Why women like "Band of Brothers"
Now I’m a sucker for a good series on TV. Just have a think with me here. The West Wing. The Newsroom. The Sopranos. Game of Thrones. That’s just four and they were all exceptional in their own way. Of course, they were all very different. One centres around politics and the White House. One set in a newsroom with the stories of the day. One set around the head of the mafia, his family and all that life entails. The last one, a fantasy based on a book, and incredibly well received by the world. Every now and then, something extra special hits the screens. Back in 2001 Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg put together something extraordinary. I am talking about Band of Brothers.
Any series with the names Hanks and Spielberg at the helm is almost certain to grab attention but put those two names alongside the synonymous Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and historian Steven Ambrose’s book, Band of Brothers and you are certain to oversee a sure-fire winner.
Band of Brothers graced our screens across ten episodes in the latter part of 2001. We were introduced to all the characters from the company. Babe Heffron, Bill Guarnere, Lewis Nixon, Richard Winters and many more. The series was very quickly encapsulated into the nation’s hearts. The series gave us more than a story adapted for TV. The series gave us more than a bunch of men playing soldiers on screen. The series gave us history. The series gave respect and honour to the 506th.
It did that by allowing the men to tell their own stories through interviews. Showing the interviews was the ace card, but the winning hand was sheer perfection. It wasn’t until episode 10, that it was revealed which veteran was which. Of course, you could make an educated guess but episode ten was the confirmation.
Am I weird?
Who likes war “stuff”? Is it more men? More women? What’s the consensus here do you think?
I have been told that I am weird for liking war books, movies, and documentaries. I have been told that it is unusual for a woman to be interested. I often wondered if the person that said this was right? Am I weird? It got me thinking. We all know that men love to watch movies such as Saving Private Ryan, We were Soldiers and Platoon. I know my late husband always reliably informed me “They are classics you know”. But the big question for me, was “Do women like Band of Brothers and why?”
War and me
Band of Brothers took 2 watches for me to really enjoy. I watched it back in 2001 on the original showing, thinking that it was a good show but not really understanding or appreciating what it was that I was watching. Then a year or so later, I watched again. Roll on a few years and I watched again.
Back up reading
In between the various watching of the series, I started reading. I didn’t stop reading. I read:
- Beyond Band of Brothers – by Major Dick Winters.
- In the footsteps of Band of Brothers – Larry Alexander.
- Hang Tough – Erik Dorr.
- A Company of Heroes – Marcus Brotherton.
- Parachute Infantry – David Webster.
- Conversations with Major Dick Winters – Cole C. Kingseed.
- Easy Company Soldier – Sgt Don Malarkey.
- Band of Brothers – Steven Ambrose.
Rewatching the series
By reading the books and rewatching the series (yes, I know…. watching again!), it enabled me to really understand for the first time what it was that I liked about it. It wasn’t anything to do with men in uniform or how handsome the soldier was. None of that superficial nonsense. For me, it went deeper.
You see, when you are an army soldier, there are several things that you can be certain of. You can be certain that you will see the horrors of war. You can be certain of facing death head on but the one thing you can be sure of, more than anything else, is the comradeship. That word, comradeship.
I remembered my late husband talking about his days in the British Army. He was part of the Falklands campaign, Northern Ireland and also Germany. Comradeship is something he felt deeply and always talked about. He would tell me that there was an unspoken trust between you all and especially the man next to you. You always knew he’d have your back, and you would have his. This is shown all the way through Band of Brothers and it is exquisite to see that played out in so many ways.
Whether it be through procedures such as jump training, “5-ok; 4-ok; 3-ok” and so on. Whether it be through the conflicts that you have fought together (In Band of Brothers you hear this demonstrated in the veteran interviews). In the episode titled “Replacements”, you hear the new replacements talk about what Easy have been through, and the comradeship they have. The replacements in Easy realised they had to earn that. Comradeship is evident in the relationships you see in the show. In every unit you develop small groups. That comradeship is evident there too. Just think back to the show. Winters/Nixon. Heffron/Guarnere. There are of course more.
Seeing yourself in the characters
Watching the show and the characters, encourages an Introspective look at yourself. I see elements of Nixon in myself. I see elements of Richard Winters in myself. Most of all, partly I think due to my medical background, I see the obvious comparisons in the medical side, both with Doc Roe and Renee, the nurse. I see them, not just for who they are, but how they worked too.
Getting on with the job. Seeing what was in front of them, prioritising it, fixing it and moving on. The “it is what it is and I need to deal with it” mentality. Almost like putting blinkers on to the chaos that surrounded them.
A friend of mine who enjoys Band of Brothers with a similar passion to myself, explained how she sees the characters. She said “For example, I saw a lot of similar traits and characteristics within myself through Shane Taylor’s portrayal of Eugene “Doc” Roe who is my favourite character in the show, and Damian Lewis’s portrayal of Richard Winters such as keeping calm in stressful situations, the quiet reflective nature, looking out for others, etc.) Throughout the miniseries, there’s moments of both joy and laughter and sadness and heartbreak and witnessing what these men went through on screen it really makes you feel deeper for them and a develop a greater appreciation for their stories and who they were as people.”
Opinion from others
There are many opinions about the show and I have heard opinions at each end of the scale from men and women. One lady I spoke to said, “I watched it. Enjoyed it, but very hard going. Never told anyone I watched it.” One man I spoke to said “women like this, seriously?.” Another man I spoke to said “I can’t understand someone not liking it to be honest!”
Another lady I chatted with said, “It’s a story about ordinary people coming together to do something extraordinary and overcoming adversity which is always inspiring to read/see/ and hear about. The show is also well-acted and a thought provoking piece of television history that tells a compelling story that hooks the audience in right from the start.” She went on to say ” why I think women are drawn to Band of Brothers, is they can empathize and relate to a lot of these men’s stories and see parts of themselves through the actor’s portrayals in multiple ways.” In addition to being a testament to the human condition, the connection to history is another part of why Band of Brothers draws us women in. I’ve always been fascinated by history ever since I was young and have continued to enjoy learning about, even though it wasn’t my main field of study when I was in college. It’s something I take after my parents since they both enjoy learning about different stories, particularly my dad since he finds World War II history interesting too. He told me that it is good to know your people, places and events in history and why they were important.”
Other responses have been how Band of Brothers demonstrates resilience, allowing you to be the best version of yourself in the face of adverse conditions. When you look back through history, you are drawn to remember that the men of Easy Company were men from the Depression. They had faced adversities and horrors in life, although none that were on the scale of what was ahead of them. Hardships aside, their personal attributes such as determination and self reliance and self assurance, were to follow them and aid them through their jump training.
20 years on
It is a testament to Band of Brothers that now, 20 years later, discussions such as the ones I have had are taking place.
It’s a testament to the show, the actors, the veterans and the work of Stephen E. Ambrose, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks that we are still talking about the show, rewatching it, and passing it onto the next generation
Social Media plays a huge role In the continuation of Band of Brothers and discussion around the series and history. @happyfew506 host regular zoom events and live instagrams, usually hosted by Matthew Leitch, who played Floyd Talbot. The podcasts give the actors the space and time to share the experience of making Band of Brothers. Have a think, seriously, what must it be like to play someone who is living? What must it be like to play the part of someone so instrumental in history?
I have listened to the ten part podcast series and watched several of the documentaries myself. What comes to the forefront each time, is the amount of pride. Pride that they took history and made it accessible. Pride that they took history and respected it. The podcasts introduce you to the process of bringing the stories to life. They also give time to the family members of the veterans. This is more than a team effort. This show brings you family.