Tuesday, October 5, 2010


I've been in plays and musical performances. My sister-in-law (who I'm blogrolling now that I've just thought about it) is a costume designer for a college. So I've had experience in the debate about what is proper on the public stage. I'm also a military wife, as you all know, and how the military is viewed in the public eye is also an interest of mine.

Last night, on Dancing With The Stars, Audrina Patridge and Tony Dovolani did a waltz to the song "Let It Be Me," which they admitted they did as a tribute to "armed soldiers." You think I'm joking!

Now, I do not have a problem with a popular program trying to honor the people who make the freedom of this country possible. I do, however, have a problem with the misuse of the military uniform, which, in this case, is a Marine NCO dress uniform. I'm an Air Force wife, but I feel it is my duty to defend the military whenever and wherever I can.

Note that Tony has three stripes on his sleeve, designating a Sergeant, an E-5. Therefore, it is proper that Tony's uniform have the classic blood stripe on it, because the rank he's wearing is an NCO. It is not proper, however, unless you have served, to wear a uniform with that branch's insignia. It appears that Tony is wearing the Marine insignia, and he has never served.

These may seem to be minor or trifling points, but I feel it is important to state that the uniforms of the U.S. military are not to be treated as mere costumes. It may look "cool" and fit a story to be decked out in Marine NCO dress uniform, but Marines have to earn the enlisted NCO's blood stripe. They don't hand it to you after Marine boot camp, which is the longest of all the armed services (13 weeks) and is no cakewalk. (There's a term Tony ought to be familiar with!) You earn the rank of E-5 (the second enlisted rank you may wear the blood stripe) by competing for that particular slot and serving a minimum of two years in the Marines, who are fondly known in the other branches as the "bullet-catchers."

And as for the insignia, it is common knowledge that you, as a civilian, can wear a uniform as long it does not have distinct characteristics of a particular branch (insignia, badges, tabs, service medals, etc.). In a theatrical or motion picture production, actors are allowed to wear a military uniform. (10 USC Subtitle A, Chapter 45, Section 772 [f]) However, this was not a play or a movie, but a ballroom dancing show. Tony wasn't portraying someone specifically. He was a generic Marine lost (presumably in war) who was coming to dance with his love. Also, Marine Corps Uniform Regulations (11004[d]) state that actors may not discredit the Marine Corps while wearing the uniform. That one is more subjective in this case, because although the judges loved it, I don't think Tony danced all that exceptionally.

The bottom line is that Tony should have taken off the insignia and foregone the blood stripe completely in order to honor the uniform. The uniform is not a costume to do with whatever you wish. Look, I have to wash and dry clean Pooky's uniforms constantly (a load in the washer and a load in the dryer right now). I'm thankful that ABUS do not require ironing. Show some respect, and double-check that it's okay to wear it before you put it on. What Tony did is not technically illegal, but it's in such a grey area that he should have erred on the side of caution.

And if the judges are going to award Audrina's wooden face, they shouldn't have taken Bristol Palin to task for her concentration in portraying a snobby-turned-fun character. Good grief, look at that girl's footwork! In heels, no less!

H/t to Cassy Fiano for her eagle eye on this one.

1 comment:

  1. I really don't see what all the fuss is about? The military uniform has been used for years in the visual arts. Would Saving Private Ryan be better if they were dressed in militaryesque costumes.

    My objection would be to the uniform being incorrect. If you're going to do it, do it right! Having an incorrect uniform makes you appear flippant and disrespectful.....