Under the Radar

Women Face Down Their Post-Military Challenges in 'Served Like a Girl'


I first saw "Served Like a Girl" at SXSW back in March 2017 and later sat down with filmmaker Lysa Heslov and most of the women profiled in the film. It was really a conversation that should've been on camera, but they were every bit as fascinating in person as they are in this movie.

"Served Like a Girl" premieres on "Independent Lens" on Memorial Day, Monday, May 28, 2018, 10:00-11:30pm ET (check local listings) on PBS. You may have to look for "Independent Lens" in your local TV listings instead of "Served Like a Girl." Online streaming on the PBS site begins May 29th.

The film follows retired Army Major Jas Boothe and her "Ms. Veteran America" competition. It's a bracing counterpoint to every other beauty pageant documentary you might have seen, as the contestants are dealing with a variety of issues including PTSD, homelessness, broken families, serious illness, physical injuries, and military sexual abuse.

Preparing for the pageant gives each a sense of purpose and the event itself allows them to find camaraderie with fellow veterans who are facing personal challenges. Anyone who's dealing with post-service issues themselves or in their families will likely find someone to identify with even if Pageant World couldn't possibly have anything to do with your life.

Lysa Heslov does something else important with her film. So many films that approach these issues land on "inspiring" and sand off the rough edges to present an edifying tale about redemption. The women in this movie seem to be presented as something close to who they really are. They're complicated, flawed and struggling to handle their business. They're also far more inspiring because they're not suffering saints.

We've got a clip from the movie featuring Major Jas Boothe. She's a warrior.


And check out a trailer for the movie.

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