In the television show, Grand Army, various issues are addressed that create a realistic appeal to audiences. The plot of the show revolves around high school students that encounter identity crises’ which play a role in their social development as they transition into adulthood. It realistically depicts the lives of teenagers without romanticization of the plot or the happy, unrealistic endings. These characters are forced to deal with adult issues at an age that is meant to be enjoyable. By watching the characters in Grand Army who experience such issues firsthand, the audience is able to understand and empathize with such characters they feel they may know personally. One character in particular, Joey, is someone who voices her opinions, fights against the objectification of women, and explores sexuality without caring how it’s perceived. Through her, we witness realistic conversations that arise during adolescence which aren’t commonly portrayed in television. Overall, it shows the value in bringing awareness to such topics which are commonly dismissed because of their heaviness.
In the show, we follow Joey, a high school student advocating for feminist beliefs that heavily focus on the objectification of women. She is a character who unapologetically remains confident in her femininity, and is heavily supported by her three male best friends, George, Luke, and Tim, who are all considered the most popular students of their class. Most of her class supports her in these empowering endeavors, but in the third episode, we see an unforgivable betrayal when Joey and her friends get drunk. On that night, George and Luke rape her while Tim silently watches. When she finally speaks out concerning her rape, many of the same classmates who formerly supported her refused to believe that her own best friends could do such a thing. She is then accused of being perceived as a “slut” and a liar for being open about her sexuality and assumed to be the one who initiated the events that had led to the “alleged” rape. Throughout the rest of the season, Joey rapidly falls into a state of depression and uncertainty, showcasing the effects of sexual assault/rape as a high school student. In conversations with her therapist and lawyer, she came to the conclusion that her words didn’t hold as much value over the boys who were simply trying to protect themselves while she was looking for justice. In a session with her therapist Joey explains that, “They were acting like nothing happened. Or no, like it was just some f*cked up orgy. And the whole week I was questioning what I was remembering, which is.. Which I couldn’t. And I’m just so f*cking angry. They don’t get to do that to me. But now I’m the bad guy.” … “I’m already getting texts. I’m ‘f*cking them over.’ And even though they did what they did, and they did, I’m still f*cking them.” … “And it’s probably obvious, but you know what sucks more than anything?” … “They’re my friends. And I love them. Or I loved them. And part of me feels like I’m betraying them. And then I also don’t regret what I’m doing, so I’m just-” (Episode 5, 22:52).
In connection to Gayatri Spivak’s theoretical work, “Can the Subaltern Speak?”, the audience witnesses Joey and her experience ignored by many she once believed supported her. Regardless of the truth, others quickly assumed that it was Joey’s fault and that the boys had played along in a game that she started. While the boys are given the benefit of the doubt despite their being guilty, Joey is shamed for being the victim and for being honest about her rape. Throughout Grand Army, it is evident in the way that people easily assumed the events without truly listening to the victim. The show addresses the fact that these events do not affect survivors only once, but rather long term through their lack of trust, uneasiness around men, and the inability to fully process their traumatic experiences. For Joey, it does not end in high school, but will remain with her for the rest of her life.