Veterans in Media: You’re the Worst
Show Overview – You’re the Worst
This show is a comedy drama on FX written by Stephen Falk about imperfect human beings in LA, laced with characters who engage in vulgar language, sex-capades, and general aimlessness amidst the vicissitudes of life. Aside from the entertainment value where the average viewer can plug into an alternate reality of people living their glamorous/not-so-glamourous lives, there is something for veterans interested in military moves and television.
One of the supporting characters is Edgar Quintero (played by Desmond Borges), an Army veteran who suffers from PTSD from an Iraq deployment and other trauma induced symptoms. Unfortunately, the depiction of the veteran and related vernacular leaves something to be desired. But it does contrast nicely with the typical depiction of veterans as bearded and muscly former special operators with intense tattoos and an addiction to Crossfit. Some of the scripted material for this character is laughable in its inaccuracies. Take for example a public relations spectacle where he dons his dress uniform as a Private with no shave or haircut, no Iraq service ribbon or combat action badge, and gives a speech that is abruptly cut off by the councilman. But this lack of attention to military detail is made up for in a few ways and, if anything, draws veterans in by giving them something to criticize.
Addressing Veteran Issues
First, the show addresses several issues afflicting veterans including homelessness, substance abuse, trauma induced mental illnesses, and a general sense of post-military loss. Particularly poignant was Edgar’s experience with the VA, where getting the care he needs is frustratingly difficult. In an episode titled “Twenty-Two” Edgar finds an alternative to the VA care which fell short; a connection and ensuing commiseration with a fellow veteran who shows him kindness and talks to him like a normal human being. Side note: Twenty-Two is the average number of veteran suicides in the United States per day.
Representation of Depression
Additionally, the show dives deep into depression as a mental illness. Unlike most live action comedy drama series in recent times, it outright calls out and addresses this condition. The main co-star Gretchen says at one point, “Here is an interesting thing you don’t know about me. I am clinically depressed”. Granted, not every veteran has depression, but dollars to donuts, every vet knows someone who does. The show, in some ways, directly de-stigmatizes this condition and attempts to show one story of how it affects an individual and those around them. Talking about depression or depressive tendencies for military personnel and veterans is still highly taboo. More shows that bring these issues in the open in an intentional and meaningful way will help with the healing through awareness and conversation.
Imperfect but Subtle
Overall, the show is not overtly in your face about veterans and their issues. In fact, it makes light of some of their experiences, as it should to some degree. Life is messy, non-linear, non-chronological, and veterans and civilians alike could gain something from this show. It is not without its faults, including a lack of leading roles for people of color, over the top and unrelatable privilege, and the blatant lack of consequences for certain transgressions. However, TV shows, especially those about the veteran experience or depression will never be 100% accurate. So as Gretchen says, “With the right attitude, this can be an adventure for everyone”.
(Note: Quotes from You’re the Worst Season 2 Episode 7 – “There Is Not Currently a Problem”)
About the Contributor
Miko is an LA / NYC based writer who deployed thrice to Afghanistan with the Marines and worked in financial services in New York. He sometimes enjoys reading, running, rock climbing, and alliteration. Miko is also a contributor to the Veterans Writing Workshop (http://veteranswritingworkshop.org/books.html).