Trauma in the Media: A Thematic Analysis of Trauma Representations in The Umbrella Academy

Macy Dykes and Lindsey Hand, School of Communication and Media, Kennesaw State University, 1000 Chastain Road, Kennesaw GA 30144

The purpose of this study was to examine how trauma and the effects it has on mental health are represented in the media. The existing literature in this area of study has primarily focused on the lack of response representation present in portrayals of trauma. This has left a lack of available research examining examples where trauma response is actually addressed. This study seeks to fill that knowledge gap by examining a piece of media in which trauma and its effects are integral to the story and main cast of characters. A thematic analysis was conducted of the first season of the popular Netflix series The Umbrella Academy which resulted in the identification of six central themes regarding trauma and trauma response- 1) experiencing trauma and abuse, 2) flashbacks, hallucinations, and nightmares, 3) aggressive and reckless behavior, 4) substance abuse, 5) difficulty forming and maintaining relationships, and 6) negative mood and self-image. Instances of each theme’s appearance in the show were noted and subsequently coded by which of the six main characters were involved in the example. This study analyzes how the show used elements of trauma response in plot and character development over the course of a 10-episode narrative and argues that The Umbrella Academy stands out amongst other shows in its genre as an example of accurate trauma representation. The results of the analysis found that the show utilizes its large and diverse main cast to represent a spectrum of trauma effects by presenting varying degrees of each theme in the individual characters’ storylines. All six characters experience the effects of their trauma differently, which results in a well-rounded overall portrayal of trauma effects on the show as a whole.

Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Macy Dykes

Institution: Kennesaw State University

Type: Poster

Subject: Communications

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Poster 4
Date/Time: Tue 11:00am-12:00pm
Session Number: 3659