For anybody who was a child in the 1980s, the A-Team is probably synonymous with a large black van and Mr. T.’s complaints about flying. Of the four main characters, H.M. Murdock, played by Dwight Schultz, was always perceived as the comic relief element. He was the “crazy fool”, according to B.A., flying helicopters whenever the team needed him to.
Unless you’re an enthusiastic fan of the A-Team, it’s fair to say that you probably need a brief recap of who H.M. Murdock is. Murdock is by far the most capable member of the team, even though he lives in a psychiatric center since his return from the Vietnam war. Indeed, the character demonstrates genius-like abilities.: Murdock speaks many foreign languages. He is also a talented actor who is comfortable impersonating famous voices. The show never revealed what his first and middle names were. His nickname, Howlin’ Mad, is the closest we get to figuring out what H.M. stands for. For someone who is described as being mad, Murdock appears to be a surprisingly strong character. However, there’s more to him. The character offers remarkably deep insights into painful mental health issues.
It’s fair to say that Murdock has been traumatized
The story never reveals what happened to Murdock, but we know that he has been living in a psychiatric center after the Vietnam war. As the center treats only army veterans, it is fair to assume that Murdock goes through PTSD therapy as part of his healing journey. Ultimately, the Vietnam war has been the first war in living memory to expose American soldiers to inhumane levels of violence and pressure. We don’t know what Murdock experienced during the war, but most of us can imagine the worst.
He has found a way to tackle his negative thoughts
Everybody has an inner critic. Indeed, your self-talk is designed to keep you self-aware and avoid mistakes. However, it can also prevent you from living your life to the fullest by questioning your every move and idea. Shutting down your self-critic is an integral part of the self-care routine. For Murdock, however, shutting down the inner critic has turned into a fantasy life in which he plays a different person every day. Throughout the show, Murdock keeps himself motivated by talking to imaginary friends and entertaining conversations with inanimate objects. Perhaps, we can see here a metaphor of how difficult it is to stay positive.
In times of needs, Murdock is perfectly rational and sane
Lastly, the crazy character is able to switch to strategic and healthy thinking whenever the situation needs him to. The behavior suggests that Murdock is not as mad as he first appears. In fact, he may be playing role that isolates him from society. Indeed, many believe that Murdock fakes his insanity as protection. He doesn’t want his trauma to make him a victim. Rather than trying to lead a normal life, he’s chosen to remain an outsider, where nobody can get to him.
In an age where many of use struggle to put our issues in words, it can be helpful to find a new angle to help and raise awareness. For many, identifying with a fictional character can trigger self-awareness and healing. Perhaps, Captain H.M. Murdock is more than comic relief, and he can serve a deeper purpose for some of us.