The Three Faces of PTSD: Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)

Whenever I watch a Disney-Pixar movie, I cannot avoid looking through the inner message of each animated film. Gone are the days when animation was merely for the young ones. Today, the revolution of animation technology has opened the doors for innovative stories to be produced. Never has compelling child-rendered stories been these interesting for all individuals coming from all ages and background.

Perhaps the producers simply wanted to increase viewer ratings and satisfaction. However, in the long run, it is obvious how the stories were created to suit the understanding of a wide variety of ages of viewers from all over the globe. Taking the animated characters into a much higher level of viewer relativity, these movies challenge the audience to think through each turn of event and how the characters intend to change alongside the said adjustments.

In the plot used to relay the story of Kung Fu Panda 2, three strong characters presented an interesting definition of what PTSD is and how it affects an individual depending on one’s attitude towards it. Lord Shen, Po and Tigress provide a rather convincing distinction on how we, humans, tend to face the past as part of our lives at present.

Lord Shen- The Impeccable Perfectionist 


The dark antagonist of the movie, Lord Shen is presented as a peacock wanting more power than what was given him. Taking over of all China was his main goal; nevertheless, the reason behind his anguish says more about how he faced a supposed dark past that he has created in his mind. In the story, he was characterized to be someone who wanted all- even more than what was supposed to be his. Being the sole heir to the throne, he thought that he would be given all the authority but his parents had something else planned for him; a plan he did not agree to. Instead of simply moving forward, he stuck his mind into the idea that he was neglected by his parents- assuming that they really never loved him simply because he defined love as a willing response to his desires.

As he took the time to create his plans, he came back with full revenge, carrying in his heart the full thought that he was neglected and that he just came to avenge his throne. With such negative thought in his mind, he distinctively created a plan that would assure him of the full authority he originally desired for. He has done more to be able to accomplish his goals; which includes putting others under his oppression to supposedly prove his capacity to take on the throne and impose authority on the people.

So how does he represent a particular face of PTSD? There are instances when particular memories are built up from the mere establishment of beliefs that we may have created to cover up a painful truth. Shen’s overtly defined identification of himself and what he is supposed to be ha caused him to see his parents differently, which in turn caused him to redefine his personality according to such belief.

He knows what the truth is, but he covers it up with something that might fit the story he wanted to create. But the reality is what caught up to him. Although he believes that his parents did not love him, he knows in himself that he lost them through his own doing. He knows that his dreams cost him his family; the love of his parents. Even though he was told repetitively about his parents’ love for him, his story was already solid in his head- but he was clearly not able to move on from the fact that identified his past.

While Post Traumatic Stress Disorder may not be self-imposed, the behavior of one towards the truth could create a differentiating effect on how one views the situation. Only one part of Lord Shen’s story was presented in the movie. Nevertheless, the series of events that made him the villainous character that he has become have not been mentioned anymore.

What makes him a reflection of PTSD is that one aspect of the disorder is the desire of one to take revenge. The desire to get back on whoever has wronged the person is a classic presentation of stressing factor that continuous to change an individual suffering from PTSD. The fact that the person believes that he has not been vindicated from such dark past, that he was wrongly accused of doing something, creates the desire to take revenge and to somehow come out victorious from such plan. The desire to reestablish one’s strength after being broken; this is what Lord Shen has given life to in the story. However, to come out victorious, he resorts to creating standards that he needs to follow; the perfect systems in his being that would help him become that person who emerges victoriously from the breakages of his past. Nevertheless, with all his cover ups, he still ends up broken because he fails to recognize the real value of healing.

Tigress- The Well Kept Sufferer 


Strong, stern and sturdy; this was how Tigress was represented in the movie. Unmovable and unbreakable as her outside representation was, Tigress was seen to have a kind heart in several scenes in the movie especially when she tried to understand what Po was going through in relation to the past he was struggling to remember.

Unlike Lord Shen, Tigress was actually left alone by her parents and was left off to grow up in an orphanage. She was a problem child; a youngster who cannot control her rage. The emptiness in her heart and the longing for such loving care from a family made her vulnerable to leaning towards wrong dispositions and uncontrolled handling of her emotions.

Master Shifu’s involvement in her growth played a great role on how such emotions could be controlled. The way taught her to hold it down and to use her anger and turn it into a more positive source of power made her realize that she is worth more than what she thought she was.

While she still battles with her memories and her questions over her parents living her alone, she continues to face life. When she finally sees her friend Po going through the same dilemma as she is, she finally shows the soft spot of her being, and yet she holds herself together pretty well.

Like Tigress, many PTSD sufferers tend to hold it right in themselves. They know that they have a lot of concerns, making it harder for them to share their thoughts with others. They hide their emotions simply because they do not want to be called weak, and they do not want to answer too many questions that even they have no answers to. Nevertheless, Tigress represents the epitome of PTSD sufferers who are trying to survive every day, hoping that one day, their good deeds would pay off and save them from the past that keeps on redefining their identity. A vital part of their survival is the creation of a facade that would allow them to function amidst the breakages that they have encountered in their lives in the past.

PO- The holistic Warrior 



Struggling to catch up with a memory that would identify him, Po may have not been very much concerned of his past at first. But when it finally catches up with him, it challenges his present serenity with what happened then and how it was supposed to redefine his being today. He was refusing to take into account what actually happened although he wanted to learn from it.

With properly processing his memory, he struggled to face the truth and learned that accepting it happened and that it will always be a part of who he is now, made him whole. Attaining inner peace from such realizations, he became the holistic warrior that he was supposed to be.

The famous line in the movie “wounds heal” provides an insight on how PTSD survivors could still survive especially if they are able to process the situation that they are suffering from. It is the memories that make PTSD hard to conquer. The mind repeatedly replays the scenarios and makes everything real again. To some, such wounds have become scars- something that is permanent. Nevertheless, through attaining “inner peace” which includes coming into terms with such memories and being able to move on to a better state, anyone suffering from PTSD could still have a brighter tomorrow; a better life apart from the disorderly past that they may have suffered then.

What valuable options are there for PTSD sufferers to take in order to survive their current state? A supporting blog shall be posted following this.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Superb post however , I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on this subject? I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit more. Bless you!


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