Watching Vet Tv is an experience that’s difficult to describe in one word. Each episode parodies aspects of the military experience for the stated purpose of helping veterans feel like they’re “not the only fucked up minds in the world,” in the words of co-founder Danny Maher.
Addressing vets in a description of “Transition,” (one of the many half episodes available on YouTube without their paid subscription) Maher says, “Do you hate everything because you feel overwhelmed no one prepared you for this move?” He relates to the feeling that many vets have of being stuck “getting hot brass down their necks and burning shit” rather than “dealing with idiot civilians.”
Knowing that Maher had friends who struggled with depression and anxiety after leaving Iraq and some who committed suicide, I see his blunt and in-your-face approach as something constructive, not something harmful. I found almost every episode not only hilarious but full of meaningful commentary too.
Most importantly, Vet Tv understands the shortfalls of people in the military as connected to faults in the system as a whole. Each episode brings to light different issues and parodies different circumstances, piecing together the overall message of the show as a collective work: that the pain and struggle vets experience is not their own doing, and that humor is an effective coping mechanism following their trauma.
Vice News’ reports that the humor is “Dark and Controversial.” Despite the accuracy of that description, it easily overlooks that what is normally considered dark and controversial becomes part of daily life in a war zone — death, fatigue and stress are constant companions. The show is not meant to be dark, just a reflection of the humor that comes from the reality of combat.
Here are the best short episodes on YouTube that will help any viewer better understand the message and meaning behind Vet Tv.
Transition shows vets being interviewed by an employer who consistently asks questions that trigger bad memories. His over-enthusiasm is super cringeworthy, but resembles how a lot of people approach vets, trying to sympathize with people they really don’t understand and can’t understand.
The fact that at every turn, the employer is asking something that triggers a bad memory is what makes the episode funny, but also delivers its message: The lifestyles people adopt in order to survive in the military are more survival mechanisms than anything else and are too drastic and entrenched to change quickly or easily.
Employer: “So here it says you were in the infantry. You know what almost every character in ‘Call Of Duty’ is?”
*long pause as veteran looks away sideways*
2. Kill, Die, Laugh: PTSD
In one of Vet Tv’s gag advertisements, they pitch the perfect product for reducing PTSD — the night terror neck brace. The “upgraded” version of it includes a pressure gauge that tracks how hard the veteran chokes their wife at night during terrors.
This may seem grim but it’s parodying how easy people think it is to fix relationships damaged by PTSD and is making fun of how similar many of the treatments offered to veterans are like the night terror neck brace — over simplified and more focused on controlling the patient than helping them.
Best quote: “Oh my god honey, when you started fucking your coworker, the pressure started going down.”
“Huh, I guess it did, didn’t it?”
*wife and husband kiss and smile*
If only real life were so simple and people could address their problems in a vacuum.
3. Halfosode: Desperate Gunny
In this Vet Tv Halfosode, young officers are introduced to Gunny, a commanding officer who sexually intimidates them. While I felt bad for the 18- to 20-year-old officers, especially the one who’s sent out of the room when he tells Gunny he’s engaged, I also felt empathy for Gunny — behind her desperation is a loving woman who has been destroyed with little hope of reclaiming her identity again.
For the young officers she is a wakeup call. She’s proving power is abused in the military while also demonstrating that loneliness and repression of desires has distorted her sense of what she wants. She presents the possibility that the military could affect the new officers in the same way and make them want to abuse power as well.
This episode asks us whether the strict lifestyle the military enforces is too constricting and questions how much we can really blame people like Gunny for taking the opportunity to not feel like robotic zombies when it presents itself.
Gunny: “…what do you like to do in your free time?”
Young private: “well, uh, me and my fiancée like to uh cook”
*Gunny aggressively stands up* “FIANCÉE?”
“That’s Gunnery Srgt. to you”
Vet Tv is so ludicrous but so real. The writers don’t play into the idea that the military is a moral place as some people believe because they are the ones being served. The show brings every motivation to light: Some characters are good people who represent those who serve out of good will and honor, other characters are complete scumbags who just want to kill or assert authority.
Its comedy is based in what the writers know most about — the real and mostly secret world of the enlisted ranks whose debauchery and trauma alike will always escape us. An opportunity for a dick joke is never missed. The fact that Middle-Eastern soldiers in the U.S. Army are the odd man out and find themselves the butt of jokes is not ignored. The whole picture is given and spares no details. If this is “dark and controversial,” it’s worth going there for sure.