Lifetime’s Army Wives: A Good Thing, or a Bad Thing?


The television series Army Wives has become a mega-hit for Lifetime. Last week’s episode was a ratings bonanza. Army Wives is a hot topic of conversation among real military wives, and civilians. Several weeks ago, I read an article in Ms. Magazine where the author argued that the show romanticizes military life and that the effects of war aren’t seen as “hellish enough.” Below are a few excerpts, but I encourage you to read the entire article.

At a time when the anti-war activism that was central to Obama’s 2008 victory is largely gone from the public discourse and it’s too easy for those not intimately connected to the military to forget the physical and emotional costs of war. Lifetime’s Army Wives makes that forgetting even easier. The show gives us an emotional roller-coaster of morally perfect men and noble unscarred women, and like a roller coaster the episodes are scary for a short time but the landing is always smooth.


That’s the most dangerous thing about Army Wives: It resolves the costs of war too easily. While the real military refuses to pay for brain injury care that their own experts agree offers veterans the best chance of recovery, the wounded characters on Army Wives get all the medical attention they need. The wives even organize for extensive reconstructive surgery for the daughter of an Iraqi translator. While women in the real military are more likely to be raped than their civilian counterparts, every high-ranking man on the show condemns violence against women.


I have a lot of respect for the real military spouses who post on Lifetime’s discussion boards. For many, seeing themselves reflected on television is much-needed source of validation, even if some find the portrayals of enduring friendship across military rank unrealistic. But for people like me who are sacrificing almost nothing for these wars, Army Wives makes military life romantic, sentimental and way too easy.

I don’t quite understand the validation remark and in what context it was meant, but I dispute the notion that most military spouses are seeking validation, especially from a television show. “Validation,” and appreciating the fact that you can see recognizable pieces of your life on screen are two very different things. To be fair to the author of the piece above, her article was written well before last week’s episode aired. The episode where Jeremy was killed and buried, and the episode which I would argue was the most emotional to date. It’s difficult to get more “hellish” than that. This much-discussed episode prompted another article from another civilian.

I cried so hard Sunday night that I couldn’t finish the laundry or even talk on the phone.

On that night Army Wives and its story was fiction … but the sad truth of the matter is that somewhere in the world there really is a military funeral going on and there really are soldiers, both men and women, who put their lives on the line for this country.

The reality is that there are military spouses who make it possible for soldiers to do what they do. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that it took a TV show called Army Wives to make me think about this situation, but what I am sure of is that it’s a real thing.

Look, Army Wives is a television show. There are shards of reality served with a healthy dose of drama. I take it for what it is, as I think most of us do. Having said that, I’m fully aware that people who previously had no connection to (or interest in) military life are paying attention, and for that reason I want Lifetime to get the big things right. For the most part, I think they do. Viewers get a sense of the deep-rooted customs and traditions of the Army. They see the fear and worry, the strain and stress, but they also see the positive aspects of being married to a soldier; the meaning of sacrifice and the strong bonds of friendships that develop on the homefront and the battlefield.

My civilian friends, my mother-in-law and my sisters-in-law watch Army Wives. Over the years, I’ve been asked a lot of questions about my life based on what people (strangers, even) have seen on the show. As airforcewife has often said, Army Wives contains a lot of drama and some of the things on the show would never happen in real life, but it’s a great jumping-off point for a substantive discussion on what military life is really like. The fastest way for Lifetime to see a dive in the ratings would be to turn Army Wives into a platform for political views and/or to focus only on the negative aspects of military life. Some have tried that, and failed miserably.

What do you think? Do you watch the show? Does Army Wives have a positive, negative or neutral impact on the way military life is perceived? Do they portray a fairly balanced look at military life?

Photo Credit: Lifetime

About the Author


Andi is married to an active-duty soldier and is the founder and former editor of SpouseBUZZ.

She is the founder of the Annual MilBlog Conference. The MilBlog Conference is the premiere event of the year for military bloggers. President George W. Bush, U.S. Representative Adam Smith, GEN David Petraeus, LTG Mike Oates, LTG William Caldwell, RADM Mark Fox, MG Kevin Bergner, MG David Hogg and The Honorable Pete Geren have addressed previous conferences.

While living in Washington, DC, Andi was the Ambassador to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for Sew Much Comfort, a non-profit organization which makes and delivers, free of charge, special adaptive clothing for wounded service members. Andi has worked with several non-profits to help our wounded heroes and their families. She finds that work to be the most rewarding and meaningful of all.

Andi strives to find humor in the good, bad and ugly of life and is a firm believer that laughter has the ability to cure most ills.

13 Comments on "Lifetime’s Army Wives: A Good Thing, or a Bad Thing?"

  1. I watch it. And it's true that it's not always accurate as a depiction of Army (military) life. Some things completely bother me… like how is it that they've all managed to stay in the same place for years?

    However, I would challenge someone to find shows like that that are. The doctor shows (Grey's Anatomy, ER, etc)… yeah, right. Those aren't "real." How about crime shows like CSI or Castle? 'Cause we all know you can always solve a crime in a few days like they portray. It doesn't make them bad shows. And anyone who watches them and thinks that's how it is EXACTLY how it is in real life is… delusional. Same as anyone who would actually believe that Army Wives totally portrays military life the correct way.

    It's a television show that has grains of truth that are based off what really happens (after all, most of our lives are so boring they couldn't make a daily show out of it… even doctors would be the same way most days). And episodes like the funeral or seeing things like what families are struggling with while their loved one goes off to war are things that I think are great to bring to life and the forefront of the American mind. Many people have forgotten about our troops serving overseas.

    And it pains me to say it, but even when we are no longer at "war," there are several branches of the military who will continue to deploy JUST AS MUCH as when we are at war…. and they shouldn't be forgotten, either. Ever.

    • I agree with you, Wifey. The one crucial aspect of military life which has yet to be addressed on Army Wives is having someone move away. Having to say good-bye. I think the best way to do this without losing a main character would have been to introduce a character last season (or this season) and have them become an integral part of the show, then move them the following season.

      The character can continue to make appearances through visits, phone calls, etc. And if the show continues to run, even move back someday. But this is an area where Army Wives has missed the mark. This needs to be addressed as it's a big part of our lives.

      • I completely agree with Andi. One very difficult aspect of military life is that sometimes it's so difficult to form bonds with other spouses. And then when you least want it to happen, people are PCS'd. I honestly appreciate that the show depicts wives of multiple ranks becoming close though. While I don't really think that those particular ranks (post general's wife, PFC wife, etc) would hit it off and be so close, it is silly to think that a spouse's rank always determines who you can be friends with. Wives that try to wear there spouses rank often find themselves segregated and/or disliked.

  2. With the show "Army Wives," you really have to think about the target audience, the network, and the genre of the show. It's an hour-long melodrama (not a soap opera) targeted towards women on a network for women. This is not meant to be sexist; it just is what it is. It is not written to attract Emmy voters or win the acclaim of a gritty, realistic show like "The Wire." Another show about women and war was "China Beach." It was dark, sometimes funny, and never, ever tidy; it was art.

    "Army Wives" is, for the most part, a "tidy" show that likes to have quick resolutions. There is nothing wrong with this. It's a melodrama. Melodramas, for the most, aim to be cathartic for the people consuming it, hence the somewhat tidy resolution. What bothers me about "Army Wives" is that it sometimes becomes "war porn" for women. (I believe the show "Coming Home," which follows "Army Wives" or is at least closely tied to it, qualifies as a sort of "war porn" — it stirs the emotions with something heartwarming but doesn't really get into issues like PTSD and reintegration.) Those unconnected to the military can empathize for a short amount of time while watching and then go on about their lives as if nothing is actually happening.

    I can see the author's point that the show romanticizes military life, and at times, it's a somewhat shallow examination of military life that almost feels like an after school special issue of the week. What doesn't bother me about "Army Wives" is that its heart is in the right place. I don't think it aims to be propaganda or anything like that. What bothers me about the author of the Ms. article is that she assumes that any realistic portrayal of Army wives or women in the military would make them victims or would characterize the military as hostile to women. I'm not saying that sexual abuse and harassment are not real issues for the military, but I do see this tendency in civilians to victimize those in the military and call it realism.

  3. To make another point, there IS a sort of romanticism about Army life. It really is its own culture, lifestyle, community and there is a kind of romance to it I can’t explain. And it’s not always “hellish.” Yes, military life can be very difficult and poses unique challenges that civilians simply don’t understand, but it’s not always “hellish.” It can’t be. We can’t live like everything is a nightmare all the time. Why any civilian journalist would want us to live like that and watch television like that is beyond me.

    When you trim the “drama” part of Army Wives that is integral to ANY television show, it actually presents a very useful platform to help civilians begin to understand the lives of military families, and it gives military families a source of entertainment they can really relate to more often than not. As a geographic bachelorette, far from any Army base and FRG resources, it helps me feel more connected in a way.

  4. Kayla Ann Davis Perez | March 31, 2011 at 12:27 pm |

    I feel that many of us who have retirees have fun with this shows, but we need more survival training for post military service lives!

    • I can agree! It's rough when the retirement stage comes into play. The deployments stop, the military member is up in arms at the changes and the spouses get alot of it too!!

  5. I do not watch the show, because it is not my life, AND because it hits a little to close to home when it comes to my life, especially when my husband is deployed. However, to put things in perspective, over the years I've heard lots of attorneys talk about L.A. Law (and other attorney shows) and I've heard lots of doctors and nurses talk about E.R. (and other medical shows) and they all say the same thing: "That's not my life … that's not really what happens ….. it would never happen that way …..", etc. etc. It's a television show, plain and simple and there is absolutely no way it's going to depict what my "real" Army wife life is like. But that's okay! There have been other shows on TV about "war time".

  6. Who remembers watching M.A.S.H.? I loved that show and still do. But, I can promise you that the show had it's detractors too, and they would tell you that they never lived a life like that during the Korean War. AND I can also assure you that many people felt that M.A.S.H. "blunted their ability to think critically about war and the way the United States wages it" (quoted from Ms. Magazine article). In addition, M.A.S.H. resolved each show with a formula "happy ending" and it, too, was a show about a war and the military. How about Hogan's Hero's? An attempt at making it "funny" to live in a POW camp. (are you kidding me?).

  7. textbookleftovers | March 31, 2011 at 8:49 pm |

    I haven't watched it… I feel exploited by it, honestly. Putting *my* life (with a whole lot more drama) on TV for ratings and revenue? Ew.


  8. I think the show hits home in a number of ways. Like Trevor knowing that someone stayed at the house… the moment she walked out the door in her PJs the next morning… I was saying to myself OH NO Roxy your sooo in trouble now. Haha. I also think that the what they have Joan doing is so dead on it is scary. She says she wants a baby, but all of the sudden that wont work with the Army's plan for her… blah blah blah. That happens with the military all the time. The military comes first and the rest of left dangling out there somewhere. In these cases I think they do a great job of making it as realistic as possible. Of course, there is more drama then real life, but that is what makes the show so addictive.

  9. jamielynk | April 1, 2011 at 6:05 pm |

    I dont watch it like I used to. I fell out about the end of season 2. Not because I think its not "accurate" enough… its television, its not supposed to be. I just don't relate to the characters and their experiences.

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