The TV show M*A*S*H aired from 1972 to 1983. Furthermore, it is set during the Korean War. Thus, it is both a primary source commenting on the Vietnam War Era and a secondary source in reference to the Korean War.
M*A*S*H humorously comments on the lifestyle of army doctors in the high stress environment of a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital Unit. The doctors use humor and silly antics to deal with the horrors of war and the show routinely satirizes those who take the war too seriously. Thus, the show delivers its not-so-subtle message that these wars (both the Korean War, in which the show is literally set, and the Vietnam War, which the show is a clear allegory for) are a strong departure from World Wars I and II, which were “total wars” characterized by strong popular support on the home front.
Focusing on a popular, comedic TV show from the time complements a more serious academic review of the Vietnam and Korean Wars. Furthermore, M*A*S*H offers a social commentary and alternative viewpoint in the same vein as other media we have reviewed in this course, such as Rebel Without A Cause and The Best Years of Our Lives.
M*A*S*H was an extremely popular show during its era because of its reflection of popular opinions. It won eight Golden Globes, fourteen Emmy awards, and aired for eleven seasons. M*A*S*H comments on the two wars that defined this period- the Korean and Vietnam Wars. M*A*S*H also showed the importance of the army lifestyle and expressed a popular opinion of protest of both the Korean and Vietnam Wars. M*A*S*H was filmed during the Vietnam War, so the writers had to be cognizant of this while satirizing war. This show is especially interesting because it portrays the horrors of war and the divide between the army and the civilian population, which was a big change from the total war mindset of World War II.
It also provides insight into the shift from general conformity and agreement on major issues in the United States during the time of the Korean War to feelings of dissension and distrust that developed during the Vietnam War. It reflects America’s changing attitudes towards the military, the role of women, race relations, trust in government, US foreign relations, and offered humor as a means of coping with a violent time.