war but aren't really answered.


Jokes are made about having "crushes" on some of the U.S. operatives.


Words like "damn" and "ass" are audible. Some sexist comments.


Logos for LifeLock, Ford, UnderArmor, and other items are obviously visible.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that celebs and U.S. servicemen pair up in Stars Earn Stripes to compete in military-style maneuvers to earn money for charity while attempting to pay tribute to the military and other first-responder agencies. There's lots of fire power (machine guns, grenade launchers, explosions), some salty language ("damn," "ass"), and occasionally audible sexist comments. Logos for Ford, LifeLock, UnderArmor, and other companies are prominently featured.

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What's the story?

In STARS EARN STRIPES, eight celebrities team up with U.S. operatives to compete for donations for various veteran and first-responder charities. Hosted by General Wesley Clark (retired) and Samantha Harris, the show pairs actors like Dean Cain and Terry Crews, entertainers like Nick Lachey, and athletes like Laila Ali and Picabo Street with current or retired members of organizations like the Navy SEALS, the U.S. Army Delta Force, and even the NYPD. They're trained to fire weapons, navigate obstacle courses, and complete other challenging activities. Each week the teams compete against each other in military-inspired missions to earn stripes worth money for their chosen charity. Throughout it all, General Clark observes from mission control. The celebs with the weakest performances face off in elimination challenges. At the end of the competition, the winning celebrity will earn $100,000 for the organization s/he is representing.

Is it any good?

The action-packed series raises awareness for various charities while paying homage to the men and women who serve the United States in the armed forces and other first-responder units. Throughout the competition, details are offered about the servicemen on the show, the different kinds of weapons the units are using to complete their missions, and the intense training and real challenges they face when engaged in real-life military operations and crisis situations.

Some folks will find the pseudo-military maneuvers and large-scale fire power featured in Stars Earn Stripes inspiring. But thanks to some cheesy special effects, obviously placed sponsorship logos, and the endless repetition of words like "patriotic" and "hero," the show also manages to trivialize what really happens when people go to war or respond during times of crisis by recreating these experiences into Hollywood-style competitions. There are some mild positive messages here, but, overall, Stars Earn Stripes makes entertainment out of violence.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what it's like to prepare for going to war and/or responding to a national crisis. What kind of training do law enforcement officers need to be able to do their jobs? Why do people choose to do this kind of work if it means putting their lives on the line?

  • Do you think a reality competition series is the best way to pay homage to American servicemen and women? Why or why not? What are some of the other ways that television can be used to raise awareness about the people who serve the country?

TV details

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