Television Series Review of Bomb Girls (2012-2014)
I was looking for a new distraction in April and stumbled across Bomb Girls on Netflix: there are two seasons, totaling eighteen episodes. Bomb Girls is a Canadian show that aired initially in 2012, focusing on the women who worked in the arms factories during World War II—think Rosie the Riveter. The show follows a few key characters: a shift matron, a wealthy society girl with ideas of equality far ahead of her time, and a closet-lesbian factory worker.
A number of other women in the show are spotlighted here and there. For example, a beautiful blonde named Vera stays painfully in the spotlight for several episodes after a horrific factory accident mutilates her, robbing her of what she believes to be her only asset: her beauty. A beautiful, naïve daughter of a strict preacher, Marion (aka Kate), also plays a key role, struggling to reconcile her new life of freedom with years of abuse and hard-wired religion.
But the three women on whom the show largely focuses, Lorna, Gladys, and Betty, all represent three distinct classes of women during the era:
- Lorna’s husband was wounded in the first war and both her sons fight in WWII; she is patriotic to a fault and suspicious of anything new or foreign, but genuinely believes in doing her part to support the war by working for Victory Munitions, though this belief is challenged.
- Gladys is a privileged daughter of a successful businessman, working in the factory both to rebel against her status and to do something “worthwhile.”
- Betty is an independent, closeted lesbian, struggling to find balance between her desire to live a basically normal life and knowing she may never be able to find someone with whom to share that white picket-fenced dream.
The show’s themes range from women’s rights and equality, education, class bias and sexual freedom, to fidelity, loyalty, patriotism and the propaganda of war. The women are real, neither entirely lovable nor entirely loathsome, each making choices and taking actions a fallible person might make. The show gives insight into both the ‘Rosie the Riveter’ mythos and the real women who inspired it. It’s well worth the step back in time to see what war was like on the other side.
Original Publication: The Flame, 2016