Sam Carter, Air Force Pin-Up Girl

The United States Air Force gives advice on military procedure, weaponry, uniforms, etc., to the producers of Stargate SG-1, a show which spent the last three seasons (prior to nine) featuring Sam Carter in Wonder Bras and non-regulation skin-tight tank tops. I assumed for a long time the producers were conveniently ignoring the Air Force liaison when it came to such topics as “what to dress our hot leading lady in”, but now that I’ve realized just how heavily the Air Force advertises on Stargate, driving record numbers of new enlistments, I’m wondering something else:

Is wholesome sexbot Sam, the beautiful perfect chick who inexplicably desires dorky old coot Jack, an inducement to potential male Air Force recruits? Is the message “Join us, and find out why having chicks in the military isn’t a bad thing, wink, nudge”?

No, I don’t feel the least bit guilty suggesting the Air Force might pimp a female character to drive recruits. Not after the latest rapefest at the Air Force Academy that’s sometimes featured in Stargate. Not after reading about Air Force General Counsel Mary Walker happily betrayed women by hiding rape charges from Pentagon officials, putting their plausible deniability over the rights of female recruits to seek justice as compensation for these crimes.

Naturally, in Stargate the only person who ever says anything remotely sexist to Sam is a civilian astrophysicist. There are hints of sexism from Jack early on – or maybe it’s just that he doubts a scientific specialist officer can have the field skills he requires – but the Air Force clearly gets no bad press from this show. No hint that someone like Sam might ever have had to fend off a rape, or even endure a nasty remark.

No, clearly, we are seeing the Air Force’s own fantasy of what the Air Force is. Is Wonderbra and Spandex Sam the Air Force’s ideal female officer? You bet your sweet bippy, boys.


  1. scarlett says

    I get a lot of comments in regard to my fanfiction that I seem to have an axe to grind with the double-standard and sexual discrimination of women in the military (well, women in general, but specifically in male-dominated arena). Well, DUH. I realise Stargate is primarily a scifi and its realistic portrayal of the airforce is on the backburner (altherwise the lot of them would have been court-martialled a hundred times over)so they way they completely overlook issues such as discrimination and harassment don’t particularly bother me. What DOES bother me is that they seem to have taken Sam in comepletly the opposite direction, that all she REALLY wants is to be The Girl and her own reason for sticking around is because of her dull older boss.

    Yep. Because that’s what career girls REALLY want. To be taken care of by a man of lesser intellect then them. And that’s why women are REALLY in the military. To find husbands and serve as eye candy for the men.

  2. telepresence says

    I’m not here to defend the way the Stargate writers write Sam, or women, or relationships because they’re pretty lousy at all three.

    But I’m not sure I buy the eye candy thing as Sam specific. As the show has gone on, the dress of all the cast members has gotten more and more oriented towards prettiness rather than military practicality. Shanks and Judge and now Browder get stuffed into plenty of tight sleeveless tanks tops as well. The exception was Anderson, and that was pretty clearly based on him being reticent to do it (I’m too old for this shit), with the power as producer to back it up. And they still managed to get him into tank tops every once in a while. Over on Atlantis, supposedly there was some issue early on with Flanagan’s non-regulation hair, but they decided to go with cute and floofy over regulation. As I look through image galleries of the last few seasons, the team generally dresses alike, whether that’s similarly professionally or similarly “I’m Too Sexy” video-ishly.

    Finally, I think there are a bunch of things wrong with Sam/Jack, but I’m not sure the argument being made here is served well by questioning whether Sam would have been attracted to him (he’s “dull” or “a dorky old coot”), or anyone else. Because we can’t categorize attraction like that. We can’t explain why people are attracted to other people, and we can’t say “well, they don’t match intellectually or tempermentally therefore the attraction doesn’t make sense.”

    Obviously a huge percentage of the fannish fanbase for the show does find Jack attractive (funny, handsome, compelling, sexy, whatever), they write sexy fics about him, they swoon over his pictures, etc. So, Jack/Sam is definitely problematic, but I don’t think the writers are inherently imposing the attraction on Sam in defiance of all possible human logic. If thousands of women and gay men want him, some who have military experience, some who are scientists, many who are quite smart, why not Sam?

  3. Jennifer Kesler says

    Yeah, the guys’ aesthetics caught up, but Sam had the full field makeup in season 2, and the tiny tees were solid by season 5. It definitely started earlier with her.

    If thousands of women and gay men want him, some who have military experience, some who are scientists, many who are quite smart, why not Sam?

    Because the attractiveness of a male actor is supposed to be ignored unless you’re told the character is beautiful, too. I mean, I totally can’t buy movies where really beautiful man play a guy who can’t get a girl, but millions of movie-goers go for it. This suggests to me that when they cast a sex symbol as an ordinary Joe, I’m supposed to suspend my disbelief that he could walk into a grocery store without women following him home.

    I can’t think of many indicators on the show that Jack is supposed to be attractive to anyone other than Sam.

    The same is true of Daniel. I don’t consider Shanks the best-looking guy on earth (though plenty of women do), but he’s got a sort of easy beauty that draws women like flies. Does Daniel share this beauty? No. He attracts a few women, gets described once in Season 8 as “nice-looking young man”, but the same could be said of dozens of guys I know. Daniel is on the nice side of average, despite Shanks being on the drooly side of hot.

    Sam however, like all female characters, is as beautiful as the actress playing her. And her beauty must be emphasized and capitalized, while Jack’s and Daniel’s is downplayed.

  4. sbg says

    Sam however, like all female characters, is as beautiful as the actress playing her. And her beauty must be emphasized and capitalized, while Jack’s and Daniel’s is downplayed.

    I don’t think theirs was downplayed. I think it just wasn’t emphasized, which isn’t the same thing…and as time progressed, even Daniel’s was emphasized. He went from wearing BDUs that were too big, plaid shirts and huge khakis to tight, muscle-revealing T-shirts, bottoms that fit and his off-duty wear drastically improved to sleek-fitting sweaters, etc.

    I just don’t think the change was as obvious with the guys (hell, Teal’c’s pants have been getting tighter and tighter as the years have gone by and it’s not because of middle age spread).

    I thought it was ridiculous for Sam to suddenly trounce around in muscleshirts and, well, something that enhanced her breasts, but I also found it ridiculous to see the same types of things happening to the guys.

  5. sbg says

    Oh, and I meant to say that I didn’t really notice the drastic emphasis on Sam’s, er, attributes until S6 and beyond. I always thought her make-up and attire prior to that was tastefully done – I hardly noticed it.


  1. […] back and poised to launch the Orbs of Man Control. Why? Who knows? I still haven’t figured out why Sam Carter shrunk all her t-shirts to look like spandex exercise gear. Maybe Cuddy has a heart problem, and doesn’t want them to have to waste time ripping her clothes […]

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