The Troupe

Avi Nesher
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The military musical group featured in Avi Nesher’s 1978 film, The Troupe, is comprised of six male and five female soldiers; all of whom are expected to pull their equal weight. The women, for instance, are required to lift and carry all kinds of heavy equipment, just like the men; only as far as the soldiers stationed in the bases where the touring band performs are concerned, the band members are not ‘proper soldiers.’ So much so that they are even accosted by a range of degrading slurs such as ‘desk jockeys,’ ‘bumboys,’ ‘benders,’ etc. Therefore, in order to bed some female soldiers, Datner (Gidi Gov) and Bazooka (Meir Suissa) decide to impersonate a pair of brave fighters who had been injured in combat. It thus appears that only when the man is incapacitated (and arguably emasculated) can the woman be his equal.

Except they’re not really equals as the drama only ever seems to focus on the frequent tensions between the bandmates, with the only true friendship in the film being between the two aforementioned men. The women, meanwhile, are perpetually catty and bitchy to each other and only seem to band together, however fleetingly, in their jealousy of new singer, Noa (Dafna Armoni), who is promptly bullied and boycotted by them. Even Miki (Liron Nirgad), the so-called ‘cool one’ of the group, calls Noa “a cunt” (only to then be told off by Datner). Then, there’s the so-called ‘ride or die’ friendship between Mali (Gali Atari) and Sari (Gilat Ankori) which turns out to be utterly fake and manipulative, culminating in a massive row after which the two do not reconcile.

The film reaches its peak when the band members revolt. Miki, the nonconformist of the group is the one who sets the whole thing in motion when she throws a pot of yoghurt at the director. Except the group does not immediately rally behind her, that is until Datner declares that they are “like family” and urges everyone to get off the stage. Noa, Orly (Chelli Goldenberg), and Yafchuk (Smadar Brener) are the last three ditherers who only end up joining the other rebels as a result of peer pressure and certainly not out of some sense of camaraderie or sisterhood with their beleaguered bandmate. Ultimately, the overall representation of female soldiers in The Troupe shines a less than flattering light on their femininity.

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