‘We may have bad days… that doesn’t make us killers’: How military veterans perceive contemporary British media representations of military and post-military life

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Over the last two decades of long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the media’s attention on military veterans in the UK has been characterized by a series of shifts: from a focus on combat operations; to initiatives to support transition to civilian life; and finally to a largely invisible presence of veteran issues in the mediated public sphere. This article presents findings from an online qualitative survey conducted with British veterans in 2020. The authors’ primary focus is on how veterans express their concerns when asked about varied televised representations of military and post-military experience. How did the respondents perceive differences across television genres (drama, news, reality TV), and how did this affect their engagement? How do they see their veteran identity reflected back at them through popular media culture?

There is a growing research interest in ‘veteran studies’ from a range of disciplines, but the relationship between veteran identity and perceptions of (post)-military representations remains largely under-researched, at least in the UK context. One concern is that negative or misleading stereotypes of veterans among publics could hinder their successful reintegration into society, but the authors are interested in how veterans make sense of such representations across popular media culture, how they imagine the ‘general public’ audience in their reflections, and the nature of veteran identity they project within the survey responses. This study finds that anxieties about ‘mad, bad or sad’ stereotypical representations of veterans continue, but the diversity within its findings also reaffirms the importance of not treating veterans as a homogeneous group in research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)440-458
Number of pages19
JournalMedia, War and Conflict
Issue number3
Early online date21 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2023

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