Sunday, April 23, 2006

No bystanders in hell

When I was little, there was this show, Combat, I think it was every night (at least it felt like it was every night). My three-year-old brother watched it hungrily and spent the rest of the day pretending to be Vic Morrow (was it Vic Morrow?) and telling anyone who would listen that he wanted to be a soldier when he grew up. If I said this show glorified war I would be guilty: of damning with faint praise.

As for me, not being equipped with a Y chromosome, I used to bury my face under the pillow (we would be sleeping out in the hall) and ask for the tv to be turned off. I could find no romance in the grievously wounded men.

When I was about four, M*A*S*H* appeared on our horizon. We were too little to comprehend it really, but loved it anyway. It had the best theme music of any of the shows going and we thought Klinger was hilarious.

Fast foward many years when they bring it back to tv and we finally start to understand what it's about. A comedy? Well, you would have to overlook a hell of a lot to call it a comedy. Most of the episodes, we cried as much as we laughed. And what happened to lovable Henry, I mean that is up there for me with Bambi's mother and the penultimate scene in Life is Beautiful.

Over the years I have come across a few people (who have never watched an episode of this show) who condemned it for glorifying war. My ex-fiance's dad never let his children watch it. And he was horrified when he heard I really enjoyed the show. I don't know how to act in front of such decent and upright folk. I think in future, I'll just stick to my own kind. And let me just add that M*A*S*H* glorified war the same way Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse 5 did. And you must have heard of Slaughterhouse 5.

Anyway, here's something for anyone who has never watched the show, with my best compliments:

Hawkeye: I just don't know why they're shooting at us. All we want to do is bring them democracy and white bread, transplant the American dream; freedom, achievement, hyper-acidity, affluence, flatulence, tension, the inalienable right to an early coronary sitting at your desk while planning to stab your boss in the back; that's entertainment!

Hawkeye (to Radar): Don't you know how much this place stinks? Don't you know what it's like to stand day after day in blood, in the blood of children? I hate this place and if I can't stand up to it to your satisfaction, then to hell with you!

Hawkeye: Wounded?
BJ(nods): Klinger says a lot.
Hawkeye: I don't care. I really don't. They'll keep coming whether I'm here or not. Trapper went home and they're still coming. Henry got killed and they're still coming. Wherever they come from, they'll never run out.

Hawkeye (weeping): I've watched guys die every day, why didn't I ever cry for them?
Henry: Because you're a doctor.
Hawkeye: What's that supposed to mean?
Henry: I don't know. If I had all the answers, I'd be at the Mayo Clinic. Does this look like the Mayo Clinic? Look, all I know is what they taught me at command school. There are certain rules about a war and rule number one is young men die and rule number two is doctors can't change rule number one.

Fr Mulcahey: Well you know what they say, war is hell.
Hawkeye: No, war is worse than hell. Who goes to hell Father?
Mulcahey: Well sinners, mostly.
Hawkeye: Right. There are no bystanders in hell.

The wounded keep coming. The common denominator is blood. It's all red. And there's an awful lot of it leaking out around here.


goldennib said...

I never thought M*A*S*H glorified war. Did that man actually ever see the show? It was made all the more sad by their extreme effort to maintain some sense of normalacy, hope and humour.

When I think of war, I picture hyenias viciously tearing a carcass apart and letting forth with their colon shrinking laugh.

The Deer Hunter fucked me up for weeks after I saw it. Major bouts of depression.

I learned to be very careful about what I watched after that.

Jenn said...

No he never did. He based his opinion on the hype surrounding it.

I agree with you about being careful about what we watch. It's like having something rip into your belly.

But M*A*S*H* is so full of compassion and humour, I find it healing. I find anything where people care for each other and express it, healing.