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PTSD Clarinet Boy is an advice animal image macro series based on a double exposure portrait of a redheaded boy dressed in a school band uniform holding a clarinet. A full-body image of the uniformed boy gazing out is superimposed on to the back of his head. The captions typically emulate the first-person accounts of a war veteran suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, interpreting the dual images of the boy as him mulling over the past. The captions have since evolved to become similar to those found in the Karate Kyle and Vengeance Dad series, often relating to being deemed a loser in high school.
The original image was posted in the single topic blog Awkward Family Photos on July 17th, 2009. Titled “A Beautiful Mind,” the caption asked readers to think about what was going on in the young boy’s head. By December 2009, the image was picked up by the image macro creating site Meme Generator, where it initially was called “Veteran PTSD Clarinet Boy,” adopting the voice of Vietnam war veterans remembering the past. However, it is unclear what the first instance of this was.
One of the earliest mentions of the series outside of Meme Generator was posted to the Pro Touring automobile enthusiast forums on December 31st, 2009 in a thread comparing Firebirds and Camaros. On January 8th, 2010, a thread dedicated to the series was posted on the Ultimate Guitar forums. By the end of January, the name of the series had been shortened to PTSD Clarinet Boy and was posted to Tumblr for the first time. One of the earliest archived 4chan threads using the series was posted to /a/ (Anime and Manga) on February 7th, 2010.
On February 12th, a thread about PTSD Clarinet Boy was started on the Bodybuilding.com forums, generating 12 pages of responses. Four days later, a Facebook fan page for the series was created, gaining just under 1,500 likes as of July 2013. That April, a collection of PTSD Clarinet Boy images were combined in a FunnyJunk post that has since been viewed nearly 25,000 times. The series saw a renewed interest in February 2011 with a compilation posted on Buzzfeed. The next month, a single topic Tumblr titled PTSD Clarinet Kid was created, but was abandoned after 48 posts.
As of July 2013, there have been more than 25,000 PTSD Clarinet Boy images submitted to Meme Generator and an additional 3,500 have been created with Quickmeme. Additional instances can be found on Tumblr, Memebase and Reddit.