In response to First Lady Michelle Obama’s Joining Forces military families initiative, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Directors Guild of America, Producers Guild of America, Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild of America West formed a Joining Forces Inter-Guild Task Force to provide creative and production support for Mrs. Obama’s program and to inform and inspire their memberships about the service of America’s military families. The Guilds are hosting the First Lady for a special Joining Forces event to discuss the stories and issues of today’s military families so that their experiences can be integrated into film, television and digital media. The entertainment industry has the opportunity to help Americans learn more about the unique challenges and needs of military families and to showcase the families’ strength, resilience and service to our nation. The Guilds have joined Mrs. Obama’s effort to ensure America’s military families have the support and recognition they have earned.
The First Lady’s support for military families is commendable, but trying to call attention to the work they do on the homefront is hardly a new initiative. Lifetime was surprised when Army Wives, based on a reported book by a military daughter and wife, was a major hit, but the network has tried to keep the show true to the experience of actual military spouses and reaped nice ratings in return. Similarly, The Unit spent a lot of time switching back and forth between deployed soldiers and the families they’d left behind. Of movies about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, Harsh Times, The Hurt Locker, In the Valley of Elah, The Dry Landem>, The Messenger, Stop-Loss, Grace is Gone, and Brothers, all are in some substantial way concerned with the experiences of military families, especially after servicemembers return from deployments.
That’s not to say that we can ever give too much credit and honor to the families who support our troops while they’re overseas. I worked very closely with an Air Force wife for a couple of years, and I remain humbled by her strength. But we don’t need Michelle Obama to get involved, or a special task force, to make sure military families are simply represented in the media. I’d hope, instead, that this summit will be an opportunity to think about what kinds of stories we’re telling, and what kinds of military families are underrepresented, especially those of gay soldiers, non-white families, or fathers who have stepped up as caregivers while their wives are deployed. I doubt Gary Trudeau would ever go for this, but I think it would be pretty amazing to see an adaptation of the B.D. arc of the last several years, too. The war doesn’t end when everyone comes home.