M*A*S*H

TV review by
Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media
M*A*S*H TV Poster Image
Stellar war dramedy classic mixes humor, pathos.
Parents recommend

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 9 reviews

We think this TV show stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

There's lots of not-so-subtle commentary on war and government, as well as some practical joking that some would consider cruel or sexist, but at its heart, M*A*S*H* is about holding on to your humanity in the direst of circumstances. Themes include communication, compassion, perseverance, teamwork, and empathy.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main characters are dedicated physicians and loyal friends, but they're cynical about their situations and often juvenile in their behavior. There's also plenty of objectification of women, but even that is complicated by "Hot Lips"' competency and character development. General respect for Korean villagers, but some caricatured portrayals.

Violence

Wounded, bloody soldiers writhe in pain in the operating room and in recovery. Occasional gunshots. Some slapstick punching and hitting.

Sex

Some kissing and groping, usually comedically. Hawkeye is always trying to woo the nurses. Subtle allusions to casual sex. Jokes about female body parts. Klinger cross-dresses, but it's almost always played for laughs.

Language

Occasional "hell" or "damn."

Consumerism

Radar loves Grape NeHi soda.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The main characters have a homemade alcohol distillery in their tent, and they drink martinis regularly.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that M*A*S*H is an outstanding dark comedy set during the Korean War at a mobile military hospital. Based on the classic 1970 movie, the show includes scenes of operating rooms with visible blood, wounded soldiers writhing in pain, and frank discussion of death. Though many of the characters are pro-military, the main characters are firmly anti-war and speak regularly and cynically about war and the military. Many episodes include veiled discussions of sexual activity, and there's some kissing and groping, though it's usually in a comedic context. Several characters drink regularly, one cross-dresses in an attempt to get sent home, and most are prone to playing practical jokes on each other. Older tweens and young teens will likely enjoy the show for Hawkeye's wisecracks and the broader humor, but its more subtle messages may not kick in until kids are older.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of an infant, infant, 3, and 5 year old Written byMississippiQueen January 7, 2009
Parent of a 1 and 7 year old Written bymarciaz December 17, 2014

Honestly, I'd rather my children watch MASH...

My kiddos have watched MASH since they were born - the oldest one's first phrase was "Frank Burns eats worms." I have very sensitive children, S... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byJoey123 December 22, 2008

A great show...

I love this show!!! It's funny and a little fuzzy sometimes. The sexual content is usually mild. Episodes usually have a few crass sayings and MAYBE a bad... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byThinker96 May 12, 2009

I LOVE THIS SHOW!!!!!!

This is an awesome show, although some kids might get spooked. Some more mature themes, racism, life after death, etc, etc, in the later seasons. Klinger stops... Continue reading

What's the story?

M*A*S*H is a classic black comedy set during the Korean War that took an anti-war stance during a raw time in American political history. Spanning almost the entire decade of the 1970s, the show spoke for the many people disillusioned with the Vietnam War and its surrounding political climate. The ensemble cast includes Alan Alda as Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce, the chief surgeon with a cynical perspective and acerbic wit; Jamie Farr as Maxwell Q. Klinger, the wacky clerk who crossdresses in hopes of getting discharged; and Loretta Swit as Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan, the head nurse with a sincere loyalty to the army and her work. Most of the action takes place at the 4077 MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) unit in Korea and the storylines are set against constant helicopter deliveries of wounded servicemen and their subsequent surgeries and recoveries (or deaths). Episodes follow everyday dramas, from playing practical jokes on "Hot Lips" and her married suitor, Frank Burns (Larry Linville), to protecting Klinger from an angry villager who thinks he has dishonored her daughter.

Is it any good?

Throughout the action, physical humor and dead-on wit keep the atmosphere light, though the ugliness of war pokes constantly through the façade. Some episodes, particularly later in the series, departed from the normal format, including a group of episodes where Hawkeye sees a psychologist and the shows are mostly monologue. Many think some of the later shows also became more heavy handed with its moralizing tone and lost some of the initial comedic spark.

Parents will want younger viewers to stay away. The dark theme of war and sometimes complex, adult humor may go over some kids' heads, but the bloody operating room scenes, frequent allusions to sex and female body parts, and the miniature distillery in Hawkeye's tent won't. It's hard to imagine mature teens showing much interest in M*A*S*H, since it tells a story so far removed from their reality, but perhaps the timeliness of war and the discussion of America's military role in the world will draw their attention. Parents may want to be available to help teens draw connections between then and now.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about war and the military and how it's portrayed on M*A*S*H. What do parents and teens know about the Korean and Vietnam wars? What are teens' thoughts on the current war(s)? Would teens serve in the military during a war they didn't believe in? Why or why not?

  • What was the relationship between the show's military personnel and the Korean villagers? Do you think that was realistic and/or consistent with the military's relationship with other civilians in conflict zones?

  • What purpose does humor serve in talking about the serious subject of war? Does the show successfully balance comedy and drama?

  • For teens and adults who've seen the film that M*A*S*H was based on, which version do you prefer? Why?

  • How do the characters on M*A*S*H demonstrate communication, compassion, and empathy? What about teamwork and perseverance? Why are these important character strengths?

TV details

Character Strengths

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Themes & Topics

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