The 4077th is a M.A.S.H. (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) Unit during the Korean War, which lasted from 1950-1953. Of course, if you think about it, is the war entirely over, or just on hold? There is undeniable tension between North and South Korea that was not finished, and was probably aggravated by the war. But that is not what this post is about.
According to a news article I read online (I cannot link the exact one, as I did not bookmark it), M*A*S*H was the first show to be produced as a drama/comedy. One minute you will be laughing at Dr.'s Hawkeye and Trapper/Hunnicutt, the next you will be practically crying over the physical and mental shape of an 18 year old soldier. It is a roller coaster ride of emotions, but I promise you'll like it. (Or, at least I do.) Because, see, the deep sad stuff has to be in a show based off an army hospital on the front lines, or it would be completely unrealistic. And, at least for me, if the show was only drama and sadness, I am not sure I would like it half as much as I do.
Dr. Hawkeye Pierce is one of the main characters. He is a wonderful surgeon who does not want to be in Korea. How does he cope with all he sees? He makes jokes and takes the war lightly. There are times however when Pierce gets serious and you see the hurt and gravity of Pierce and his true view on his times in Korea.
I love Hawkeye. Sure, sometimes I get annoyed with his careless attitude, his cocky way of talking about women, his disregard for authority can hurt the unit. But he means well, he is a good surgeon, and when push comes to shove, he is kind and helpful. He certainly has his flaws, but Hawkeye makes for a wonderful and complex main character.
Hawkeye seems to be more of a pacifist. He always talks of ending the war, speaks of peace negotiations (though cynically, because they hardly ever come to anything, as negotiations had been talked of since the start of the war), and bemoans the loss of lives on both sides. Yes, both. Hawkeye will not bat an eyelash if you bring him a wounded enemy soldier. He will just slip on his gloves, order a nurse to get some anesthesia, and get to work on his new patient. And I love that about him. Seeing the horrendous-ness of war, seeing "the enemy" as real human beings with good and bad qualities, who are equally as likely to grab a knife from the surgical tray or thank you for operating on them. One Korean spy even ends up helping the M*A*S*H unit when they show him kindness and he sees the great need of the patients.
Watching these shows has me thinking on my own beliefs about war and pacifism, the "us" vs. "them" mentality. Because it is never that simple. People are messy, beautiful, kind, awful, strong, brave, weak, and fragile. Often all at the same time. War is not as-was it Hemingway that Hawkeye had read and admired before the war?-well, anyway, war is not as honorable and clean cut as Hemingway made it out to be in his literature.
And I had never really been forced to confront my thoughts on war, trauma, and the like until I had watched this show. Not that I have it all figured out now that I have been pondering it, but I have views now, however fragile, and I have logical reasons for holding them.
Okay, so we have covered war, pacifism, trauma, PTSD, "enemies," feminism/femininity, religion/God, and humor, And I think it is safe to say that most or all of these subjects can be found in practically every episode of M*A*S*H.
Please go watch this show. It is so much more than an interesting "dramedy" and I cannot wait to see more. This show covers so much about the human condition, life, and war specifically. There is the good and the bad, the saints and the sinners, and everything in between. I'm not sure how many shows can rival M*A*S*H in these aspects, however good they may be.
Everyone needs a show that can make them laugh, cry, learn, and think over the "deep" questions. M*A*S*H is certainly mine. What is yours?