Friday, June 19, 2009

Those horrible, sexist Bradys

I've been watching the first season of "The Brady Bunch" with my kids recently. I'm actually surprised how much the kids like it. The shows seem kind of slow and silly to me. But I guess part of the appeal is that they're pretty much regular kids doing regular kid things. There isn't all that much of that in family entertainment these days.

Another thing that surprises me is how pretty much every episode, at least in the first season, is a battle of the sexes. The Brady boys have been living a bachelor's paradise, and suddenly they're forced to share things with their new sisters. It's obviously a shock for them, and they don't handle it particularly well. Everything the family plans to do -- camping, cashing in trading stamps, etc. -- sets off a struggle. "Girls don't do that!" scream the boys. "That's for boys!" There was the episode where all the kids contracted measles, and Carole called for her female pediatrician while Mike called for his male one. (Measles, house calls... you can see how dated this now seems.) Peter absolutely freaked out when a female MD (played by none other than Marion Ross) attempted to examine him. "Women are nurses!" the boys protested. The Brady girls utter their share of generalizations, as well, but none seem as barbed or bigoted as the boys'. The parents, meanwhile, attempt to keep the peace between the kids, but rarely challenge any of the crap coming out of the kids' mouths.

Now that I think about it, why am I letting my kids watch this? I guess I'm just holding out for Davy Jones and Johnny Bravo.


joel hanes said...

why am I letting my kids watch this?

Because the world _was_ that way once, and they should know. It's not like they're going to pick up fundamental values from watching old reruns; they'll watch the values you live, and choose the ones that fit.

Similarly, I deplore the purging of the childrens' libraries, especially in schools, that has gone on now for decades. For example, in my district the schools purged the Depression-chronicle Lois Lensky American ethnography books: Cotton In My Sack, Strawberry Girl, San Francisco Boy, Peanuts For Billy Ben -- because of the sexist and racist and regional steretyping that they indisputably contain. How can we know how far we've come if we erase the memory of where we've come from?

Seth said...

I suppose you're right, but they're not quite at the age where I want to play them Amos & Andy just so they can see how far we've come as a society. That's just a bit meta. I think you have to be a certain age to watch something like "Hollywood Shuffle" and get the difference between laughing at the caricature of showbusiness racism and laughing at the racism itself. I'm just not sure what that age is.

Eric Rubin said...

wait till greg and marcia do battle over who is a better driver. (think egg on a cone, parallel paking) i think that stereotype still exists today.