Back to current issue

From Weaklings to Wounded Warriors: The Changing Portrayal of War-related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in American Cinema

Rebeca Maseda and Patrick Dulin (University of Alaska, Anchorage)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has not only been interesting to psychologists and psychiatrists during the past thirty years, it has also captured the imagination of filmmakers. Traumatized veterans provide fascinating material for character development as they often come back from the war visibly altered, and not necessarily for the better. In many film representations, the affable Dr. Jeckyl returns from battle a seemingly dehumanized Mr. Hyde, a process that has been utilized to support diverse social and political agendas. This article draws from a combination of perspectives from cultural and film studies and psychological research in order to discuss the portrayal of war-related PTSD in mainstream American cinema, from the wars in Vietnam to those in Iraq and Afghanistan. We show how the portrayals have changed in tandem with socio-political movements and new understandings of the disorder.

Full text: PDF

ISSN 1753-5794