M.A.S.H.: Bending The Rules

Before M.A.S.H. aired for the first time 42 years ago, everybody was wondering how the black humor, the off-hand sexuality and (more importantly) the gory aspect of a medical tent would be translated on the TV screen. And everybody was entitled to ask these questions, especially if the sources of the series were taken into consideration (the novel and the movie M.A.S.H.)

As some movie critics said at that time, the small screen wasn’t prepared yet for spilling innards or explicit sexual scenes, something which M.A.S.H. the movie featured prominently. But the series did come with an original idea (again, original as far as a TV series is concerned), that of making an anti-war statement through a situation comedy which takes place on the front line.

In this case, the black humor was absolutely welcome. However, it was toned down a bit for the series, even if it was way over the top when compared to other shows from back then. Same goes for the all the gore you would usually meet in a motion picture. Thus, on the small screen you may get a glimpse of red during a surgery, but it won’t be the same as when the camera zooms in on the open wound.

M.A.S.H. the series didn’t show any naked nurses either, but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t play the sexuality card well. In fact, the pilot can be said to center on this kind of a topic, since it was then when Hawkeye and Trapper organized a fund-raising with the prize being one of the nurses (a little too misogynistic for our times, but still funny).

Other than that, the sexuality was rather implied than bluntly shown. The camera would just turn off after a kiss, or the characters themselves would close their eyes when such situation would occur. But, again, it is always funny to see doctors up to their elbows in innards spewing sexually-charged remarks at their colleagues.

In my opinion, the M.A.S.H. series did manage to change a bit (or a bit more) the way in which television shows were perceived. Statements can be made even during a 25 minutes show, even if everything is toned down.

Of course, if you are/were watching this series searching for historical truths, you may end up saying that there was indeed a reason why America lost the war. However, this isn’t the point of the film, even if at times it can serve as a testimonial.

The point, and I believe everybody can agree, is to say that war is no good, no matter on which side you are, no matter what your role is in it: There are no innocent bystanders in Hell. [But] War is chock full of them – little kids, cripples, old ladies. In fact, except for some of the brass, almost everybody involved is an innocent bystander. 

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