Aug 4, 2018

The Flintstones

During the early 1960s, a lot of cartoons were broadcast during prime time, for audiences of both kids and adults: Yogi Bear, Beany and Cecil, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Top Cat, The Alvin Show.  The Flintstones, which premiered in September 1960 at the rather late hour of 8:30 pm, went even farther, with decidedly "mature" plotlines.

It was a remake of Jackie Gleason's Honeymooners series set in a modernized Stone Age, starring two blue-collar quarry workers, Fred Flintstone  and Barney Rubble, and their wives, Wilma and Betty.  Eventually Fred and Wilma had a daughter, Pebbles, and Barney and Betty adopted Bamm-Bamm, a mysterious foundling child who might be an alien.

There were no supporting characters, only  a few recurring characters.  The camera was focused squarely on the dynamics of the heterosexual nuclear family.

At first, the plots were mostly about misunderstandings, squabbles, and conflict: Fred and Barney want to go bowling instead of going to the opera with their wives; Fred and Barney secretly take dance lessons, but their wives think they are seeing other women.

In later seasons, there weren't many  "husbands and wives can't stand each other" plotlines.  Instead, we saw fantastic adventures, involving spies, gangsters, aliens, and monsters, usually with the focus on Fred and Barney and the wives relegated to short establishing scenes at the start or finish.

The wives became so irrelevant that you could buy toy sets with figures of Fred's car and Dino, his pet dinosaur, but not Wilma and Betty


After the initial series (1960-66), nine more Flintstones series aired, mostly on Saturday mornings.  Some involved Pebbles and Bam-Bam as teenagers, and others involved Fred and Barney by themselves.  Wilma and Betty barely mentioned, or not mentioned at all.  In the juggernaut of advertising tie-ins that continues to this day, we similarly see no Wilma or Betty, just Fred selling Flintstones Vitamins or Barney trying to trick Fred out of his Pebbles Cereal.



Maybe they realized that their primary emotional attachment was with each other, and now they see the ex-wives only when they go to pick up the kids for the weekend.

See also: Yogi Bear and The Three Stooges.


6 comments:

  1. Far be it from me to point out that Fred and Barney weren't Wearing Signs, but didn't many episodes show them in love with their wives?

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  2. That was pretty common in the early seasons, not so much in the later. Anyway, you can have a homoromantic relationship and a hetero-romantic relationship at the same time.

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  3. Fred and Barney are like big kids, not yet civilized. Wilma and Betty represent the domestication and civilization, like the Widder Jones for Huckleberry Finn. They're the end of the adventure. So you can see how they would be essential for the domestic farces of the early seasons, but irrelevant when Fred and Barney struck out into the territory of children's adventure.

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    1. I'm pretty sure they weren't intended for children. This may have been the start of the animation age ghetto, but early seasons were more like any other sitcom, but animated. Later seasons took on Fleischer's maxim that animation does what live action can't. Then we had Pebbles and Bamm Bamm as teens and it jumped the shark. (I can actually point to when Hanna Barbera as a company jumped the shark. That would be Yo, Yogi!.)

      I mean, it's the 60s, so we're not having someone like Anno saying Evangelion was meant for kids. (Boomer, correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think you've done Evangelion. And there is a tragic gay romance there.) But even sitcom clich├ęs rather than adventure stories for the boys and teenage slice of life stories for the girls seems like an adult show. It just had a setting with (scientifically inaccurate, even for the time) dinosaurs (and pterosaurs, smilodons, mammoths...somewhere a paleontologist is slitting his wrists for this show having Pleistocene mammals with Mesozoic saurians, let alone humans domesticating all of them), and lots of rock puns. Of quartz. (I used this same pun to express how I'm partial to onyx, amethyst, citrine, and various agates And jaspers. And yes, I'll say "of quarks" when we get to the Jetsons.)

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  4. Authorial intent is irrelevant; the authors no doubt intended to convey a sexist stereotype, that Wilma and Betty were at home doing the dishes during the adventures. But the wives' absence, plus the strong buddy-bonding, is adequate to identify a same-sex subtext.

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  5. The Great Gazoo's voice and mannerisms always seemed gay stereotype to me.

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