I’m still live-tweeting the Brady Bunch

Last night @room34 and I live-tweeted two more Brady Bunch episodes:

Vote for Brady (11)
The Voice of Christmas (12)

Here are some things that were particularly striking (in 2 episodes that weren’t that memorable):

Feminism in “Vote for Brady”

Just a few episodes ago, in “A Clubhouse is Not a Home,” the battle of sexes between Mike/Greg/Peter/Bobby and Carol/Marcia/Jan/Cindy (where does Alice fit into this?) explicitly drew upon feminist language and idea(l)s. In “A Vote for Brady,” the conflict between Greg and Marcia has nothing to do with their gender representations. Greg doesn’t make any claims about being more qualified because he is a boy and Marcia doesn’t argue for equality because she’s a girl. It’s as if all of the conflict and feminist rabble-rousing from “A clubhouse is not a home,” which aired on Oct 31, 1969 (less than two months before “Vote for Brady” aired on Dec 12, 1969), never happened. I’m not really surprised, but I still think it’s worth noting how and when the Brady girls ignore/invoke feminist ideals. Ignoring the feminist ideals of equality, women’s rights and deserving to have and do everything that boys can that she spouted two months earlier, Carol (somewhat passively) encourages Marcia to give up and let Greg win the election:

Religion in the Brady Bunch

In “The Voice of Christmas,” Carol is planning to sing at church on Christmas Day. Everyone is devastated (yes, it’s Brady drama of the highest order!) when she loses her voice. As I was watching the episode I was struck by how rarely church is mentioned on the Brady Bunch. I tweeted:


I’m pretty sure this is the only episode in which they go to church. This makes me curious about how religion gets represented in sitcoms (in the 70s and now). The Bradys are considered by many to be a “family values” family. How does religion fit/fail to fit into their world view and daily practices? In what other ways do they represent their faith or spirituality (my BA is in religion and I’m really interested in how religion gets represented in pop culture and gets constrained by limited/narrow/rigid understandings of faith and spirituality in the family values rhetoric of the Christian right)? I think I might have to make a special note of the Brady’s expressions of faith. For example, do they ever pray before bed? Interesting to note: Cindy is particularly upset by Carol’s inability to sing. Who does she turn to? Santa Claus (not God…no tear-filled prayers for her). I’m pretty sure none of the kids say any prayers for Mom to get her voice back. 

The Battle of the Sexes, Brady Bunch Style

Last night, STA and I live-tweeted 2 more episodes of The Brady Bunch, Season 1. Here are the tweets archived on Storify:

A Clubhouse is not a Home (6)
Kitty Karry-all is Missing (7)

Both were memorable episodes, introducing some themes that will be repeated again and again…and again throughout all five seasons. For example, the Kitty Carry-all episode is a great illustration of how easily and cruelly the kids turn on each other and how effectively they regulate and discipline each other. As I live-tweet the series, this is one theme that I’m particularly interested in tracking, especially how it relates to the particular brand of family values that the Brady’s practice and promote.

Another important theme is the repeated reference to feminism and feminist principles. “A Clubhouse is not a Home” is the first explicit reference to feminism. They mention the need for equality,

 

the right to fair treatment for girls/women


and the girls even protest their unequal treatment with picket signs.

 

Wow. I’m not sure what they’re doing with feminism in this episode (well, I think I know, but…)

 

I want to revisit Mimi Marinucci’s great article on the Brady Bunch, “Television, Generation X, and Third Wave Feminism: A Contextual Analysis of the Brady Bunch” in order to put their mention of feminism in this episode into the larger context of the entire series and its relationship to 1970s culture. Briefly, here’s Marinucci’s summary of the episode:

In a very early episode, the Brady girls demand equal access to the Brady boys’ clubhouse (‘‘A Clubhouse Is Not a Home’’). When Mike and the boys exclude them, Carol decides that the girls should begin building a clubhouse of their own. The point, however, is not actually to build a clubhouse, but to do such a poor job that Mike and the boys will take pity and build it for them. The scheme works, and Mike sends the girls to fetch lemonade while he and the boys get to work.

What she seems to be getting at with her description is that, even as The Brady Bunch draws upon feminist principles/slogans, it does so in a way that undercuts them. The girls will try anything to get access to their own space; they’ll spout “feminist principles” that they don’t really believe in or understand or pretend to be incompetent in order to trick the boys into doing the work for them. Do I agree with this assessment? Hmm…not sure, yet.

live-tweeting Brady Bunch, part 2

STA and I continue our quest to live-tweet the entire Brady Bunch series (here’s part one). Tonight we watched 2 more episodes. Here are the storify archives:

Episode 4: Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
Episode 5: Katchoo

Here are two particularly memorable tweets from episodes 4 and 5:

I wrote about “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” a couple of years ago in The Trouble with Alice.

I refer to the Brady kids as the Brady mafia in Mike and Carol are the worst parents in the history of the world, part 2.

Live-tweeting Brady Bunch, part one

When I first started writing on this blog, way back in 2009, I posted a lot about The Brady Bunch. Since then, I haven’t had as much time to watch or reflect on them. But, a couple of months ago, I had an idea: I should live-tweet the entire series. Is it crazy? Perhaps. But, it might just be fun and instructive. Tonight STA joined me for the first installment: Episodes 1, 2 and 3 of Season 1. Check out the archives of our tweets over at storify:

Episode One: The Honeymoon
Episode Two: Dear Libby
Episode Three: Eenie, Meenie, Mommy, Daddy

Is Marcia Brady guilty of acting badly* or badly acting or both?

*Thanks to STA for pointing out this witty reversal. Originally I had titled this post, “Is Marcia Brady guilty of hubris or bad acting or both?”

293.mccormick.maureen.lc.101308Do you remember the episode of The Brady Bunch where Marcia is cast, against her will, as Juliet in her school’s production of Romeo and Juliet? She auditions for the role of the nurse but does such a “good” job that the drama teacher wants her to be Juliet. When she tells her family that she just doesn’t think that she is “the Juliet type” they hatch a scheme to convince her that she is worthy of the part. They repeatedly tell her she is pretty and smart and talented. Creepy moment alert: Greg even tells her that she is “a real groovy chick…for a sister, that is.” The plan works, but too well. Marcia becomes full of herself and begins to think that she is better than everyone else. When she argues with her parents about changing Shakespeare’s words, Mike remarks: “First the part’s a little too big for her. Now I think maybe she’s a little bit too big for the part.” Woah….Mr. Brady is deep. After she causes more trouble (yes, this is the word that is used to describe her actions)–like ridiculing her Romeo and talking back to the drama teacher–Carol decides that drastic measures must be taken. Without consulting Marcia (or even having any serious or lengthy conversation with her about why she was causing/being trouble), Carol and the drama teacher kick Marcia out of the play. Bad acting alert: Although it would be very easy to argue that Maureen McCormick’s acting is terrible throughout this episode, the piece de resistance comes at 22 minutes and 24 seconds when Carol reveals to Marcia that her name isn’t in the final program. Wow!

51KKRXXJW2L._SS500_There is much that I could write about this episode (such as: Alice revealing that she went to an all girls school and performed–in drag!–as Julius Caesar). Well, I might just have to write about that later. But, in this post, I want to think about Marcia’s behavior, the Brady family’s scheme to build up her self-esteem and the troubling consequences of that scheme. And, I want to think about of this in relation to virtue ethics, moral education and Mike’s and Carol’s continued efforts to earn “the worst parents in the history of the world” award.

Nice. So, Marcia doesn’t want to be Juliet. Instead, she is happy to be cast as the nurse. Or, is she? According to Mike and Carol, she really wants to be the star, the beautiful and noble Juliet; she just doesn’t have enough self-esteem. She can’t see herself the way others do: as a “real groovy chick.”

Mike: You look beautiful and noble to me.
Carol: The trouble is, you don’t think you are.
Mike: That’s right. It’s your belief in yourself that counts, you know. You are what you think you are.
Marcia: You mean, if I think I’m beautiful and noble than I will be beautiful and noble.
Mike: That’s right. If you believe it, everybody will believe it too!

Ah ha! The trouble is that Marcia has a low opinion of herself (of course it couldn’t be that she actually wanted the role of the nurse–a pivotal and interesting, yet less glamorous role). What she needs, according to Mike and Carol is “the power of positive thinking!” That will get rid of her troubles! But when she starts thinking positively, more–and perhaps more serious–trouble is the result. She begins not only to believe in herself but to believe that she is the best; she is noble with an elevated status that makes her better than everyone else. She demonstrates this through shameful acts of hubris (and yes,  she acts badly…and badly acts).

But, what really has caused this hubris? Here is a series of related questions that trouble me:

  • Is her hubris the result of an excessive display of pride/a deficient display of humility?
  • Or, is it the necessary (and logical) result of the Brady family’s approach to building up her self-esteem?
  • If there are some bad actions (and bad acting too!) in this episode, who is doing them? Is it really Marcia, who is following the advice of her parents to truly believe that she is noble and beautiful?
  • Or is it Mike who encourages her to be beautiful and noble but equates that with being a star and thinking (too) highly of herself and fails to give her any substantial definitions of beauty that are counter to societal standards? (Standards that are often driven by capitalism and our role as consumers. And that discourage girls from ever thinking that they are beautiful enough. After all, if you think you are beautiful, you wouldn’t ever need to buy any products right?)
  • Or Carol who promotes a decidedly superficial vision of “the power of positive thinking” that is not connected to any underlying ethic or understanding of how our positive (and negative) thinking has real just and/or unjust effects on others.

I suppose you know where I am going with this. Yes, Marcia does act badly. And yes, she does badly act. But, it is Mike and Carol who really act badly in this episode. The moral education that they offer to Marcia (and by extension, to us) is just plain bad. Marcia is encouraged to think positively about herself, but she is never given any guidance about how exactly to do that. Mike and Carol want her to build up her character, to make it (and her) more beautiful and noble. They don’t, however, give her any guidance on how to make her character virtuous. That is, they give her no strategies/skills/advice for what kinds of actions she should engage in.  And they fail to support their advice with any underlying moral vision or ethical system that could guide (or temper or foster) that positive thinking.

When Carol Brady praises Marcia’s new found belief in herself (at the beginning of Marcia’s diva period) as “the power of positive thinking,” she is referencing a very watered-down, overly simplified, faithless, pop psychology version of Norman Vincent Peale’s wildly popular self-help book, The Power of Positive Thinking. Carol’s advice seems to fit this equation: Power of Positive Thinking – ethical vision or virtue ethics = Marcia-as-major-diva.

While I was searching for an image of Marcia to use for this post, I came across an entry entitled, “The Hubris of Marcia Brady” on The Brady Bunch Blog. For a different take on Marcia, check it out.

Mike and Carol Brady are the worst parents in the history of the world, part II.

Brady-Bunch-from-Stuck-in-the-70s-702715Upon further consideration, I have decided that perhaps Mike and Carol Brady are not the worst parents in the history of the world. But, they are bad. The “family values” that they try to instill in the Brady 6 (does anyone else use this term to describe the Brady mafia…I mean gang…I mean darling children?) are downright disturbing if you stop and actually think critically about them. Let’s trouble the Brady family values together, shall we?

It seems to be a given that The Brady Bunch is a show that reflects and encourages traditional family values. Really? I have heard this so often that I found myself wondering, Who actually claims this? A quick google search yielded this result. The Museum of Broadcast Communication (MBC) writes:

In an era in which situation comedies emphasized how social climes were changing, The Brady Bunch was one of the few series that hearkened back to the traditional family values seen in such sitcoms as Leave It to Beaver and Father Knows Best.

So, if this is the case and The Brady Bunch really does reflect traditional family values, what does that mean? According to the MBC, traditional family values include ignorance as innocence, a refusal to address changing social climes, and hypocrisy.

Unlike All in the Family or even Julia, The Brady Bunch tried to steer clear of the political and social issues of the day. Rarely were non-white characters introduced into the series. Women’s liberation and gender equality were boiled down to brother-sister in-fighting. The counterculture of the 1960s was represented in random minor characters portrayed as buffoons–or in Greg trying to impress a girl with hippie jargon. The representation of childhood in the series as a time of blissful innocence was in marked contrast to what was happening off camera. Many of the boys and girls playing the Brady children dated each other secretly, making out in their trailers or in the doghouse of the Brady’s pet, Tiger. Oldest boy Barry Williams attempted to date Florence Henderson and filmed at least one episode while high on marijuana. All these incidents (as well as Robert Reed’s homosexuality) occurred behind closed doors, coming to light only a decade after the series originally aired.

Mimi Marinucci, who has written an excellent article, “Television, Generation X, and Third-wave Feminism: A Contextual Analysis of the Brady Bunch,” offers one more family value to the list: sexism repackaged as equality. She writes: “Because the sexist messages of The Brady Bunch were often hidden beneath an egalitarian facade, however, our dismissive attitude left us vulnerable to the show’s subtly sexist subtext” (512). Marinucci’s analysis of the show (and Gen X’s/3rd wave feminists’ irony and sarcasm) is helpful in providing a deeper look at The Brady Bunch that includes more than the simplistic notion that the Bradys ignored social issues and presented family life as wholesome, white, and insular (which is the charge that the MBC is leveling against it).

Here is my take on all of this: The family values that Mike and Carol live by are not merely bad because they are hopelessly naive, outdated or disingenuous. They are bad because they help foster a world view that is unjust. They encourage kids to gang up on each other or at least look the other way when the kids are “othering” each other. They equate truth telling and honesty with tattling and squealing. They discourage personal achievement and individuality by teaching kids that being good at something leads to selfishness, becoming too-full-of-yourself, and disloyalty. And, most troubling for me, they have created a family that demands conformity, uniformity, and togetherness and that shames and ostracizes any family member that dares to think different/ly (an Apple family this is not).  It is because of their promotion of these family values that Mike and Carol are bad (as in not good, not just, not morally/ethically responsible) parents.

Now, don’t worry, I have much more to say about these values and the Bradys. Look for future entries on the joys of conformity and group think (Jan, the only child), how getting along is more important than ensuring that everyone is treated justly (Kitty Carry-All is missing), why being the star only leads to a big head and sisters and brothers who don’t like you (Juliet is the Sun), and how privacy and the desire for a “room of one’s own” smacks of disloyalty (Jan, the only child). Okay, this is too much fun. I love critically dissecting the Bradys (almost as much as I love watching the show).

The trouble with Alice

brady1A couple of years ago, STA and I had a great conversation on a long car trip about Carol and Alice. Why were both of these women necessary? What was their relationship like? What exactly did Carol Brady do during the day when Alice was cooking and cleaning and going to the butcher? Was Alice considered a member of the family? When did she ever get a break? Did they really need her with Carol around? Was she ever going to marry Sam?

I remember watching the two different episodes in which Alice feels like she isn’t needed or wanted anymore and decides that she has to leave. In Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore from the first season, Alice feels that she has been replaced by new Mom, Carol. And in Goodbye, Alice, Hello from the fourth season, Alice thinks that the kids don’t like her and don’t want her around anymore. Instead of telling the family that she feels unwanted, she makes up some lame excuse about an Aunt in Sacramento/Seattle who is sick (in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore) and an Uncle who has a great business opportunity for her (in Goodbye, Alice, Hello). I remember thinking, wow, aren’t you just a little too sensitive. Nobody said you weren’t needed. And who cares if the kids like you or not?

Now watching them again with a deeper critical awareness of feminism, the difficulties of caregiving and domestic work, and the politics of family and kinship configurations, I see these episodes very differently. Alice is not being too sensitive. She is not overreacting. She does not need to get over herself (I am sure at some point my younger self must have thought that she should do just that). No, Alice’s reaction and response to thinking and feeling that she was no longer needed was justified. It doesn’t demonstrate that she is overly sensitive and too invested in a family that isn’t hers. Instead, it reflects the tenuous and very difficult position she occupies as the paid caregiver who functions unofficially and invisibly as the Bradys’ other mother.

In almost every episode Alice is represented as the loving (often laughable, arguably queer) housekeeper who is more than a maid; she is an honorary family member. She goes on all of their trips–even their honeymoon! Never mind that she goes along to work (watch the kids, fetch the water for the campsite, walk Tiger the dog). But, even as the Brady family seems to think of her as part of the family, this is not really the case. She is just the hired help.

While Carol might consider her a friend and a confidante, she is not above pulling rank with Alice and demanding that she do something (like in Goodbye, Alice, Hello, when she forces Alice to tell her who broke the lamp. The implied message is that Alice better tell Carol or she will be fired). And while Mike may act as if he respects and values her loyal service, he jokingly links her position as servant/maid with slavery and then laments the fact that he can no longer force her to do his bidding because of Abraham Lincoln. What about the kids? Sure they love her and think of her as a friend (and as comic relief), but they also make sure she knows who has the power in the family (like when Cindy’s secret admirer comes over for their “date.” As she walks by Alice in the kitchen, Cindy commands her to bring them some refreshments).

Alice’s position as a part of the family is tenuous because she is being paid to be there. She is not an equal member. She is an employee with 8 bosses. If she makes a mistake or disobeys the rules, she won’t be reprimanded or given a time out, she will be fired. She will lose her livelihood and her benefits and her living quarters (which, true to form, are right off of the kitchen). Alice’s position is also tenuous because she has no real claim on any of the family members. Sure she has taken care of Bobby his whole life, but if she is fired she can’t demand to be allowed to have a relationship with him. She has been a mother to the kids (and a sexless wife/secretary to Mike) but she has no rights or legal claim to that position. Lucky for her that she is white and a legal citizen of the U.S. Otherwise her position as domestic worker would be even more tenuous. For more on this, see here and here.

Alice’s position is difficult because the kind of work she is doing–cooking, cleaning, drying off tears, counseling heartbroken Marcia, building up Jan’s self-esteem, contending with Greg’s often failed performances of (hyper) masculinity—is not really considered work. Taking care of others is invisible work that is done by individuals (mostly women) who are invisible as workers. Folding the sheets and watching the kids? That’s not work, that’s just what women do while men go to the office and design powder puff buildings for BeeBee Gallini.

Feminist theorists have written a lot (and I mean a lot!) about the undervaluing of “women’s” caregiving as work. But, this isn’t just a problem for housewives who aren’t appreciated for all that they do around the house. This is a problem for the invisible nannies, maids, domestic workers, and servants that actually get paid to do the housework (see this article for a discussion of the moral dilemma that nannies create for femnists). Could the fact that Alice not only recognized but felt (on a daily basis) her tenuous and undervalued position as (secondary in status but primary in actual care) caregiver to the Brady kids and Mike been the reason she reacted so strongly and dramatically in both episodes?

There is (yet) another approach to take on this issue of Alice and her trouble (that is, her tenuous position). While Alice is officially only the paid housekeeper, she is effectively (but without recognition) a second mother to the Brady kids. The trouble with being the second mother is that people just don’t have two mothers. That scenario is not part of the happy heterosexual and patriarchal nuclear family with its one father, one mother and multiple kids. So, her role as a primary caregiver who mothers the children must remain unrecognized (in J Butler speak it is unintelligible within dominant discourse).

But, wait, the trouble is even worse than not being recognized. The happy heterosexual family as the ideal (and natural) kinship configuration is predicated on the belief that 1 dad, 1 mom, many kids is the only healthy and proper way in which to raise kids. So, any indication that other configurations could work (or, horror of horrors, might actually be better for the kids) must, at all costs, be concealed. For this reason, Alice’s role as another mother (and a successful one at that) must not only go unrecognized (and unvalued), it must also be undercut. Alice might do the majority of caring for the children, but she cannot be understood (or represented within the show) as a mother. There is only room for one mother in the Brady household and that mother is happy heterosexual, Mrs. Carol Brady. Maybe that is why Alice is so sensitive. She’s not fooling herself, she knows that she isn’t really a mother to the Bradys and that the love she receives as a caregiver will only last as long as her paycheck does. Or, maybe that is why Alice is represented as having such a dramatic (and selfish) overreaction in the episodes. When she thinks that the kids don’t like her anymore, she doesn’t tough it out like a “real” mother would (I mean, how many times have your kids told you that they hate you. I stopped counting a long time ago). Instead, she runs away. See, the show seems to be reminding us, she isn’t a real mother. Real mothers tough it out. Real mothers don’t leave.

I would have liked to see them (the producers and writers of the show, the kids, Mike and Carol) recognize and represent Alice as another mother. What kind of radical kinship configuration could this have allowed for? The Brady Bunch was already breaking ground by focusing on a “blended” family and subtly injecting the storylines with second wave feminism. Why not queer it up a little too?

Mike and Carol Brady are the worst parents in the history of the world, part I.

mike-and-carol-brady-the-brady-bunch-4785540-364-4622For my birthday, I received The Brady Bunch Seasons 1, 3, and 4 (I already had Season 2). Originally I was thinking that I didn’t need the 5th season. The whole jumping the shark with Oliver thing, you know. But, after going on TVLand and looking over the episodes (Marcia vs. Greg in the driving test, The Bradys go to the amusement park, Bobby kisses Millicent), I decided I need to get it at some point. Right now I want to focus on making my way through the first 4 seasons. And I plan to write A LOT about the Bradys in the next few weeks.

Now back to the subject of this particular blog: Mike and Carol Brady are the worst parents in the history of the world. Is that a little too harsh? Perhaps, but the more I watch the show, the more umbrage I take with their parenting choices and the more I realize just who is actually doing the parenting in the family: Greg, Marcia, Peter, Jan, Bobby and Cindy. That’s right, the kids parent each other (I have a lot to say about this in connection to Foucault and disciplinary power in future entries).

On the surface, Mike and Carol seem like the perfect parents (okay, maybe not, but it seems like they are supposed to represent the best parents ever). They are beautiful, kind, loving. They hardly ever yell or fight. They do *fun* things with the kids–like taking them on boat cruises, camping, and to Hawaii or acting in films about the Pilgrims or dancing in Hoe Downs with them. Yee Haw! These parents will do anything for their kids…they even take them (and Alice and Tiger and Fluffy) on their honeymoon. Despite all of this evidence in support of Mike and Carol as parents of the year, I can’t shake the feeling that the advice they give is just plain bad (or at least more often bad than good).

So, how and why are Mike and Carol the worst parents in the world? Bad advice. Crazy behavior. Inappropriate comments. And more. Much, much more. As I make my way through the first 4 (and maybe the 5th too!) seasons, I plan to offer a series of entries in which I catalog the countless ways in which Mike and Carol Brady fail to live up to the standard of perfect sitcom parents. Now what, you may ask, does this series of entries have to do with trouble and troublemaking? Maybe I am trying to trouble the representation of family values as the perfect heterosexual/nuclear family with their perfect moral lessons and their pretty family that always loves each other and gets along and resolves their issues in 23 minutes or less. And maybe I am trying to unsettle the idea that parents (especially ones as “beautiful” as Mike and Carol) always have all of the right answers.

Exhibit A: Here is the first among many examples of how Mike and Carol Brady are the worst parents in the history of the world. I am confident that the evidence requires no explanation (okay, I will give an explanation in another entry about Alice and her tenuous position in the family as the housekeeper):

See here at 3:52. In “Alice doesn’t live here anymore” Alice decides to leave because she thinks she is no longer needed. As Mike and Carol are talking it over, Carol mentions how she really wishes Alice wouldn’t leave. Mike says, “Well, we can’t make her stay. Abraham Lincoln put a stop to that.” Really? STA and I both couldn’t believe our ears when Mr. Mike-Father-of-the-year-Brady uttered this gem.

A Fistful of Reasons, Part II: The Trouble with Bullies

And the obsession with this episode continues…I am not exaggerating when I say that I could write a book about Fistful of Reasons. Here are just a few things that I love about this episode and why it so compelling for my own work:

  • The focus on reason and its limits
  • The conflict between the “troublemaker” (Buddy Hinton) and the troubled (Peter and Cindy)
  • The performances of (failed) masculinity by Mike, Peter, Buddy, Alice, Cindy and the performances of (failed) femininity by Carol, Alice, Mrs. Hinton
  • The failed possibilities for alliance building between Buddy and Peter

I hope to get to all of these topics in future blogs. But before I do that, I want to write about an issue that seems particularly important in light of the recent accounts of anti-gay bullying suicides: the trouble with bullies. This spring, several kids committed suicide after being taunted, verbally abused, and physically threatened. As many have argued–like Box Turtle Bulletin and Advocate–the cause of these suicides was not just harassment but anti-gay harassment that could have been prevented if the schools that these students had attended had better anti-bullying programs in place (see this for more).

These tragic cases point to the physical, emotional and psychic consequences of bullying and raise the troubling questions: Who is to blame for these suicides and who should be held responsible? What sorts of actions can we take to ensure that these tragedies stop occurring? How have our traditional strategies for dealing with bullies failed to protect our children?

In “A Fistful of Reasons,” the issue of bullying is taken up as Cindy, Peter and their parents (comically) struggle with how to solve the problem of Buddy Hinton and his bullying behavior. Buddy taunts Cindy for lisping (a gay signifier?) and threatens Peter with taunts and physical violence (calling Peter’s masculinity into question?). Here are the different ways that they try to address the problem:

  1. To stop Buddy from teasing Cindy about her lisp, Mike and Carol try to train her to talk properly. They give her a tongue twister book so she can “get over her lisp” and talk just like everybody else. Almost the whole family (Mike, Carol, Alice, Greg, Peter and Bobby) help her with the exercises in the book. At first this method doesn’t work but by the end of the episode Cindy’s lisp has magically disappeared.
  2. To stop Buddy from threatening and taunting Peter, Peter’s brothers Greg and Bobby attempt to shame Peter into fighting Buddy: “If you don’t fight him, everyone’s gonna call you a coward.” (or a sissy or a fag?)
  3. To stop Buddy from teasing Cindy and calling her a baby, Mike and Carol encourage Peter to stand up to Buddy (like a man) not by fighting him but by using “calm, cool, reason.” They reinforce this lesson (especially after it fails for Peter) by attempting to use reason themselves with Buddy’s parents.
  4. After these other methods have failed, Mike gives Peter permission to “defend himself” against Buddy. When Peter admits that he doesn’t know how to fight, Marcia and Alice give him some boxing lessons.
  5. As I discussed in another entry, Peter finally solves the problem by punching Buddy and causing him to lisp. All of the kids laugh at him and he loses his power to bully others.

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A Fistful of Reasons, Part I: The Title

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.
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