Female character in a “classic” TV show: Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan from TV’s M*A*S*H
Margaret. Let me talk about Margaret. I can’t even talk about Margaret. Margaret is too much to talk about.
Okay here is this person who does her job very, very well, who hold other people up to that high standard, who does so with authority and assertiveness. And she does so not just because she’s ambitious, though she is, but because she really deep down believes in it, she cares about it, she loves it.
And she’s surrounded by a whole lot of people who don’t care about it—who care about saving lives but not prestige and honor of the military, and there’s this tension about what is really important. For Margaret it’s all one and the same—saving lives equals the military for her, even though for Hawkeye they are obviously antithetical.
So much of Margaret’s story is that struggle, defining what her role is versus someone like Hawkeye’s, learning how to compromise with people like him and BJ, finding what’s important to them, what’s important for herself, what’s important for the 4077 and what’s important for lives they are trying to save, what’s important for her nurses.
Speaking of her nurses, there’s not enough of Margaret leading her nurses, but she is their leader, and she’s a good one. She looks after them, holds them to rigorous standards but also tries to get them what they need; her first thought whenever there is something that will affect the camp is how it will affect her nurses, because she’s the only one looking out for them.
There are all these strengths but just so many weaknesses too, and those weaknesses make her who she is. Her assertiveness gets her into trouble; she is at times overly demanding, selfish, spoiled. Her authoritativeness and dedication also make her hard-nosed, persnickety, and often ridiculous.
My favorite thing about Margaret is her relationship with authority, which epitomizes all her strengths and weaknesses at once. She is so respectful and eager to please and afraid and faithful when it comes to authority; she wants to believe that military officials, her father included, are people worthy of her effort and respect. And in some ways when they first started writing Margaret this was very stereotypical misogyny; they were writing a woman who got off on authority, her own and other people’s. But as the show evolved so did Margaret, and that authority kink remained but became incredibly complex and complicated; it wasn’t there because she was a woman but because she was Margaret.
Also her relationship with Colonel Potter I can’t. Just. They are the best gen father/daughter who aren’t actually father/daughter that ever EVER.
Also on top of everything Margaret just cares so much about her hair and makeup and how she looks; that was another thing that began as a stereotype but just evolved to become who she was; Margaret likes pink curtains; deal with it.
I am nothing like Margaret Houlihan, but I wouldn’t be a bit ashamed if I was.