M*A*S*H (1970)

Directed by Robert Altman

The staff of a Korean War field hospital use humor and hijinks to keep their sanity in the face of the horror of war.

Not quite my kind (or topic) of humour, but more than watchable due to Altman's bone dry affect and filming chops.


The trauma that Houlihan experiences, brought to life with emotional force by Kellerman, cannot be laughed off in the way that it might have been in 1970. It was intended as a prank, but today, after the revelations of the #MeToo movement, it reads more like harassment or assault. Of course, depiction need not equal endorsement, and while one could argue that this misogyny is in some ways the subject of the movie – that the men are reverting to their primal selves amid the throes of war – the film itself tips its hand in the closing credits, which show brief shots of each actor from earlier in the film as their name is printed on screen. The clip of Kellerman is of her in the shower, encouraging the audience to see her – the actor, not only the character – as an object. This is not just depiction. It’s endorsement.
Without the ability to assign a single author to the film’s misogyny, it’s reasonable to read it as a product of the culture from which the film sprang.
In its defense, M*A*S*H has more to say than those films, and there doesn’t appear to be the same intention of cruelty. Rather, it spreads its subversive sentiment in all directions, women just get caught in the crossfire and ended up getting the brunt of the injury. After all, Kellerman’s nude scene was in itself a watershed moment. The Production Code was repealed in 1968 and replaced with the MPAA system. For the first time, nudity was permitted on screen, and it’s easy to see how Altman could have viewed the shower scene as a flex of his first amendment rights. Still, given that M*A*S*H remains so highly esteemed – it ranked #43 in a 2017 BBC poll of the greatest comedies of all-time – it deserves […] closer scrutiny.

Noah Gittell (The Guardian)