Thursday, October 22, 2020

Re-Evaluating Frank Burns

Let's give you a situation. The two most popular kids in school, the guys that have all the girls wanting to date them and all the guys want to hang out with them, have someone they don't like. This guy has different ideals from them, keeps to himself, hangs out with his few friends, and if he's paid attention to in a positive light at all gets extremely giddy. Now the popular guys go out of their way to torment this loner, making fun of his attachment to his mother and his fascination with a topic that they think is stupid. They play pranks on him, both physical and psychological, for their own amusement. Yes, the loner does some things to deserve the treatment, but not to the extent that he receives it, and if the two popular guys would just be a little bit friendly to him, he probably would come around (somewhat) to their way to looking at things.

The popular guys are Hawkeye and Trapper. The Loner is Frank Burns.

I grew up with MASH in syndication, both out of New York and Philadelphia (one of the benefits of growing up at the Jersey Shore), so I've seen a lot of the show. Since the advent of MASHcast, hosted by Rob Kelly, I have been watching it in order for the first time. This has led me to re-evaluate one of the staple characters, Frank Burns as played by Larry Linville.

Frank is not a nice person, being openly racist and judgmental of others as well as a serial adulterer, but there's more to him. When MASH was in full comedy mode, Frank fit in perfectly as the inept villain, always scheming to get Henry Blake thrown out and take over the 4077. As the show progressed into more drama, so did the characters. Well, everyone but Frank. Frank stayed cartoonish and that, along with what we find out about him, led me to a conclusion. Frank Burns is the product of bullying, has some kind of mental illness, and is quite possibly on the Autism Spectrum.

We've seen Frank lash out and pretty much anyone and everyone, but when someone other than Margret acts towards him with kindness, he becomes a playful puppy dog. It's revealed that his mother had to send out 30 party invitations just to get 4 kids to show up to his birthday. Frank grew up without any friends and that had an effect on him. He latches on to ANY affection he gets, the main source on the show being Margret, and without that he's completely lost. When Margret dumps him, he's completely lost in a situation where he has no friends at all, and he loses his mind.

Frank may have gotten through medical school, but his mentality, as shown on the show, has always been one of a child. Like I said, in the beginning this was fine but as the show around him got more and more realistic all I could see was a little boy, excited to play army, that was constantly being picked on by the popular kids and beaten down by the authority figures. It takes away from my enjoyment of the show, to be honest. That's why, if I'm not watching to keep up with a podcast, I usually skip the Frank episodes. I much prefer Winchester as a foil, since he can be just as abrasive as Frank, but has the capacity to defend himself.