From the first preview, there was a buzz surrounding G.I. Jane that had nothing to do with Demi Moore’s hair. It concerned the film’s language, which some observers thought a bit spicy for a Disney film, even one released through the company’s grown-up division, Hollywood Pictures.

“Moore swear[s] like a trooper,” wrote Michael Wilmington in his Chicago Tribune review.

“When she curses, even sailors might want to plug their ears,” chimed in Susan Wloszczyna in USA Today.

They were fudging. The problem for critics was that the film’s catch phrase—which perfectly sums up the mind-set of both the movie and its male-bastion-storming heroine—is, um, unprintable in a family newspaper.

The dilemma first struck Variety, which ran a pre-opening piece on the possibility that the film might further inflame Southern Baptists against Disney. The paper clearly thought it had latched onto a story, though it couldn’t quite bring itself to say what it was.

“When berated and bloodied by her male military superior,” wrote Dan Cox, “Moore screams out a guttural invitation to him to enjoy partaking in the absorption of a certain anatomical member.”

A week later, mainstream critics took a crack at printing the unprintable, and that great sucking sound Ross Perot once heard emanating from Mexico must have paled next to the collective intake of breath from editors. Here’s a sampling of what actually reached print:

“…a profane insult…”—Gary Arnold, Washington Times

“…the gender bending battle cry first heard onscreen from Geena Davis in The Long Kiss Goodnight.”—Janet Maslin, New York Times

“…a shouted obscenity that echoes a line from the Scott-directed Thelma and Louise.”—Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

“…the deepest of male insults.”

—Stephen Hunter, Washington Post

“…a very male (physically impossible, in fact) vulgarity.”—Eve Zibart, Washington Post Weekend

“…when you find yourself giving your instructor three word imperatives about what to do to your nonexistent genitalia…”—1st Lt. Stephanie Murdock, Washington Post

For specificity under fire, however, the prize has to go to Ruth Stein, who, writing for the San Francisco Chronicle, clearly decided that, editors or no editors, she was going to make Moore’s pronouncement comprehensible to her readers:

“What other actress,” she wrote, “could get as much unabashed pleasure from spitting out the d— word for the p— word? She uses it twice, with a different connotation each time. When Jordan’s boyfriend jumps out of their conjugal bathtub during a spat, she commands him to ‘get your d— back in here.’ Later Jordan is harassed by the base’s master chief. She stares him down and suggests what he could do with that part of her anatomy as if she possessed one. Her taunt might have the staying power of Clint Eastwood’s ‘make my day’ if only it were as easily repeatable.”

For the record, what Moore yells is “suck my dick,” and audiences seem to have no more trouble repeating it than they did “show me the money.”

—Bob Mondello

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