M*A*S*H-ian Philosophy

This show has taken over my life:

I’m not post-Season 3 yet; give me a week or two

M*A*S*H is a TV show spin-off of a movie with the same name, about a group of army doctors during the Korean War. The picture above is a perfect depiction of this SitCom-y show, filled mostly with situational (thus dark) humor and spiffy one-liners. Example: in the episode For the Want of a Boot, main character Captain Hawkeye Pierce trades favor for favor for favor, creating looping chains of exchanges, all for the want of a boot without a hole in the sole; the epic mash-up of realistic bad situations and even more realistic relatively-good-humored handling of said bad situations.

Now, this isn’t going to be a long post, ’cause I’ve got to get back to watching M*A*S*H, but I’ve taken to profiling myself through the things I like, such as books, movies, or– in this truly inspirational case– TV shows.

So, dark humor. It crosses lines of social niceties and make you feel like a rebel for getting the joke about necrophilia. Bryan Fuller’s Pushing Daisies is next on my To Watch list (after watching Hannibal and needing emotional shelter). Now, anyone who’s discussed philosophy with me probably thinks of me as an optimist, and I do quantify myself as an optimist (with empirical data in metrics and everything). So why would I be such a fan of dark humor?

(That was not a rhetorical question, but the rhetoric device hypophora, in which the speaker poses a question and answers it. AP Composition, whaddup.)

Probably because dark humor is inherently optimistic. George Carlin said that under every cynic is a disappointed idealist, and the optimistic dark humor-oxymoron seems like the inverse of that. Humor inspires joy, that’s fact, and cracking jokes in order to cut open red white and blue-blooded teenagers is a coping mechanism. Go ahead, open the letter– they can’t draft you again. They’re old enough to pull triggers but not old enough to drink? Heard Eisenhower’s running for president; man, the things people would do to get out of the army.

Coping is optimistic because coping means survival. Not necessarily survival of the person you once were, but if the main parts are still there we can put it back together, no one will even notice the scars with the right turtleneck. Recently, the suicide note of Iraq veteran Daniel Somers went viral, drawing attention to the heart-breaking statistics of veterans’ suicide– one every 65 minutes (Huffington Post). Healing’s not easy in the first place, but when people aren’t allowed to heal at their own pace or when they heal wrong, that’s when the Bullshit Meter hits the stratosphere. Terrible things happen, and sometimes there are people to take responsibility for it (or should, but let’s not even get into that right now), sometimes there aren’t, and people get hurt. Given the love and support they need, people heal. We’re not allowed to call other people’s scars ugly, we are notnotnot allowed– I say this with the utmost solemnity and simple comprehension of a child, where I cross my heart and not my fingers behind my back.

I said this post wasn’t going to be long, clearly that was a lie. Self-reflection can go a long way, y’know. Literally. (Badum tish!)

Post-Season 3 M*A*S*H– I’ve been warned– will be heartbreak everywhere and breakdowns and hurt. Good. There is a quote out there somewhere about art portraying history better than any official document could; All Quiet on the Western Front taught me more about World War One than my history textbook. (This is probably my only tie-back t0 CW-related matters.) It’ll hurt, but hopefully, innate optimism will get me through.