“The truth is, 99 percent of us are neither heroic nor broken,” Mr. Marvin said. “We are people — people the public has invested in who have a lot of potential. And it’s time to get over the pity party.”
To help, he and a number of veterans groups have begun a drive to encourage veterans to volunteer in their communities, while Mr. Marvin and others go behind the scenes in the entertainment industry to push writers, television networks and Hollywood executives to present realistic characters that show the full scope of veterans’ experiences.
Part of the process, of course, is education. Mr. Marvin was in Washington last week with Michelle Obama and the actor Bradley Cooper to unveil a program that will give a veteran’s seal of approval, called “6 Certified,” to movies and television shows that portray veterans in a fair and accurate light.
Here are a few examples of the movies and TV shows that Mr. Marvin and other veterans cite as the best and worst of recent offerings.
The Bad: Berserk Broken Heroes
Toby McGuire plays a prisoner of war returning from Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder. Bug-eyed and angry in several scenes that seem to belong in a horror movie, his character is the epitome of the over-the-top broken hero. Mr. Marvin singled out one scene in particular for criticism: when Mr. McGuire’s character builds a bunker in the front yard. “I’m pretty sure no one with PTSD has ever done that,” Mr. Marvin said.
When Cory Monteith’s character, Finn, finds out that his father was not a war hero killed in battle, as he was told, but a troubled vet who died of a drug overdose after returning from war, Fox’s “Glee” got a double thumbs down from veterans. Mr. Marvin said the character of the father relied on two stereotypes: the hero and the troubled vet, and the show did not add depth to make him a real person.
CSI: NY (2012)
On one episode of the weekly crime drama, two detectives are discussing a homeless veteran involved in a crime when the character played by Gary Sinise (an actor widely known as a strong advocate for veterans) exaggerates the problem of homeless veterans, claiming that there are “over 100,000 brave men and women just lost in the shuffle.” Mr. Marvin’s take: “Beyond the stereotype of the homeless veteran, this exchange is also just false. There are not over 100,000 homeless veterans. There are about 60,000.”
The Good: Clueless Civilians, Thoughtful Veterans
The Mindy Project (2013)
On one recent episode, Seth Rogen guest-starred as one of Mindy’s old friends, home for a few weeks from a deployment in Afghanistan. A regular guy, he navigates the awkward small talk of civilians thanking him for his service with self-deprecating humor. Mr. Marvin said he liked the show’s opening scene in particular because it captured how many veterans deal with the nonmilitary world, and showed a veteran being shaped by more than just war. “Here’s a real guy dealing with real issues in a funny way that isn’t heavy-handed,” Mr. Marvin said.
Matt Lauria plays Ryan, a recently returned veteran who initially befriends Zeek, a Vietnam vet played by Craig T. Nelson, and though Ryan is struggling, he learns to adjust. Many of the questions he asks Zeek about postwar life struck a chord with veterans, and in the end, Mr. Marvin said, Ryan is portrayed as more than just a product of war. Over the course of the season, he develops into a full character, with motivations and desires beyond the battlefield — exactly what Mr. Marvin wants to see more of on the big and little screen.