I have a theory on why the television series Army Wives is so popular, and it has nothing to do with the brilliant cast. Nine out of ten times, when I see a story on the news about military families, it goes something like this:
This is milspouse Suzie. Suzie's husband Scotty is about to leave for his third deployment. He wasn't home when his daughter was born. Scotty's son is three years old, but his father has only spent one short year out of those three with his son. Suzie knows it's going to be hard without Scotty. The family is trying to spend as much time together before Scotty leaves in September. Another good-bye.
That storyline does tug at the heartstrings, and it's an accurate account of life during war. It has, after all, taken place thousands of times over, and will continue to take place for the foreseeable future. But it's so vanilla, and it barely scratches the surface.
Army Wives offers nuance. Viewers get a good flavor of the joys and challenges facing milspouses. The show touches on a host of issues (positive and negative) that are rarely probed elsewhere. Except here, of course.... And that's a shame, because it's clear that the nuance registers with people. The record-smashing success of Army Wives is proof positive of that.
Between now and November, MTV news is planning to feature one story per week highlighting "various issues facing young (under 30) Iraq/Afghanistan war veterans and their families." While this is obviously timed to coincide with the election season, and we don't touch politics around here, I think it's a great idea. If done right, this is an opportunity for MTV to go beyond the obvious and put the vanilla stories on the shelf. And let's hope they don't fall into a familiar trap. I don't believe they would. I think they are truly interested in the stories.
Wouldn't you like to see some stories featuring reintegration, deployment tantrums, marking time, answering-machines, R&R dilemmas, loneliness, quiet panic, anticipatory grief, emotional detachment, frustrations, arms-length photography, disconnects, single parenting, preparedness, good-byes, silver linings and things that just suck? Whew! That's a lot of stuff, but this is our life. And each of us have interesting and relevant stories to tell.
MTV News wants to hear more:
As part of a series of articles on veteran's issues on the mtv.com/news site, a reporter for MTV would like to speak with military spouses of service members who are 30 and younger about their experiences. The writer is particularly interested in stories about young families/wives/children creatively coping with having loved ones deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Creatively coping? A milspouse must have invented that term....
So, if you're a milspouse (30 or under), and you're interested in sharing your stories with MTV News, email Gil of MTV by clicking here. And if your story is featured on MTV, please let us know. We want to read or watch it!