Frank Burns of M*A*S*H

While I enjoyed the series for the most part, I was annoyed by how left wing it was–considering its writers were ultra-left wing no surprise there. But what really disappointed me was how everyone treated Frank Burns. The man could never have a legitimate complaint, he was always brushed aside, he was treated with contempt, and even the priest treated him this way.

I rise in his defense to say that this character was going through the same miseries as everyone else. Had less skills to deal with the situation in which he found himself and yet no one made allowances for him or treated him with much kindness. Sure, they’d throw him a bone now and then, but the general attitude was one of total negation of him as a person. Am I the only one who feels like this character was just a convenient whipping boy for those who hated conservatives? I know Burns was a hypocrite, but that too was the way he was written.

When Charles Emerson Winchester III and Col. Potter came along, they softened some of the hard line leftist rhetoric, but I always felt like Burns was only there to be a cardboard figure for them to abuse.

What was to like about Burns? He was a one-dimensional character with no observable redeeming qualities.

Sometimes sitcoms are just sitcoms. I think we have rather worse ones to worry about than MASH! :wink:

You do realize that

  1. the program was written in the 1970s so the characters have to be viewed in that time context
  2. The Korean war was a metaphor for the Vietnam War since it was too "close to home’ to have a TV series on Vietnam
  3. In both the book and the movie (before the TV shows) Burns was a foil and antagonist to Hawkeye
  4. These are not real people

I love MASH. My favourite episodes were those in which the notion that the “enemy” was human as well was a dominant theme.

I, too, did not like the treatment of Frank Burns, but I will add that I did not think much of him as a person. He cheated on his wife numerous times, with no remorse whatsoever, he tattled on the other characters frequently, just to get them in trouble, and he tried to continue to seduce Major Houlihan, even after she was happily engaged to another man. I agree with another poster that there was not many redeeming qualities to the character.


We definitely have much worse ones to worry about, I agree!


Frank Burns was also a married man committing adultery and then was a hypocrite about it. He would point out the immoral behaviors of others and pretend he was sinless. He was also a whiner and a tattle-tale. And he looked down of people like Radar and Klinger. Life isn’t always that different than kindergarten; sometimes the ones who get picked on are the ones who put themselves apart from the rest. It’s not always fair, is it?

Had he stayed with the show, his character might have evolved and become more sympathetic. Margaret’s character certainly did.

Like others have pointed out: these aren’t real people, but fictional characters do help us see things from other points of view.

Characters like Frank Burns and Archie Bunker were made to look like ignorant patriots. Hawkeye Pierce was the Bugs Bunny type and Burns like Elmer Fudd.
It was the cold war era. Leftist Hollywood got their message across through tv

How long have you had these feelings?:eek:

You were right to finally get them off your chest:p

MASH jumped the shark when the actors who portrayed Burns, Trapper, and Henry left the show.

As someone else pointed out, the character of Frank Burns was purposely made one dimensional - with no redeeming qualities - to be the butt of jokes…In fact that is why Lary Linville left the show…They refused to allow him to develop while other characters were.

That said…I remember one episode in which Frank was being cornered by Hawkeye and BJ over something and he called them on the fact that they had no proof…As he left the room Hawkeye turned to BJ and said, “Don’t you hate it when he’s right?”

I was happy when Frank left the show because Charles was a much better Character.


Indeed… Like Chris Matthews of MSNBC.

I don’t remember Father Mulcahy treating Frank Burns badly. All of the characters in the early seasons were little mor than caractures. I don’t think the show picked up until after Trapper and Henry were gone.

I’m laughing just thinking about the episode where there got a hold of Frank’s wedding video.

There is one bit of reality in the personality of the charecter Frank Burns.
Any US military veteran can tell you that during their military career there was one individual, one person they learned to absolutely dispise…to the extent that this person became ones favorite enemy. You could sit back and really enjoy hating and dispising this person mentally to your hearts content, and no matter of evil things happening to him would be too good! You could really work out all of your resentments about the world in this way. And he couldn’t get back at you because it was all mental.
I know that this if far from evincing Christian Charity, but then, military services are definately not charitible organizations and for the most part aren’t Christian. The fact that as many veterans are still believers after military service is indeed miraculous!

Very good! Also, in seeing a recent reairing of a reunion show, from 1995, I believe, they discussed the actor who played Burns. Larry Linville? In real life, Linville was the total opposite of Burns, but he knew how important this character was to the show. He was a great actor and sport. Enjoy the character, that’s what Linville would have wanted.

Actually, in the 1995 reunion show, MASH creator Larry Gelbart and Alan Alda both agreed this show was not a direct commentary about the Vietnam War, but a statement about all wars in general, not just that particular one.

I like MAS*H too, I liked Fr. Mulcahy

My dad served in the Korean War (he was on the front lines, and he was the camp cook and also an autopsy assistant). He was injured and sent home with honors (he was awarded some medal, but not sure which one).

I was a teenager when M.A.S.H. was on TV, and he and I used to watch it together. He repeatedly told me that everything on the show was accurate.

Watching M.A.S.H. was the only time he would share memories of his war experienes, and he said over and over again that war is crazy and that the U.S. should stay out of wars. I was fascinated with this–the stereotype of war veterans back then was that they were “hawks.” My dad was just the opposite. He was a tough, strong guy, a farmer who also worked in a factory as a pipe fitter, but he was a “dove” when it came to wars.

I think this show was immensely helpful to Korean War veterans, who back then, were completely forgotten. It helped him to talk about his experiences.

MAS*H has been one of my favorite shows for years. While it may have leaned towards the left, it was never exactly a liberal pep rally; The ugliness of war and coping with the death and destruction was the real theme, one that I hope would be universal. It should be noted that the treatment of Frank Burns has less to do with any kind of anti-conservatism on the show’s part and more to do with being true to the source material, in this case the 1970 film and original 1968 book, both of which were actually much more conservative in nature, especially the book (although the movie/TV Burns was actually a combination of two characters from the book). The TV series was more liberal due to Alan Alda’s heavy involvement behind the scenes.

Burns was reviled because he was a bigot, a hypocrite, and an incompetent doctor. He was the for basis a lot of the comedy in that first half of the series. When he left, a strong comedic element left with him, which is why I prefer the Frank Burns-era, especially seasons 3, 4, and 5, which are IMO brilliant (although I love the entire series).

It’s worth mentioning that the character we should all identify with much more than Frank Burns is Fr. Mulcahy, who was always treated with friendship and respect, even if religion-wise he wasn’t always taken very seriously (that aspect was seen more in the book and film, the show was somewhat more supportive, especially in later years). He was shown to be kind, caring, human, and certainly no pushover. He’s one of my favorite TV characters ever, and definitely a positive (and realistic!) portrayal of a Catholic Priest (which is refreshing to see, especially after watching any number of more modern shows).

Not only one of my very favorite moments from the series, but one of THE funniest things I’ve ever seen!

His wedding video - VIDEO??? This was 1951 or 1952 and the wedding itself was probably in the mid 1940’s. More likely it was a home movie.

Just kidding you a little. We are so used to what we have today we sometimes forget what was used before. And sometimes my inner editor rears its ugly, nit-picky head! I’m sure you were thinking of the scene rather than the precise nomenclature. And it’s late and I’m getty goofy.

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