The Pacific and Sgt. Lena Riggi

We’ve been eagerly awaiting our weekly installments of The Pacific, which is a Tom Hanks-produced mini series on HBO. The show provides a very realistic and gripping portrayal of the soldiers of the Marine Corps in the Pacific Theater of WWII. Each of the 10 installments is an hour-long glimpse into a specific battle, soldier, and/or company of soldiers. I’m very much a beginner when it comes to war movies, and much of the time my eyes are glazing over during battle scenes and the psychology-student in me is trying to assess the sanity of humankind and why there’s even a need for such grotesque violence and machismo. However, I find that although I don’t agree with war, war movies themselves introduce me to incredible characters. This is certainly true of The Pacific. It’s created in the same vein as Band of Brothers, another excellent HBO mini-series produced by Hanks about WWII. The Pacific, though, I think does a better job of balancing character-driven plots with action-driven plots. The acting and cinematography is amazing, and for an hour a week, I am a bird in the heroic lives of these soldiers.

This week, I was really taken by a character named Lena Riggi (Annie Parisse). First, what a wonderful name, right? Anyways, she’s a sergeant in the Marine Corps. She comes across John Basilone (Jon Seda), a gunnery sergeant who’s become somewhat of a celebrity soldier and the face of the war against the Japanese. He’s a bit of a notorious womanizer, and he’s instantly drawn to her. She’s feisty, smart, and willful. She went against her entire family’s wishes for her to be a subservient wife and mother, and joined the army. She’s also not impressed with his lavish dinners and sweet talk. But over time, he proves himself to be more than his image and they fall for each other. Although most of her scenes were in the kitchen or dining room, you could tell she was destined for greatness. If she had been born in a later generation, she could’ve been an incredible sergeant who wouldn’t only be in the kitchen. However, for her time, I think she disrupted the stereotype of a woman and pursued a lifestyle that she wanted. At one point, she even says that she blinked and all of a sudden she was thirty and happy, and then Basilone came into her life. I’m glad she didn’t define all of her happiness in relation to him – she had a life, an identity, and a career before him, and she wasn’t quitting anytime soon. And I’m glad Tom Hanks and the entire team on the show brought in a character who was breaking boundaries in her own ways.

Update: A reader found the real Lena Riggi’s obituary, and so I thought I’d post it! Check it out here!

6 responses to “The Pacific and Sgt. Lena Riggi

  1. May I be your John Basilone? You’re gorgeous.

  2. Good post Lena. Here’s Riggi/Basilone’s obituary from 1999 – I agree that The Pacific team did a great job in portraying Riggi and it was far from a stereotypical portrayal. I love this series; especially the way it’s subverting all former WWII movies and series.

    • Hey there Bryan! Thanks for reading! I noticed you didn’t link to Riggi’s obit, but I found it on your blog. Good post as well!

      John Basilone was an incredible man, but his decision to go back into war baffles me. I really don’t understand, and maybe that’s my own ignorance. But in my opinion, he really should have retired honorably and devoted himself to a life with Lena.

  3. John Hoffman S/Sgt. USMC 48-52

    Yes I could understand why he went back. After I got back from Korea I just about had to toss a coin to decide to ship over or go home. I went home but it was a close decission .

    I don’t even know how you can say John Basilone made the wrong choice. I am sure his training of the new men saved some lives in his new outfit. Only a Marine could understand him shipping over. His career was being a Marine.

    John Hoffman, S/Sgt. USMC 1948-52

    • You’re right, I guess I’d have to be a Marine. I didn’t mean to offend you! I know that his decision to return to war must’ve been excruciating. Like I said, he was an incredible man. I’m glad he was able to train the new men, and I could certainly see that he belonged in the Marines…as he himself said, he’d been in it for eight years, and didn’t quite know what to do with himself without it.

      I don’t mean to say that since he got married he should have dropped his passion, just as I would never advise that for a woman, but I nonetheless I feel terrible for what Lena must’ve gone through. It’s a no-win situation. But I guess at the end of the day, due to the nature of his passion, I think he was thinking emotionally more than rationally – either he should’ve accepted his contribution and bowed out, or not married her.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s