While there is a Vietnam Vet in the True Blood books who has been changed into an Iraq Vet for the TV series to make him more age appropriate, there is also the story of an Iraq vet in the US TV series Grey’s Anatomy. I was a bit surprised when series 5 introduced Dr. Owen Hunt, trauma surgeon at the Seattle Grace hospital, and to discover the back story. It’s an interesting depiction of an Iraq vet with severe PTSD, at times a bit over the top, but still believable.
Owen is a type “Ice man”, reminiscent of Sgt Brad Colbert in Generation Kill. He can handle pain and when it comes to help others he can put himself aside completely, he even functions extremely well in the Emergency Room under stressful circumstances.
His illness becomes obvious when he falls asleep. Whenever he gets woken abruptly he goes berserk as it reminds him of things he survived “over there”. When he is at relative peace he also suffers from flash backs which trouble him a lot. Whenever he is under pressure he functions remarkably well.
There is a relationship dynamic to the whole thing (obviously, as we are talking Grey’s Anatomy here) that intensifies his symptoms.
I have the odd comment of vets on this blog, some of them have done a few tours in Iraq and I would love to hear what they have to say, should they have watched Grey’s Anatomy. One question I have, is whether it would be even possible for someone to be a trauma surgeon while suffering from severe PTSD?
I read a lot. All sorts of things. Classics, literature, prize winners, pure entertainment, crime and thriller, some Fantasy… I am curious when I hear people enthuse about a book. That´s how I got lured into reading the first two in the Southern Vampire Series, Dead Until Dark and Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris. I do not really want to go into this reading experience here (I do understand why the series is succesful), nor is this the place to analyse women´s obsession with vampires (…. maybe…or,…..no, I don´t even go there…), what caught my attention early on was the character Terry Bellefleur. I felt he was very intense and with very few words Charlaine Harris captured the personality of a truly traumatized person. Without elaborating this character much she added another dimension to the already multi-faceted people swarming these books. Like in many Vampire novels before the Sookie Stackhouse series, one of the major themes is the outsider, someone who has lost contact with the society or was never part of it. And since the Southern Vampire books are populated with so many different types of fictitious and real outsiders like vampires, shape-shifters, homosexuals, Afro-Americans, addicts, the addition of a Vietnam vet seems of almost stringent logic.
I had read the books before even hearing of the series but was very curious to watch it. Six Feet Under will always be my favourite series so it was only logical I would at least have a look at what magic Alan Ball would be weaving in True Blood. I was not disappointed. This series is just great fun. Very sexy and daring. Great cast, great stories, greatest intro song to any series ever (sure, it is only my humble opinion).
Writers and director took quite a few liberties especially with the cast. Many characters are much more developed than those in the book. Some are totally different, like Tara. Other types of outsiders are added, like alcoholics.
And what about our Vietnam vet? Miraculously transformed into an Iraq veteran to offer identification to the younger audience and to raise the awareness and understanding of and for those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. This is more or less the explanation given by the producers. Quite nice, only it does not work for me. It does not feel right. I cannot explain it, but to me he is and will always be a Vietnam vet. No matter how much rationalization they put into his “transformation”.
When the actor Todd Lowe, whom many know from Gilmore Girls, was asked how he did prepare for the role, he explained he pictured a Vietnam vet that he had known as a young man. A homeless guy that talked him into giving him his cigarettes.
I wonder if there is not another reason to switch from Vietnam to Iraq. Maybe the age? Would a Vietnam vet not be much older than a guy returning from Iraq and Afghanistan? Of course this is a rhetorical question. Maybe the producers, even though they are extremely inclusive of marginal groups did not want to embrace the elderly? Now, don´t tell me this is not food for thought. Aren´t we living in a society that is ever so obsessed with age? Aren´t the vampires ageless…always young, always beautiful? There is a certain logic in ostracizing the elderly from a vampire movie, right?
Or – which is not much better – did they think it was too hard to believe that someone could still suffer from PTSD after having come back such a long time ago? If so, what do they know?
I think they should have let this be. And I don´t buy the explanations. I would have preferred Terry Bellefleur to be an elderly Vietnam vet.
What about you?
I have to post the opening credits here for you, they are just too good to be missed and, let´s be honest, when will I ever get another chance to do this in a blog on war movies? Although…Come to think of it… what about a post dedicated to Generation Kill and Alexander Skarsgard….