Frank Burns of M*A*S*H

My fav line from mash went something like
Someone: Nothings too good for our boys (soldiers)
Hawkeye: Exactly! Thats why they get so much of it.
That line aways stuck with me for some reason.

Good Catch…:thumbsup:

That line was current during the Conflict of 1861-65 and was probably muttered at Valley Forge.

As for Burns, he was always one-dimensional characters, as others noted but Houlihan was allowed to develop and Col. Potter, a regular Army man was treated respectfully.

Good discussion, everyone. :slight_smile: What I was trying to say is that Burns was as much a wounded soldier as any of the ones they operated on in surgery. He apparently had a bad childhood in which his father constantly berated him, turning him into a mean little kid who cared for no one but himself. He needed Dr. Freeman more than Hawkeye did, but never got any help or consideration. He was just written off and negated. I know he was a fictional character, but people who turn into themselves and turn off everyone else need help. He certainly never got any from those who claimed to care for those scarred by the war. I think he was as much a victim as any other, but got no help and no sympathy. I wish someone had at least tried to help him. When he left they mocked him and rejoiced. Only Margaret felt any loss and even she turned on him after giving him so much of herself, not just her body. It has grated on me for years–not every day every moment, of course, but whenever I think about the show or watch it.

Yes this is true - but of course he came wounded - as you describe below.

He apparently had a bad childhood in which his father constantly berated him, turning him into a mean little kid who cared for no one but himself.

My guess is his mother was a part of this as well.

He needed Dr. Freeman more than Hawkeye did, but never got any help or consideration. He was just written off and negated.

Well - it’s not like Dr Freeman could “operate” on him like a “bad appendix”…Frank would have needed to want to change and this the producers would never allow his character to do…

I know he was a fictional character, but people who turn into themselves and turn off everyone else need help. He certainly never got any from those who claimed to care for those scarred by the war.

I agree but then - He was not “scarred by the war”…He was so self involved that the war was unable to touch him…It was only about what effected him. Something he learned long before entering the army.

I think he was as much a victim as any other, but got no help and no sympathy. I wish someone had at least tried to help him. When he left they mocked him and rejoiced.

Agreed, but then there are some people who just seem to be beyond any sort of help…

Only Margaret felt any loss and even she turned on him after giving him so much of herself, not just her body.

Yea - it’s a shame - but the sad thing is that such people really DO exist…

It has grated on me for years–not every day every moment, of course, but whenever I think about the show or watch it.

Sounds like you need to not watch the earlier shows…:smiley:
Charles was so much funnier anyway…:rotfl:

Peace
James

I guess what bothers me is the idea that it’s all right to depise some people because they don’t line up with one’s own values or live up to one’s expectations of what “normal” people ought to be/behave. It’s the attitude I see in the left who are tolerant only of those they think deserve tolerance, but have no tolerance for those who they don’t agree with. As Catholics we need to guard against dismissing people based on our personal dislike of them. It’s why I was disappointed that Fr. Mulcahy seemed as dismissive of Frank as all the others, but then the person playing the part wasn’t a Catholic and the writers weren’t Catholic nor did they have a truly liberal sensibility in which all persons are to be treated with respect even if they are unlikeable. After all, Frank Burns wasn’t evil only mean and selfish. I always felt they did their own cause a disservice by keeping him one dimensional instead of fleshing him out and at least letting him grow up a bit. But they were more interested in making him the butt of jokes rather than in truly caring about his character. As a writer, I love even my most evil characters and try to find something in them that is redeemable so the reader can feel that if only circumstances had been different or someone had stepped in maybe that character could have been saved. Does this make any sense or am I way off? :slight_smile:

Frank Burns, and later Charles Emerson Winchester the Third, were written to be foils to Hawkeye/Trapper/BJ Hunnicutt.

Sometimes fiction is just fiction.

I think it was very good the way they kept the reality of war to the forefront and very sensitively handled the death of Henry Blake.

But is it good fiction? CEWIII at least had redeeming qualities. And Col. Potter was a capable man in charge of a bunch of rowdy people who sometimes demonstrated all the maturity of 2 year olds, making him a better commander than poor Col. Blake. I think once the Burns character and the Blake character were gone the writers began to write more realistic scenarios and take their characters more seriously. It definitely shows in the later episodes.

Frank Burns eats worms:rotfl:

This isn’t just a MASH problem it’s a massive issue throughout Hollywood. There is a very real temptation to simplify the world into good guys versus villians with no redeeming human qualities, so that we feel nothing but pleasure when Stallone or somebody shows up to pump them full of lead. (and I’m totally guilty of loving some of these movies!)

I’m actually about 3/4 convinced that this pernicious Hollywood habit has a LOT to do with the broad support for the death penalty in America. It’s easy to forget that humans are good, but fallen. Even those who are fallen more than we think we are.

Only Satan is truly evil by nature (and perhaps those lost souls already in hell). Humans here on earth always still have at least some shred of goodness and the potential for redemption. Hollywood doesn’t believe that and doesn’t want us to either.

Yes, it’s good fiction because it engages us.

Good fiction makes people like the OP get emotionally involved with the characters and wish that he/she could enter the fictional world and fix things. We actually think about what the characters are doing outside of each episode. To us, the characters are real enough that we are almost convinced that they continue living outside of the episodes. In fact, decades later, we’re STILL talking about the characters!

Bad fiction would not engage us. We would laugh at the jokes and admire the cute guys (or gals, if you’re a guy), but we would not really care about why the characters act the way they do, or what happens to the characters in the course of the show. And we certainly wouldn’t wonder what the characters are doing after the episodes end.

I think that everyone needs to keep in mind that the treatment of Burns was actually closer to the way things actually are in real life. We all know them–people who just don’t fit in, and everyone is mean to them both to their face and behind their back, and we all know that there is no fairy godmother who steps in and makes everything all better for them.

On shows like The Brady Bunch, there was always someone who would fix everything and make a happy ending. There is one episode in which Marsha helps a school wallflower to be pretty and popular–that’s the way things work in children’s fiction. Everything works out and the endings are sweet.

But think about it–does this ever happen in real life? Did YOU ever get involved back in high school and help a wallflower? Did you ever know an “ugly” girl in the school who managed to transform herself into a beautiful girl that all the boys wanted to date?

Maybe, especially if you are from a religious family that tries to practice charity.

But like it or not, most of the time, losers remain losers.

And that’s what M.A.S.H presented–a fictionalized version of real life, in which a loser remains a loser. Sure, every once in a while, Burns said or did something that made you catch your breath and wonder if he was about to emerge as a beautiful butterfly, but always, he would slip right back into his old ways. (Sounds like my diet life.)

I doubt it. Margaret had room to grow from day one – Frank was a one-note character who was given no real chance to be sympathetic. He was the whuppin’ boy of the series. And that’s a lot of the reason Larry Linville finally quit the series – he felt there was nowhere he could take the character, and quite honestly, I think that frustration was shared by the writers – by the end, him going completely insane was all they could do to give him some sort of development.

And they are still doing it…:frowning:

I was scrolling through to see if anyone posted this yet!!

I am a HUGE fan of MAS*H! Love this thread!

I remember one episode where Hawkeye berated Burns mercilessly for botching a surgery…Burns was being careless and Hawkeye called him on it.

In that same episode, Hawkeye almost lost a patient because he did not “run the bowel” thoroughly enough and missed a piece of shrapnel.

Burns walked in on the second surgery that Hawkeye was performing to fix the mistake. When Hawkeye found the shrapnel, Burns said, “Well anybody could have missed that.”

Hawkeye softened a bit and said “Thanks Frank”.

I agree that the character was meant to be an antagonist and not meant to change/evolve, but I do remember that particular episode.

Does anybody else remember any other episodes where Frank shows a brief glimmer of real human kindness, like above?

Your sentence, which I bolded, is the point I’m trying to make–that Hawkeye, who is supposed to be so liberal in his views and so accepting of others, won’t accept Frank for who he is, but must antagonize him at nearly every turn. In the case you cite Hawkeye knows he screwed up and for just an instance can relate to Frank. But Frank did make other concessions only to be shot down for not making them as sincerely as Hawkeye thought he should or as quickly as he thought he should and so on. It was perfectly fine for Hawkeye to go after Frank’s every weakness but Hawkeye’s foibles were excused without question or rancor. Sure Frank was selfish, picky, bemeaning to underlings, etc., but he was working under the same horrible conditions as everyone else. It was his way of dealing with pressures of being in that situation, but he never got an ounce of consideration for all his hard work, his loyalty to his job, or anything he did that was positive. It was hate and attack Frank Burns night and day. If that had been me I’d have gone crazy. Frank dealt with it by chasing Margaret, but Trapper John chased women as a married man but, once again, got a free pass. Why? Because he was a liberal and not a conservative. I’m sure TJ’s wife wouldn’t have appreciated his actions any more than Frank’s wife, but somehow we’re supposed to overlook her concerns and dump on Frank’s wife simply for being Frank’s wife. And the list goes on of such inequalities in the way the characters acted and were treated on the show according to their political leanings, especially in the days before Col. Potter and Major Winchester came on the scene.

LOL, they still do!

:smiley:

(shortened by Tomarin)

The lesson of Frank Burns may be that the one cardinal sin that can never be forgiven in our popular culture is to be uptight (although granted, he had a lot of other flaws but I think those could have been forgiven by the audience and the other characters on the show if he hadn’t been so buttoned up). I did kind of feel bad for him at times but he was also so nauseating in his weaselly behaviors that that feeling didn’t last too long.

There is definitely something unpleasant about watching one pariah being constantly belittled and harassed, whether he or she deserves it or not. This applies to real life and to television. This is probably why I don’t have much desire to watch those early MASH episodes, as too many of them revolve around Frank being humiliated in one way or another.

Incidentally I remember reading that Larry Linville didn’t enjoy playing and being associated with a character that was so universally despised and that it had a long-lasting negative psychological impact on him, even (if I remember correctly) after he left the show.

Larry Linville didn’t renew his contract with the show because after the character of Hot Lips was no longer in the same boat as Frank it became unbearable to be the only butt of all the jokes. I truly think if they could have gotten away with it, Hawkeye and some of the others in the MASH unit would have happily have killed Frank Burns and felt not the least regret–at least they constantly killed him in words and the neverending harrassment of the man. Frank’s last words on the show were: “Good bye, Margaret” as she flew off on her honeymoon–his only real love deserted him like everyone else. Even after the actor was no longer playing the part, Frank was made into the villain and butt of everyone’s hatred in follow up episodes in which they explained his absence and substituted Winchester for him. They’re last words for him? “Good bye ferret face!” How sweet. :rolleyes:

The example you gave is definitely the example I think of first and IMO the best example, but Frank seems to show real concern in the episode “Kim”, when the young Korean boy Trapper is set to adopt wanders into the middle of a mine field. Of course, he and Hot Lips were supposed to be watching him, so it might have been more of a case of wanting to “save his neck”. Frank was pretty nasty and had more than a few bigoted views regarding Koreans, but I don’t think he’d honestly want to see the kid blown up, though.

I forget the episode, but when Radar gets “elevator shoes”, Frank notices something’s different about him, but incorrectly guesses it’s new glasses. He says they give Radar a look of dignity and authority. Considering Frank rarely (if ever) gave any kind of respect or compliment to Radar, that always stuck in my mind.

It’s not really a case of Frank showing his human side, but there were a few times when Hawkeye and Trapper / BJ were nice® to him, my favorite example being at the end of “Maragret’s Engagement”, when Margaret is flaunting her ring & talking up her fiancee without regard for Frank’s feelings, and even Hawkeye makes a mention of it. And then when Hot Lips insults Frank, Frank insults her right back, resulting in her leaving and he, Hawkeye, and BJ sharing a genuine laugh together (which I guess goes back to your point that if Frank acted like the others, he would have been liked, Della).

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