In Defense of Frank Burns

Lately, I have been subjected to a series of long and longwinded meetings.

When my latent child brain is subject to boredom, fascinating things happen.

So, when someone in a boring meeting made a comment that reminded me of an episode of M*A*S*H, it got me thinking about the characters which led me to…

Maybe over the years, we haven’t given Frank Burns a fair shake.

Stay with me here. I have a reasoned argument to present.

Changing the point of view on this to second person to make it more impactful, here is my defense of Frank Burns and why we shouldn’t hate, but have empathy.

Here we go:

Take the characters and situation and place them in the real world. Imagine if you will:

1) You work a job that is both dangerous and complex, and you are responsible for human lives. Being a doctor is actually very important to you. That said, your two coworkers (who you are also forced to live with) are not only arrogant and disrespectful, they are also complete alcoholics.

And yet, despite being drunk a fair percentage of the time, including while at work, they are viewed as the fair haired boys. Your boss overlooks their obvious addiction and goes so far as to tell you to get over it when you bring their questionable behavior to his attention. And you outrank those two buffoons!

Deep down you know that you, sober as a judge, will never be as good a surgeon as they are while drunk on homemade gin. That knowledge chips away at your self-esteem every single day.

2) You date one of the hottest chicks in camp, which is a good thing. But as I’m fond of telling my guy friends, “dating a very beautiful woman comes with challenges.”

I mean, she IS smoking hot. Fer chrissakes, they call her “hot lips”…the trouble is, there’s been plenty of guys who have sampled those hot lips. Your va-va-voom girlfriend is a notorious flirt and will openly discuss her partying with generals and colonels around the globe, and you’re expected to just take it with a smile.

She expects you to be a good military man and constantly compares you to her legendary father. Then she lets your roommates slide on their non-military behavior because, she reasons, they are so good at what they do.

And you become acutely aware that this chick is WAY out of your league. A little neurosis sets in as you try to hang on to the hottest girl you’ll ever lay a hand on in your entire life.

3) You get zero support at home. Ok, yes, there’s that cheating with Hot Lips issue which means you are not without some blame. And yet, a nice word in the mail from the spouse would be nice. You’d like to think your own wife would be in your corner, but she’s not.

Neither are your parents. And you don’t have any friends. It’s a lonely old world stuck in a grimy tent with two hotshot lunkheads mocking your inadequacies on a daily basis.

4) People call you Ferret Face. To your face. It’s not your fault you were the big loser in the genetic Olympics and wound up with a weak chin.

5) Your hot girlfriend pressures you all the time about getting married. This, despite the fact that you told her from the start you weren’t looking to leave your wife. It’s a constant nagging pressure.

Then she goes off on R&R one day and comes back engaged so some big, tall, athletic bohunk with a strong chin and suddenly your only friend in the world is now off limits.

And this causes you to slip off your nut. You really do love the girl, but maintaining the girl has been more than a weak-chinned man can take.

6) If you can’t have love or respect, then it sure would be great to be promoted to Lt. Colonel. People would be forced to respect a Lt. Colonel. A Medal of Honor would be nice too. That would really shut them up.

7) You are probably an undiagnosed case of Aspergers, or at the very least are prone to vicious bouts of OCD. But you get zero sympathy. Meanwhile, the chronic addicts are lauded and celebrated.

It’s a pretty solid case. The more I think on it, the more I feel a little bad for hating Frank all of those years. Perhaps time has been kind to ol’ Frank.

You know, no matter what Hollywood would have us believe, in life, it’s never as easy as “that guy is the good guy” and “that guy is the bad guy.” We’re all the bad guy. And the good guy.

And Frank Burns is misunderstood.

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  • Beth

    Good points; I never thought about him that way. And don’t forget, when Henry Blake was discharged, Frank was made Commanding Officer, and then they brought in Col. Potter – an OLD guy, who let’s face it, should have retired already – to take command. Frank was so upset, he ran away.

  • Karen Fayeth

    Beth – Oh, excellent point. Just adds to my case, thank you for that!

    And thank you for considering another view of Frank. I’m sort of starting to have a soft spot in my heart for him.

  • Jennifer

    That’s how I think of Frank too! So nice that someone else can see things from his viewpoint. I feel so bad for him in that episode where Hawkeye and BJ are forced to be friendly to him and he starts acting nice and being their friend, but then at the end of the episode they start being mean to him again and it makes him sad :(

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