Trauma has become sexy. Just yesterday I was scrolling through a youtube and came across a music video for a popular song by the mainstream band Maroon 5. The video opens on the bands front man running through a hospital screaming while trying to find the emergency room. When he reaches in he walks straight into an operating room where his super model girlfriend is lying open on the table after being the victim of a car accident. Now I’ll admit whomever developed the concept of this video earned the large sum of money they surely received for it. And Maroon 5 is certainly neither the first nor the last offender. It is human nature to be attracted to and interested in events that heighten our reality and submerge us into a dramatic situation, unfortunately the portrayal of trauma in the media has become exciting, foreign, sexy, and ever present.
Think back to the last time you sat down to watch a network television drama, perhaps the one about teenagers with insurmountable angst, or maybe the one about the beautiful doctors with “first-world” problems. Do you have one in mind? Great. Now think about the last time one of your most beloved characters was killed off, or suffered some near live ending ailment. What happened? Did the gorgeous love interest run through the hospital screaming? Did he look beautiful and masculine? Did the family fall to the ground in grief? And how did the victim look? I’m going to predict that they looked exactly as the television actor who plays them every week always looks. And here in lies the problem.
It is not news that Hollywood likes to show things in a heightened and unrealistic way. But my question is why do we allow media to pick and choose what groups and situations are given an accurate portrayal. Everyday we see crusades to have more minorities in television and movies. In recent year’s many hit shows have made particular efforts to discuss issues such as sexual orientation and gender reassignment in an accurate way, as they should, but why can’t trauma, its victims, and their families, be given the same courtesy? Because here is the reality of trauma, it is neither sexy nor romantic. Trauma is bloody. It’s gory. It usually involves a lethal cocktail of not showering or sleeping that leaves one looking more like Steve Buscemi if he were living on the streets than Josh Duhmel running passionately through a hallway. Trauma leaves no survivors and takes no prisoners. It tears through lives like a hurricane leaving wreckage in its wake. The victims of trauma are almost always never quite the same physically or mentally. There are no happy endings just occasional pieces of good news one can take solace in. And currently the media is not getting it right.
I’m sure many of you reading this are wondering why this matters. But the truth is that it does. We are nation coming home form the longest war in American history and are still fighting in an even more recent one and everyday trauma victims come home from war and continue to fight a battle against their injuries. Trauma accounts for eighty percent of all teenage deaths. Sixty percent of all childhood deaths, and is the leading cause of death among all persons under the age of forty-five. And yet we are still using these situations as a cheap form of entertainment.
I am well aware that many other disorders and situations are misrepresented in media but trauma seems to be the calling card. The dramatic car accident or shooting has become the quintessential cliff-hanger episode of every network television show and I am well aware that this will not stop, and that the chances of its portrayal changing are slim to none as well. So here’s what I’m asking… the next time you watch one of these portrayals try to think of the real people living in these actual horrific situations. Imagine the physical pain of the victim. Picture the faces of the families. Imagine the voice of the doctors ringing in their ears as they tell them their options. And more than anything remember that these are real situations that someone, somewhere not that far away is living, and try understand their heartache and their trauma.