Friday, July 13, 2012

Meta or something: Margaret Houlihan

To be honest, when I first started watching M*A*S*H I thought that Margaret was annoying and even bitchy. I thought she was a character that was simply there for comic relief and for whenever another character needed to experience resistance for the sake of the plot. But I soon discovered that she was much more than that. She had more layers than the irritable, grumpy and loud Army nurse. She developed during the seasons in a way that is real and touching, but still went so smooth that a not-so-enthusiastic viewer might not really notice. She grew to be a sort of symbol for feminism in M*A*S*H.

Margaret is very emotional. If you were to compare her to one of the four traditional elements (water, air, fire & earth) she would be fire, no doubt. She is ruled and motivated by her emotions – she wants to make her father proud, she wants to feel better about herself through improving the system, she wants to save a life, or whatever else she might have on the horizon. She is passion personified. Her emotions make her strong, but sometimes when she is lost or alone she can’t be strong anymore, and then she gets emotional the other way around.

I love Margaret because she has so many layers. I always wonder what she would be like when she isn’t working (as in when she is at home; a civilian). She is always passionate about whatever task she has decided to take on, sometimes so much that it gets silly, but I love that about her. She just loves to accomplish things, loves to see things start and happen and finish. She grows throughout the series from the naïve lover of Frank (and quite a good amount of other men; many of whom are generals) to the happy, strong wife of Donald Penobscot to the not-so-happy, pissed off wife of Donald Penobscot to the scarred but not broken, life-experienced and independent Margaret Houlihan. She realizes that she doesn’t need a man to make her happy (even if she probably still wants that kind of partnership at some point in her life), and that was something that wasn’t so common in the days that M*A*S*H first aired, and even less common in the time of the Korean War. I think a lot of young women could (can) watch Margaret and approve of her decision when she finally decides to take her life in her own hands. In that way, Margaret is wonderfully inspirational.

Nowadays I actually feel quite protective of Margaret. I think it’s because of all she’s been through, and I just want her to be happy. She deserves a happy life.

I don’t think Margaret could, in the long run, have a romantic relationship with just anyone. I don’t ship her with Hawkeye at all. Long story short, I see them as having a brother/sister relationship more than a romantic one. I think they are too different to really fit, and they have psychological and emotional scars that would sort of chafe against each other and it wouldn’t work in the long run.

I do have quite a few people I ship with Margaret, though, come to think of it: Jack Scully (the AWOL soldier), Ignazio Simone (the stereotypical Italian dude who happens to be one of my favorite one-episode characters in the series), Trapper and Charles. Most of these are ships I sail simply because I think they’re cute. Ignazio was so freaking funny, especially together with Margaret, so I guess my feelings there are influenced by enormous amounts of laughter the pairing has given me (even though they weren’t an actual couple). Trapper/Margaret had their moments, and it was the cutest thing ever. I don’t approve of cheating or anything – which Trapper did – but he and Margaret were just so asdfghjkl adorable, especially because of the quite obvious attraction between the two of them, which was shown even before and in between the actual “shippy” scenes.

However, the only one of these I can see Margaret living a long, happy life with is Charles, which brings us to the next dot (because I have no unpopular opinions on Margaret that I can think of): I would have LOVED to see that develop. Imagine if the goodbye kiss in GFA had been between Margaret and Charles instead of Margaret and Hawkeye OMG I WOULD HAVE CRIED TEARS OF JOY.

Actually, Margaret/Charles is probably my biggest M*A*S*H otp. I mean it might be a little far-fetched, but I can see it working. You have to take into account that they will both act a little different (or a lot different, who knows?) when they get home and assume their regular lives again (judging from what’s expressed in GFA, Margaret will still be in the Army - but she won’t be in a warzone, it won’t be life and death, so it’ll be different) and from the few little moments we get – which really aren’t so few – I think it would not only be surprising and cute, but I do think it could work and they could both be very happy with it. They are two people that, the way I see it, have things to learn from each other. They can benefit from each other’s company, and it might come to “complete” them, in a sense. Margaret wants style and class and money (“Money comes second, maybe even third! … Second.”) and someone who treats her with dignity and care, and Charles has all the necessarily qualities to provide that. Margaret has a funny side, too, a silly side, but it’s not quite as pronounced and not quite as perverted as in Hawkeye and/or Trapper. The same is true for Charles. As for our dear Winchester, from what I’ve seen, he likes women who are intelligent and classy and have integrity. In Margaret’s growth throughout the series, we see a huge increase in all of those – especially integrity. And we do know that in one way or another, Charles fancies her and Margaret at least at one point had a thing for him. I would go so far as to say it’s canon that there was an attraction between the two of them (I keep thinking of the scene in the scrub room when Margaret “has something in her eye” and Charles checks it out – it’s my number one keyboard smash Charles/Margaret scene).

So yeah, I wish that Margaret’s relationship with Charles had been explored more. But still, I’m so happy with M*A*S*H the way it was and the way it ended (the open ending is basically a Garden of Eden for fandom discussions and headcanons) that I wouldn’t want to have it any other way. That’s not to say that in my little world Margaret and Charles don’t get together a while after the war and THE REST IS HISTORY.