Why did they call this Brady Bunch episode a fistful of reasons? I imagine the writer (Tam Spiva) or the producer (Sherwood Schwartz) thought it was clever. And it is, but not in the way that they probably meant it to be–as a play on words. Calling this episode a fistful of reasons is an insightful way of signifying how reason and violence are often inextricably tied.
In my first entry on this episode I wrote about how the conflict between Peter Brady and Buddy Hinton demonstrated the failure of reason to successfully mediate conflict. Throughout the episode, Peter, Mike, and Carol all attempt to appeal to reason as the way to resolve conflict and to deal with Buddy the bully. Consider Mike Brady’s fatherly advice to Peter about how to handle the Buddy situation:
Fighting isn’t the answer to anything. If it were why the biggest and the strongest would always be right. That doesn’t make any sense does it? Did you try reasoning with Buddy Hinton? Explaining to him why he shouldn’t tease Cindy? Reasoning. Calm, cool reasoning. That’s a lot better than violence. And it’s the only sensible way to settle differences.
Peter, Mike and Carol all try to reason their way out of the conflict: Peter tries to reason with Buddy. Mike tries to reason with Buddy’s dad. And Carol tries to reason with Buddy’s mom. In each case, reason is no match for violence. Peter gets a black eye. Mike gets “escorted” off of Mr. Hinton’s property. Carol barely restrains herself from mixing it up with Mrs. Hinton.
So, reason fails. But wait–what do we make of the ending to the show? The exciting showdown between Peter and Buddy in the second-to-last scene? Consider what actually happens (sorry, I am also a big fan of Hercule Poirot and the final reveal in movies like Death on the Nile):
Having been trained to box by Alice and Marcia (hmmm…we will take up the issues with that at another time), Peter is ready to defend himself. He and Cindy walk through the park, trailed by a bunch of kids that Cindy has invited to witness the fight. Suddenly Buddy appears. Peter attempts to reason with him: “Cut it out. Let’s reason. Let’s talk about this.” Buddy refuses: “Shut up or fight.” Peter reluctantly agrees to fight. [Cue drumroll] Peter gets in the defensive stance. Buddy charges him and misses. Peter closes his eyes and lands a punch. Buddy falls into the bushes. Everyone, including Peter and Buddy are surprised. Peter apologizes. Buddy grabs his tooth and begins to talk–with a lisp. The kids laugh. Buddy asks them to stop. Cindy leads the taunts: “You sure talk funny. Baby Talk. Baby Talk. It’s a wonder you can walk!” Buddy runs off. Peter admonishes the kids: “Go on. Get outta here.” They leave as Cindy and Peter reflect on the dramatic events:
Cindy: Why shouldn’t we tease him?
Peter: For the same reason you didn’t like him teasing you.
Cindy: I guess you’re right. You know Peter, you’re verrrry (no, that’s not a typo, that’s how she said it) brave.
Peter: I am? Aww (he says as he sheepishly kicks the dirt and shakes his head). Come on. Let’s go home.
And so, the conflict is resolved. The trouble is over.
But, what happened? Peter punched Buddy which stopped the conflict between him and Buddy. So, violence was the answer, right? Not exactly. Then, Peter uses reason (when talking with Cindy) to stop the conflict between Buddy and the other kids. So, reason is the answer, right? Well… Peter was only able to act reasonably with/towards Buddy after he punched him. I get it: using violence allows us to be reasonable. Others take us seriously when we do violence to them. They listen to our reason once we have forced them to do so. Hence, the name: Fistful of Reason(s).
Does anyone else see anything wrong with this? Should we be praising this very Brady resolution? Or, should we be asking some important, yet troubling, questions about why Peter needed violence to be reasonable? Or why the link between reason and violence is always obscured? Or why Marcia and Alice were the ones training Peter to box? Hmmm..I think I might need to take up that last question in another entry on Peter Brady and constructions of masculinity…