Military masculinities on television: Who Dares Wins

November, 2021

This paper explores the versions of military masculinity that are produced on UK television and the cultural impact of this.


In the UK, people in their millions still tune in to watch ex-soldiers train civilians in an imitation of the SAS selection process in the reality television show SAS: Who Dares Wins. Contestants run drills, jump off cliffs and are subjected to interrogation training; all, to undertake ‘the greatest test of their physical and psychological resilience’. This paper uncovers both the versions of military masculinity that are produced in this show, and what these versions do culturally. Through a critical reading of the five central series (2015–2020), the paper exposes the resilient tropes of military masculinity and military training, including: the ‘no pain no gain, mind over matter, training is hell’, Spartan version of soldiering. It argues that this rearticulation of military masculinity serves to answer particular contemporary cultural anxieties around both the ‘crisis’ in masculinity and the inclusion of women into the regiment. That is not to say there are not incoherencies, ambivalences and complexities introduced; but in the world of the show at least, there is not much that a few more push-ups cannot overcome. SASWDW contributes to the understanding of the symbolic and cultural imaginaries of military masculinities and militarisation and their ongoing significance in British culture.

Full Reference

Louise Pears (2021) Military masculinities on television: Who Dares Wins, NORMA, DOI: 10.1080/18902138.2021.2005963

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