Saturday, May 17, 2014

Armed Forces Day: SF/F Style

Hi all,

So, whilst looking for inspiration for this blog I discovered that today is Armed Forces Day not just in the US but in many countries around the world.

In honor of today and the brave troops who serve their country so faithfully I thought it might be kind of fun to think about some of the great fictional soldiers we've seen in SF/F throughout the years.

5. Wedge Antilles (and all the other brave X-Wing pilots from Star Wars)

Wedge and the other members of Rogue Squadron are the unsung heroes of the Star Wars universe. While Luke and Han were off having grand adventures, taking down shield generators and facing the Evil Emperor himself, Wedge and his pilots were busy doing the really heavy lifting of a major space invasion. 

4. Captain Steven Hiller from Independence Day (Played by a very young Will Smith)
I remember when this film first came out everyone was a little dubious: "The Fresh Prince as a fighter pilot? Really?" But Will Smith earned his leading man chops with this film and created a wonderful military character with Captain Steve Hiller. One of my favorites parts of ID4 is how they portrayed Steve: yes he's goofy and charming but when he's in the air he is all business and the baddest of bad asses in the sky. I enjoyed how the filmmakers showed that the pilots and other military personnel could get the job done but still have engaging and lively personalities in their off-duty hours.

3. Corporal Dwayne Hicks from Aliens (Played by the fabulous Michael Biehn)

I'm a total Hicks/Ripley shipper, so I love him for that, but even apart from he and Ripley together he's just an awesome character (and soldier) in general. Some favorite Hicks moments: In the briefing room when Hudson derails Ripley's with his smart-assing Hicks is the one who slices through all the bravado and shit-talking to cut to the chase: "What are we dealing with here?". Another great moment is when Ripley basically thrusts command at him as he's next in line after the two superior officers are killed and injured; there's this great acting moment where you see Hicks' total reluctance--and yet Hicks accepts the responsibility. Never once after that does he waver in his duty or his bravery. Never once does he shirk that responsibility to his men or the civilians under his care. And, later, when Ripley is nearly hysterical, insisting that Newt the little girl is alive, that they can rescue her, Hicks doesn't argue with Ripley. He agrees, unblinking, to go to the aliens' den to find the innocent little girl. Hicks is brave, loyal, vulnerable, and a totally awesome military hero.

2. Ranger Mako Mori from Pacific Rim (Played by Rinko Kikuchi)
Mako is one of my new favorite military bad asses. Get her in the cockpit of a hi-tech fighter robot and she will not only kick some serious ass--she'll save the world. Mako's inclusion on this list is because of what a wonderful female character she is. Vulnerable without being weak. Strong without being a hard ass. Feminine without being the love interest. I can't wait to see more great ladies like Mako in my SF/F Armed Forces to help represent the many, many brave woman who already serve their countries so well.

1. Captain America/Steve Rogers from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Marvel Comics (Played by the adorakable Chris Evans)
OK, so if we're talking about great soldiers in fantasy stories it's pretty much a given that Steve Rogers will be on the list, especially as portrayed by Chris Evans (who's just fantastic in the role). Because Steve is a great soldier not because of the super serum that makes him into Captain Hunk--I mean, America, Steve is great because he's a good man. I could wax rhapsodic about this character forever but, for now, let's just talk about a few great Steve moments from the movies...

Before the super serum, he's asthmatic, sick with about every disease you can imagine and about a foot shorter than he needs to be to qualify to enlist. So what does this brave, under-sized, sickly little punk do? He goes to a dozen different cities and continually tries to enlist just to see if he can find somewhere that will let him enlist and fight for his country. Later, he throws himself on a grenade to save other people. He crashlands a plane while still inside just so he can save others, even though that's what ends up leaving him a CapSicle swept out of time from everyone he's ever loved.

In his best incarnations, this character embodies not just what we hope for in a good soldier (bravery, strength, self-sacrifice) but what we, as Americans, truly hope for from our country: loyalty, justice, kindness, a sense of service to something greater than ourselves--and the fortitude to fight for those qualities whatever the cost.

Of course, no fictional heroes could ever compete with the real life servicemen and women who are out there, even now, fighting far away for the liberty and safety of their homelands. I just want to offer heartfelt thanks to all former and current soldiers. Thank you all for your bravery, for your sacrifices, for your service.

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