Monday, March 7, 2016
Suicide may be painless, but this movie sure isn't. I know most people are judging by the television show, which started out clever, then gradually turned more and more preachy and annoying. A lot of people never watched the movie or read the book the show was based on. I haven't read the book, and after seeing the movie, I have no intention to. I have a lot of respect for the Armed Forces in general, and the MASH units of the Korean War did some truly amazing things. They pushed medicine ahead with their innovation and technical skill. And sure, I suppose it was more interesting for jaded viewers sick of the Vietnam War to watch army doctors boozing and chasing women. I'm sure plenty of that went on. When I worked in a photo lab, a patron who had worked in a MASH unit asked if I wanted to see some of the slides he had converted to photographs. They included slides of a double amputation in progress, which he called “Pretty neat to watch”. So I understand the grim sense of humor and the thrill-seeking. What I don't understand is the cruelty and pettiness accompanying them. The problem is when they pull down the tent for everyone to see Hot Lips naked, they gather the camp so everyone can laugh at her. Even her nickname is from them pulling a dirty trick and broadcasting her sexual encounter with Frank all over the camp. And “Trapper” John is explained to have gained his nickname from raping a girl in a subway car. These casual throwaway lines and situations about sexual assault just disturbed me deeply. I know we're supposed to be thinking about the brutality and mindlessness of war, but instead I was thinking about the brutality and mindlessness of the men. I'm sure it was a novelty having a war movie where only one military character earns any sort of respect, but if I watch a movie about lowlifes, I want the movie to know that they're lowlifes. I can't recommend this one. Sure, it filled a cultural niche at the time, but some works are better as curiosities. Besides being a generally plodding, dull affair about hateful men, it's also really uncomfortably rape-y.