May 3, 2015

Bamm-Bamm's Muscles: Gay Promise on "The Flintstones"

Quick, name a cartoon character who came from outer space, was adopted by a human family, and has superpowers?

Right, Bamm-Bamm Rubble.

In an October 3rd, 1963 episode of The Flintstones, about "a modern prehistoric family," Betty and Barney Rubble are upset because they can't have children -- apparently Barney's sperm count is a little low.  They wish on a falling star, and the next morning a baby appears on their doorstep, asleep in a turtle shell, holding a club.

He can only say "Bamm-Bamm," so that becomes his name. He turns out to have superhuman strength, easily carrying furniture and tossing his adopted father around.

As a kid in the 1960s, I was intrigued by Bamm-Bamm's mysterious origin.  Could he be an alien -- a falling star could mean a UFO!  His white hair certainly looked alien.  And the superhuman strength surely meant super muscles!

I didn't see The Flintstones often, so I didn't notice that the writers failed to make much use of Bamm-Bamm's potential.  His supernatural origins were rarely mentioned, and his super-strength became little more than a comic nuisance.

No gay symbolism: in fact, he began expressing toddler heterosexual interest, mooning over toddler-next-door Pebbles, romancing her in baby-talk.  Eventually they were closing episodes by singing the treacly Sunday-school song "Open Up Your Heart (and Let the Sun Shine In)."

In 1971, a highly publicized spin-off appeared, The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show (1971-72, and rerun long after).  With the characters as teenagers!  I watched the first episode instead of the beefcake-heavy live-action Barrier Reef, to see if Bamm-Bamm had transformed into Superboy.

Nope.  No mysterous origin.  No superstrength.  Bamm-Bamm wasn't even built -- he had skinny arms and legs and a shapeless lump of a body.  He and Pebbles went to high school and belonged to a rock band, like everyone on Saturday morning in the 1970s.

I didn't bother with the three tv movies in the 1990s that aged Bamm-Bamm into adulthood.  Apparently he and Pebbles marry and move to Hollyrock, where he becomes a screen writer.  They have two children, Roxy and Chip.

A heterosexist conclusion to a story loaded with gay promise.

At least the Bamm-Bamm costume allows for some interesting cosplay.

See also: The Flintstones and Saturday Morning Muscle.

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