Girls on a mission: Feminist humanitarianism and the war on terror in Tony Grounds's Our Girl (BBC 2013-)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Our Girl (2013-) is a prime-time BBC television drama series about a young female Combat Medical Technician working for the British army. The production recycles televisual and cinematic iconographies of the War on Terror, blending the cosy conventions of soap opera with the grainy realism of the grunt film and the thematic and structural conventions of recent television documentaries about British soldiering overseas. Ideologically, the drama reflects a liberal-feminist sensibility, registering recent changes in the position of women in the armed forces and focusing on the efforts of a career-focused, working-class white woman to protect Muslim girls from the phallocentric fundamentalists who would exploit them. Through a critical theory-informed textual analysis of three of Our Girl’s central discursive themes – its insistence on the human rights of young girls, its patriotic assertions of national and institutional belonging, and its elision of anti-imperialist critique – I argue that Grounds’s drama offers viewers the pleasures of nationalistic militainment and evinces a paranoid anxiety about the existential threat posed by Muslim others, at home and abroad. Its ostensibly progressive gender politics are thus undermined by orientalist and imperialist inscriptions of British militarism. Portraying white women as the humanitarian saviours of brown bodies-at-risk, Our Girl, it is argued, both reproduces the civilisationist common sense of the post-9/11 era and unsettles certain feminist assumptions about the ideological progressiveness of ‘strong’ working-class female characters in television drama.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of British Cinema and Television
Publication statusAccepted for publication - 1 Jan 2025

Keywords

  • feminism
  • humanitarianism
  • War
  • television drama
  • BBC

Cite this