Friday, September 6, 2013

What I'm Watching on Netflix: Bomb Girls

A few months ago I was scrolling through Netflix's suggestions for me, looking for something new to watch, and a mini-series called Bomb Girls was suggested. You all know my love for period dramas of any sort, so I was immediately intrigued. I liked the idea of an entire show based not only in the '40s, but focusing on women's part in WWII - a point of view you don't really get the chance to understand outside of seeing Rosie the Riveter splashed on everything. (Don't get me wrong - I love Rosie the Riveter and all she represents, but you can't really understand an entire lifestyle from a propaganda campaign.)
The story of women working in the munitions factories, becoming their families' top earners, growing Victory Gardens, forgoing glamour for jump suits and turbans....and also losing their husbands, their sons, skimping on food and basic materials, changing their entire lifestyles to win the isn't glamour and it isn't easy and to have a show display their realities without glossing over things is remarkable and exciting (and yes, this is coming from a media studies student). From the dangers of working in these factories to the struggles of being a lesbian in a time when, not only is homosexuality unacceptable, but when women are expected to be entirely dependent upon men. The stories of the women are dynamic and brave.

I ran through season one in a couple of days and noticed that season two is now available on Netflix, so I'm back to bingeing. Although the show's writing is sub-par and the acting can vary from alright to pretty darn bad (maybe due to the writing), the story is intriguing and the characters are strong and likeable (but not in a boring way). Mostly though, I like the television show because it's so rare that you get to engage in a show based entirely around the lives of women, from the viewpoints of women, and women being together and actually have substance without needing a man. It's not commonly seen in our modern media, regardless of the country it's made in (Bomb Girls is Canadian) and to finally have a viewpoint of women during a war and especially a war which is largely considered a man's war is something that's been a long time coming.

One of my favourite story lines, that of Lorna Corbett (Meg Tilly), is about the floor manager at Victory Munitions. Both of her sons are fighting in the war, her husband is a paralyzed WWI vet suffering from PTSD, and her daughter has devoted herself to healing soldiers at the hospital. I love her story because it is the most dynamic of them all and because she is, in my opinion, the strongest, most fierce character of the show. The plights of middle-aged housewives, regardless of time period, is not something that is commonly highlighted in movies and television (and no, the Real Housewives reality show doesn't count). At the factory, she is hardheaded, a leader and a role model to all the young women (and sometimes their friends) but at home, she is vulnerable and lost in the war, still making mistakes and weaving in and out of how to save her family.
I also love the male-characters in the show. They're funny and sweet, equally strong as the women, but downplayed and mostly background characters, in the same way that women are usually in shows about men. Furthermore, the men in the show mostly play as emotional support to their hardworking women. They are, dare I say it, feminists even (I never thought I'd say that about mainstream media). But I don't really want to talk about the men when this show has so many strong women...
Betty (Ali Liebert), Gladys (Jodi Balfour), Kate (Charlotte Hegele), and Vera (Anastasia Phillips) wait in line outside Victory Munitions.

Harvesting the Victory Garden. (Side note: I bought a retro gardening book all about how to grow your own victory garden and now I cannot wait to have a yard so that I can grow one!)

I don't want to give away spoilers (since I want all of you guys to go out an watch the show now, DUH), but I cannot say enough good things about Bomb Girls. Anyone who has completely lost hope in the state of mainstream media should watch even just a few episodes of Bomb Girls and be amazed that there can be strong, leading female characters who do stuff other than sit around talking about boys and hair.
Unfortunately, the show wasn't picked up for a third season. Fans have already pulled together to Save Bomb Girls and hopefully they succeed with the effort! Also, if anyone is interested in learning more about the women in the factories, check out the documentary The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter (1980) about the lifestyle of female factory workers and what happened when the boys came home from war.
p.s. I also wanted to give a shout out to the impeccable hair and wardrobe team behind the show. I froth at the mouth for their perfect pin curls and victory rolls and their beautiful frocks and wide-legged pants. But puh-lease, I could talk about that for a number of other period pieces. If I can get a chance to talk about strong female leads, I'll do that in a heartbeat instead.
photo cred: Bomb Girls on FB


Milex said...


Anonymous said...

The clothing is beautiful. I LOVEEEEEE highwaisted Katherine Hepburn slacks. But then I love highwaisted almost anything...