Veterans In The Movies And On TV: What They Get Right And What Veterans Say They Get Wrong

Back in January, after the release of American Sniper, first lady Michelle Obama called for Hollywood to stop with the caricatures of veterans. Although many veterans were critical of the First Lady’s opinion, personally, I had to say that in some sense I had to agree. Often, the perception of veterans is either one extreme or another.

As posted in the Blaze, the first lady said that Hollywood needed to make more movies like American Sniper.

“People generally see veterans in one of two ways — either the broken, downtrodden vet who is homeless or on drugs or has such severe PTSD that he can’t even function, or the saintly hero who lives with such courage and moral clarity that the only thing the rest of us can do is shower him with awe and amazement. And of course, it’s always a he. We sort of forget about the 1.5 million women veterans who have served in uniform.”

When it comes to veterans in the movies and on TV, how are veterans really portrayed, and what’s the reality? In a recent Washington Post article written by Stephanie Merry, shows Dancing With The Stars and Modern Family were cited as the most accurate portrayals of veterans on television.

For those who don’t know, Noah Galloway was a sergeant in the U.S. Army, assigned to the 1/502nd Infantry of the 101st Airborne Division at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. Galloway lost a leg and an arm in an IED attack in 2005. He placed third in the dancing competition on Dancing With The Stars.

In Modern Family, Ed O’Neill’s character, Jay Pritchett, is also a veteran. He served in the Navy and is just an ordinary guy, which is exactly the point.

Other movies and TV shows mentioned included the controversial American Sniper, about top Navy sniper Chris Kyle, who had the most confirmed kills of any American sniper ever, at 160. Rounding out the list were Hawaii Five-O, Amira and Sam, and The Night Shift.

Previously, the Inquisitr reported the backlash on college campuses against American Sniper. Students who hadn’t seen the movie complained that Chris Kyle was a racist and the movie unfairly portrayed Muslims in a negative light.

In a poll done on About by Action & War Movies Expert Johnny Rico, veterans had a lot to say about the best and worst movies portraying veterans and the military. Michel McClure, a former infantryman, disliked Mel Gibson.

“Anything with Mel Gibson. The Patriot and We Were Soldiers. The combat is totally ridiculous. Mel Gibson’s characters are also pretty ridiculous. He lampoons a guy with an American flag in both, I think. It’s just dumb jingoistic crap.”

Although many movies were panned for their lack of realism by Hollywood, many praised Steven Spielberg for his portrayal of veterans in movies like Saving Private Ryan and the television series The Pacific. The movie that received the most positive votes was Black Hawk Down, a movie about U.S. Army Rangers and the downing of a Black Hawk helicopter in Mogadishu in 1993.

One of the most important criticisms by veterans was uniforms. Michael Hultman, a former infantryman, said that this was the biggest pet peeves of many veterans.

“My biggest annoyance has to be how they have military uniforms look. They rarely get ranks right, or rank insignia on uniforms right. I have no idea why, but when I see a botched dress uniform, it’s like nails on a chalkboard. Probably because I remember my own squad leader harping on me to have my uniform be correct.”

So what do you think of the portrayal of veterans in the movies and on television? Are these portrayals accurate? What are your favorites?

[Photo Credit: Slate]