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Military Connection: Portraying Realistic Military Characters On TV and Film

By Debbie Gregory.

When it comes to TV and film, most directors and writers aim to get every detail perfect. Most of the time it’s possible, but sometimes there are technical errors, when it appears on the screen.

Now, a group dedicated to the realistic representation of military service personnel and Veterans is announcing a new seal of approval for the onscreen portrayals of those who serve, past and present.

Christened “6 Certified,” after the military phrase that means “I’ve got your back,” the program is starting off with the backing of First Lady Michelle Obama. This campaign pursues a shift of perception of Veterans in today’s pop culture.

Studios, producers, and other content creators will be entitled to the certification badge if the work they are creating contains “a representative and balanced depiction of Veterans,” and satisfies at least one of the following six pledges: to research or consult with Veterans; to research or consult with family members or experts in the subject; cast a Veteran; hire a Veteran as a writer; portray a Veteran character; tell a Veteran story; or use Veterans as resources on set or in writer’s rooms.

Studies reveal that the public can have skewed views of Veterans based on what they see in films or in television. According to Chris Marvin, the executive director of Got Your 6, “They are heroes on one end of the spectrum or broken Veterans on the other end of the spectrum.”

Marvin, an Army Veteran, has cited Ed O’Neill’s role as Jay Pritchett on Modern Family, and Bradley Cooper’s Oscar nominated interpretation as Navy SEAL Chris Kyle in American Sniper, as accurate portrayals.

Marvin says in Modern Family, Pritchett is first and foremost a small business owner, father and grandfather who happens to be a Navy Veteran. He also said that American Sniper tells a great story, one that American audiences were anxious to hear.  Other shows portraying accurate Veteran story lines and characters include Grey’s Anatomy, Parenthood and the Mindy Project.  And who could forget J.R. Martinez’s Brot Monroe on All My Children?

“I think the American public is thirsty to have a conversation about the war, about returning Veterans, about the issues and about opportunities that surround that group of people,” Marvin says.

Unrealistic portrayals of Veterans can hinder their progress when they attempt to transition back to civilian life. A Veteran needs to reconnect with family, secure employment, or pursue education options. The less resistance they have to deal with, the better. Additionally, Veterans often say they feel more pity than respect from the civilian population.

To pass the muster, creators must make sure that they have not exaggerated Veteran character traits or the effects of military service on the Veteran.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Portraying Realistic Military Characters On TV and Film: By Debbie Gregory