January 22, 2020
The anti-war film – regarded as one of the greatest comedies of all time – has a problem with women
M*A*S*H at 50: the Robert Altman comedy that revels in cruel misogyny
M*A*S*H is a rare example of a movie that has been eclipsed by its television adaptation. The 1983 finale of the long-running sitcom about a medical unit near the frontlines of the Korean war was the highest-rated single television episode in history, with 125 million viewers tuning in. It’s understandable that Robert Altman’s 1970 film, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this month, lives in its shadow. The subversive anti-war comedy avoided sentimentality and teachable moments in favor of cruel pranks and a more hardened cynicism. Coming at the start of cinema’s most famous decade, it is a seminal film of New Hollywood, and it bears all the hallmarks of its era: a strong anti-establishment sentiment, the foregrounding of morally ambiguous protagonists, and, unfortunately, a deep and unexamined misogyny.
Related: From Don't Look Now to The Godfather – why the 1970s is my favourite film decade
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