My Study of Father Mulcahy's Character

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Big Daddy O'Reilly
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My Study of Father Mulcahy's Character

Post by Big Daddy O'Reilly » Sun Sep 04, 2011 4:59 pm

Seems like things are quieting down a bit here, so I think I'll share a study I did of Father Mulcahy over at BCA, because when I think about, I believe he was actually the most complex character of the cast...

*****

Potter once told Hawkeye he thinks he hasn't made up his mind about how he feels about being in Korea... it seems to me that Father Mulcahy was in that same boat.

"Alcoholics Unanimous" (3x09): He feels that Klinger being the only one who attends his services, albeit being an atheist, is the only thing that keeps his spirit up, but admits to Frank he doesn't feel like he has what it takes to deliver a "fire and brimstone" lecture on such topics and sex and drinking.

"Dear Peggy" (4x11): He gives a look into his work around the 4077th to visit divisional chaplain, Colonel Hollister, and although he feels he does a pretty fair job, Hollister assures him that he never once had them in the palm of his hand, and needs to use his voice "as a cry into the wilderness, with a Bible in one hand, and a sword in the other!"

"Mulcahy's War" (5x09): He feels useless in camp, especially after a recovering soldier says he can't relate to those who see action at the front, and wishes to be transfered to the front, where he feels people would really be in need of his comfort, since they seem to be in no need of it in the safety of a hospital.

"Hepatitis" (5x20): He feels that he's an important fixture in camp, and that there would be chaos with him out of action because of his hepatitis, because there are so many souls who depend on him. He also seems to suggest that quite a few people do, indeed, attend his sermons.

"An Eye for a Tooth" (7x14): He feels that after all the work he's done, that he deserves a promotion, and is upset whenever the promotion list arrives, and his name isn't on it.

"Dear Sis" (7x15): Just one episode later, he is now depressed because he feels completely useless again, to the point that after an un-necessary scuffle with an over dramatic casualty, he feels that when he does step in, it's more of an intrusion. At least both Radar and Hawkeye try to lift his spirits - Radar obtaining Charles's childhood tobaggan from home, saying it was Mulcahy's idea, and Hawkeye holding a toast in his honor, and explaining that the reason they don't usually show up for his services is because they try to escape reality in their sleep.

It's interesting to read that Bill felt Mulcahy wasn't given much room to grow, feeling it was most likely because the writers were nervous about writing for a religious character, but it seems to me that Mulcahy was just about one of the more complex characters from the show. What do you guys think?

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Re: My Study of Father Mulcahy's Character

Post by pinkpagoda » Fri Sep 09, 2011 1:17 pm

He is one of my favorite characters, and I saw a lot of growth on the part of Mulcahey during the series.

His realization that his desire for promotion and for recognition (which is in more than one episode) were petty and small in light of the "Blood Brothers" incident with Patrick Swayze.

His taking the leap of faith and going off in the helicopter as a counter weight so that he could understand and reach the soldier who had been to the front.

His heartbreak at his loss of temper when he punched the G.I. in post op.

I also liked his sense of humor - which was very dry and droll, and his poking fun at himself - like when he got caught in a musical loop when playing the piano, and didn't know how to get out. Or when he would smile and look upward when asked why he was so good at poker.

I do think he was multi faceted and multi layered, and very complex. And I think that maybe William Christopher didn't see the growth like the rest of us may have, is because he actually WAS Father Mulcahey - in personality, and perhaps in growth as well.

But I have to say, one of my favorite scenes with him was earlier in the series, when the latrine fell on him, and with a dazed and confused look he tells the story about his sister making a pie out crabapples, and he says his mother came in and said "what the hell is going on in here?" - and then he looks at Klinger and says "Mommy, that's the first time I ever heard you swear".

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Re: My Study of Father Mulcahy's Character

Post by TrapperJoe » Mon Sep 12, 2011 1:16 am

Father Mulcahy is all around my favorite character on M*A*S*H.

I love all the characters(minus Frank) but there's something about the Father that intrigues me. I agree with all you guys said, Father Mulcahy is very complex and has many great and wonderful layers to his personality. His humor was perfect and Bill Christopher was a superb actor, very underrated. He had great delivery and sometimes he didn't have to say anything, just a certain look or a puzzled face can make for laughs.

One scene I think of is in "Dear Mildred", just after Margaret and Frank take Col. Potters picture and leave, Radar catches up with them and asks for them to take his picture. They say no and Radar sticks his tongue out at them, then Father Mulcahy comes into the scene, and he walks by looking at Radar with the most priceless look on his face.

It's tough seeing the Father struggling with where he stands at the 4077th, because he might not have realized it much, but he is very vital to the camp. He is extremely dedicated to his profession, always having an open ear to listen to people, performing religious services every Sunday and even accomodating those of different religions. I love Father Mulcahys respect for the beliefs of others. I doesn't matter if your Catholic, Christian, Baptist, Methodist, Jewish, Mulism, Shaman, Athiest etc., The Father is going to do anything he can for you. When it comes to his role in helping the wounded and assisting the other members of the camp, he goes through that angst at times over his role. He might not have been aware of it, but The Father went above and beyond what was required of him and usually had an extremely positive impact. Always comforting the wounded during triage, putting in time in O.R., being there later on in Post-Op for more comfort with his ear open as always and driving off into a war zone to get supplies from the black market when the camp needed them the most.

Over the course of the show I think Father Mulcahy grew very much. It was a slow and steady growth, so Bill Christopher might not have seen it as we the audience did. In the beginning he was a little more timid and unsure at times, but later on I saw a more strong willed, bold, and determined person.

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Re: My Study of Father Mulcahy's Character

Post by townsbg » Mon Sep 12, 2011 9:46 am

He could also be violent which is something that you typically wouldn't associate with a priest.:lol:

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Re: My Study of Father Mulcahy's Character

Post by Big Daddy O'Reilly » Wed Oct 19, 2011 10:20 am

Now that I think about it, I think Mulcahy's past (not really shown on the show) explains a lot about just what a complex character he really was...

Again, not really seen on the show, but Mulcahy apparently came from a somewhat abusive home as a kid, so I'm sure that's probably the root of a lot of his insecurities of how he can feel useful one episode, and completely useless the next...

Really, just about the only evidence of that on the show was when a dazed Mulcahy rambled on about how his sister baked a pie out of crabapples, and they ate the whole thing before dinner, and when their mother came home, she yells, "What the hell is going on here?!", "I remember mommy... that was the first time I ever heard you swear..."

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Re: My Study of Father Mulcahy's Character

Post by Dan » Tue Nov 08, 2011 9:19 pm

Father mulcahy is my favorite character on MASH it seems i always get upset on the last episode when Mulcahy runs out there to save the POWs and a artillery shell knocks him unconsience. He truly is a unique individual

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Re: My Study of Father Mulcahy's Character

Post by cunit2098 » Tue Jan 03, 2012 6:26 pm

Does anyone remember the name of his childhood sweetheart?

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JocularityGirl
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Re: My Study of Father Mulcahy's Character

Post by JocularityGirl » Wed May 01, 2019 2:17 am

I'm new here, and I'm surprised at something that was said on here: Mulcahy had a childhood sweetheart? I'm a big Mulcahy fan, seen all his significant episodes, and I don't remember that ever being said. I know this was posted six years ago, but if someone would let me know which episode it was said, I'd love to know! My FanFic wheels are already turning!
Father Mulcahy: "A faith of convience is a hollow faith."

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Re: My Study of Father Mulcahy's Character

Post by Doug » Wed May 01, 2019 11:10 am

I have a great deal of sympathy for the character, because I've also been a chaplain. I was not a military chaplain, but a law enforcement chaplain. I retired last year after 30 years, and for the last few I was the chaplain at my duty station. Now, law enforcement chaplains in general are different than military chaplains--most are veteran, sworn officers and still provide law enforcement functions. And in most cases, it's a collateral duty. Also, in the case of my agency (US Customs and Border Protection Field Operations) you didn't need to be ordained, just spiritual and active in your faith tradition (I am also a lay leader at my very small synagogue). So, I never dealt with not relating to those I worked with--I was doing the same job. But I could see where a military chaplain might have that issue.

I used to tell new Officers to think of me as part Frasier Crane, part Counsellor Troi, and part Father Mulcahy. I often got blank looks from these kids (they're usually in their 20s, while I was in my late 40s-early 50s) probably because they'd never seen MASH, Frasier, or Star Trek The Next Generation!

One characteristic I always liked about Father Mulcahy was his self-deprecating approach to being the spiritual leader of the unit, especially early on. When Klinger knocks out Frank, and the MPs arrive, Father Mulcahy distracts the MP by saying that Frank was exhausted. When the MP says he's not even Catholic, without missing a beat he says, "Would you like to be?" Another time, when he helps Trapper, Trapper says something similar, to which he replied, "All in good time."

The show does show one element that is true in chaplaincy--it's called a "ministry of presence." Just by being there and available, you are helping. Although the writers had the good Father mentioning often how useless he felt, it seemed to me that he was often the person who characters went to with their issues, and he provided a listening ear. That's what a good chaplain is supposed to do. :mulcahy:

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