Don't Ask, Don't Tell | Military | News | Television

Carrier: Jeff Dupre Talks About Life Aboard the USS Nimitz


Carrier is a character-driven total immersion in the high-stakes world of a nuclear air craft carrier. A team of 17 filmmakers spent 6 months on the USS Nimitz on a full deployment to the Persian Gulf.

The 10-hour documentary series airs this Sunday-Thursday on PBS from 9-11pm ET (check local listings). I highly recommend you set your DVRs because if you have any curiosity about what goes on in the military, the trip you're taken on aboard one of these floating cities is fascinating. The various episodes explore different people and aspects of life on the ship, touching on everything from shore leaves, to relationships aboard the ship, to 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'.

<Dupre2My friend and former college-mate Jeff Dupre is one of the producers of the series. He lived and breathed life on the Nimitz for six months, collecting hundreds of hours of footage of military life. I asked him a few questions about his experience.

What was it like to be on an aircraft carrier for 6 months?

It was amazing and also harrowing at times. A real endurance test.

Were there many gays and lesbians on the Nimitz?

On the way to the Gulf, we stopped in Hong Kong. I went to a gay bar there and it was like, 'Hello, shipmates!' The place was packed with sailors. So yeah, from what I observed, there were quite a few. It's kind of an open secret. It's totally apparent, but everyone pretends not to notice. Many of the gay and lesbian sailors and marines I met were out to their friends and co-workers on the ship and it seemed to not be a big deal. But they always have that threat hanging over their heads.

Was it a homophobic environment?

From my vantage point, yes, it was at times. But you know the men and women in I met on the Nimitz did not create the policy, just like they did not make the decision to invade Iraq. The President and Congress make these decisions and the men and women in the military must adhere to them. There were moments when I'd overhear people saying things that made my hair stand on end. Suddenly it was like I was back in high school but I just learned to roll with it. The film was not about me - it was about them. Of course, I was there for just six months. For gay and lesbian sailors, if someone you work with says derogatory things about gays, you don't have any recourse. If you call them on it, you could lose your job.

Carrier_2But having made friends with so many sailors and marines, I have to say that it's a mistake to paint everyone in the military as homophobic. They're not, but DADT sometimes makes it seem like they are. Another reason to get rid of the policy.

What amazed me the most about the Navy was the camaraderie. The sailors and marines form these really tight-knit family units on the ship, and they take care of each other. For some of them, it's the only family they've ever known. So for me, the most tragic thing about DADT is that the gay and lesbian sailors on the ship are forced to lie about who they are and as a consequence they're not able to really bond with and be supported by their Navy family in the same way that their straight shipmates can. You know, they probably were not out to their families at home, then they join the Navy to serve their country and are once again denied those family ties that we all need to get by. We honor the men and women who serve because of the sacrifices they make. To me, there's a whole other level of sacrifice that gays and lesbians make when they sign up to serve their country. It's discrimination plain and simple and I hope its days are numbered.


On Monday I'll have another short interview with someone you'll see onscreen in Carrier.

The opening of the first episode, AFTER THE JUMP...


Here's a half-hour PBS special about the series:

The 10-hour documentary series airs this Sunday-Thursday on PBS from 9-11pm ET (check local listings).

Carriera [official site]

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  1. thank you for sharing, fascinating.

    Posted by: tofer david | Apr 25, 2008 11:10:59 AM

  2. Jesus... Am not at all pro-military, and the damn promo got me all choked up. The humanity of these men and women -- these kids, really -- is simply and deeply compelling. No doubt Jeff and Maro have done a powerful documentary. Not missing it.

    Posted by: Kile Ozier | Apr 25, 2008 11:20:31 AM

  3. I am so absolutely anti-military, but this series looks fascinating. I can't wait to see it!

    Posted by: peterparker | Apr 25, 2008 11:24:17 AM

  4. I felt much the same before watching this. It will open your eyes to a lot of things.

    Posted by: andy | Apr 25, 2008 11:27:31 AM

  5. Looks fantastic & compelling. Such a complex and intriguing subject matter. Can't wait for it.

    Thanks for such a tremendous blog! This is my absolute favorite resource for pop culture, politics and random items (tech, science) with a gay bent.

    By the way, Mr. Dupre looks crazy-damn-sexy in that photo. Just saying.

    Posted by: Papacruz | Apr 25, 2008 11:31:53 AM

  6. GOD I LOVE PBS. Can they just turn over TV to PBS and let them run it?

    Posted by: Adam | Apr 25, 2008 11:34:11 AM

  7. Thank you Andy. You never fail to impress me with the depth of your humanity, as revealed in the breadth of your interests. This blog covers everything from the ridiculous to the sublime but never imposes a view on others. We are free to decide which is which.

    Perhaps because I come from a family of veterans (every uncle and many cousins on both sides of a huge Hispanic clan) I am still surprised as to the hostility of many people to the soldiers. This program should go a long way toward humanizing them. It is remarkable how little homophobia I have found in individual soldiers whereas the institution is rife with systemic discrimination.

    Muchicimas gracias for exposing your loyal readership to the many varied facets that comprise gay life. Towleroad becomes a "must-read" for everyone I direct here.

    Posted by: rudy | Apr 25, 2008 12:04:39 PM

  8. The fact that gays still serve in secret amazes me. No gay should EVER serve in the military until they can serve openly.

    Posted by: Douglas Berman | Apr 25, 2008 12:36:28 PM

  9. This looks fascinating. Oh...and yes, Jeff Dupre is smokin hot!

    Posted by: Daryl | Apr 25, 2008 12:41:29 PM

  10. Papacruz;
    I can attest that Jeff is, indeed, One Hot Man...and smart, too! Though, I don't think he can cook...

    Posted by: kile Ozier | Apr 25, 2008 12:57:22 PM

  11. I can't wait for this... TiVo is all set!

    I'm with Papacruz: Dupre is a major hottie! Woof!

    Posted by: Chris | Apr 25, 2008 1:12:00 PM

  12. One variable Jeff didn't mention is that, despite a trend toward earlier self-awareness, as in earlier times, due to their youth [the average age on the Nimitz is 19], many of the sailors probably don't realize they're gay or lesbian until AFTER they're already in. Thus, both the concentrated homophobia and close quarters with others you might be attracted to is doubly stressful. The final nail in the coffin of Pres. Clinton's plan to end by Executive Order the military ban on gays that started during WWII [which generated death threats] was probably the nationally broadcast scenes of homophobic asshat Sen. Sam Nunn interviewing sailors in side-by-side cots deep within a submarine. It was later reported that a double crew had been ordered to show up for the photo op to make the sleeping area look even more crowded [and thus heaven for homos unable to control their animal urges] than usual. Though both houses were officially controlled by Nunn’s fellow Democrats, DADT passed in the Senate 63 to 33 and in the House 301 to 134.

    While some polls show that the average young "soldier" is today even more open to an out-gay-integrated military than civilians, just repealing the policy isn't going to be the end of problems because the policy is a symptom not the cause.

    I've written before that the irony of the Air Force insisting on discharging my late friend Leonard Matlovich despite his exemplary record and despite the then existing "exception policy" was that he was a highly rated "Race Relations Instructor" of classes still operating to defuse racism in the armed forces decades after Truman racially integrated the services.

    Whenever the current policy is repealed, a similar program to fight homophobia in the ranks will be necessary.

    Posted by: Michael Bedwell | Apr 25, 2008 1:23:05 PM

  13. Andy--thanks for linking to this. A lot of us who think of ourselves as antiwar probably would have missed this series...and that little taste of woofy Jeff DuPre.

    Posted by: JeffNYC | Apr 25, 2008 2:49:34 PM

  14. Some Democrats now admit that the invasion and military colonization of Iraq was based on the impeachable criminal lies and maneuvers of Clinton and both Bush Administrations. However, they adamantly refuse to take the necessary steps to end it, which are;

    Legislation ordering immediate and total withdrawal

    Impeachment and the convocation of an International War Crimes Tribunal

    Repealing Clinton’s bigoted DADT law, and

    Severing ties with the zionist apartheid state.

    The Democrats were elected in 2006 to end the war. They’ve betrayed all their promises and constituents, but most of all their solemn promise to the 4052 dead and nearly 15,000 severely wounded GI’s and the thousands who’ve been driven to suicide. According to the Pentagon think tank the RAND Corporation, 20%, or one in five of Iraq and Afghanistan Vets suffer from PTSD or major depression. Witnessing genocide and seeing your buds get mauled will do that to you. GLBT or otherwise, the oil war is chewing up young men and women just as Vietnam did.

    Those who want to give the Democrats another chance to betray us are cluelessly ignoring the fact that it’s a war for control of oil. John McCain is dementedly promoting a hundred year war of attrition while Obama dementedly calls for war on Pakistan and Clinton dementedly wants to use nukes against Iran. Their approaches are identical except that McCain’s is a bit more honest.

    Whoever wins the election will continue the genocidal war for control of the regions oil until the US is defeated on the ground. The inevitable result will be to add even more bodies to the pile of one million plus murdered civilians and to continue and regularize a regime of anti-civilian terrorism and widespread torture. It’s delusional to think that stabilization will never occur until the US totally withdraws from the region and severs its ties to the zionist apartheid state.

    Posted by: Bill Perdue, RainbowRED | Apr 25, 2008 3:49:45 PM

  15. Yes, yes, Bill, and those sweet, kind and generous Iranians are going to make peace in the Middle East flower one month after we leave...

    Posted by: anon | Apr 25, 2008 4:56:52 PM

  16. anon - you're an idiot, but you already knew that. That’s why you’re hesitant, and rightly so, to identify yourself.

    The regime of the ayatollahs, which uses religion to mask it rightwing agenda, is very unpopular. The regime is viciously anti union, anti female and anti-youth – we’re not the only ones they hang. The Iranian economy is in a shambles because of rapid urbanization and industrialization. They’ve generated inflation, unemployment and large scale labor unrest. Iran’s had unemployment rates for college and high school graduates as high as 50% in recent years. Women and youth have joined unions and GLBT circles as foci for antigovernment actions.

    So what keeps so many Iranians loyal to a regime they don’t have much use for? Anxiety created by US threats to attack them with nuclear weapons play a part. As does a realistic fear that what happened to the Iraqis, who are the victims of a US sponsored genocidal oil war, and to the Palestinians, who are living under apartheid conditions, might happen to them.

    When the US is defeated on the ground by a combination of US civilian and GI antiwar sentiment and stops threatening the Iranians with nuclear attacks and severs all ties with the zionist apartheid state then the regimes of islamist rightwing politics will begin falling.

    Posted by: Bill Perdue, RainbowRED | Apr 25, 2008 8:33:19 PM

  17. I am gay and served as a Captain in the U. S. Army during the Vietnam War. Everyone knew I was gay, but I did my job in a fabulous manner. That is all that mannered. The DADT policy is stupid and must be repealed. Every gay man and lesbian has a right to serve freely in the military.

    Posted by: Fred S. | Apr 25, 2008 10:19:42 PM

  18. Hey Fred, did you really mean to say "fabulous?"

    Posted by: Anon | Apr 27, 2008 3:03:07 AM

  19. I just watched the first two hours and highly recommend it. I was an Air Force Captain until just a few years ago, so it will be especially interesting to see how they cover DADT.

    Andy, tell your friend Jeff that he did an AWESOME job. I can't wait to see the remaining episodes.

    Posted by: TIM | Apr 28, 2008 1:03:26 AM

  20. I knew when I enlisted in the Navy that I was queer/gay, but--silly me--I joined thinking it would "make a man out of me".

    Well, I did grow up and I learned a lot of things and a man is a man is a man whether he is gay or straight, but it was one of the best experiences of my life. It still resonates all these years later.

    This was late 1960s/early 1970s and with one or two exceptions, I never encountered any overt homophobia. In fact, it was in the Navy that I got comfortable with the idea of who I was because it seemed that everybody else knew and THEY were cool with it. Plus, I did have a few memorable experiences that have never been duplicated.

    It's not the rank and file that's the problem. It's the institutional military that is the problem. It's the toadies who rise to the top of the military board of directors--also known as the JCS--who are the problem.

    And, in the last decade--especially in the Marines and the Air Force--the presence and influence of the execrable and poisonous evangelicals has grown exponentially with the Republican power grab from 1994 onward.

    Posted by: mike | Apr 28, 2008 12:05:18 PM

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