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. 

In Tribute to a Feminist Troublemaker

I was formally introduced to feminism through a research project on feminist theology in college. One of the first authors that I read was Mary Daly–I can’t remember whether it was Gyn/ecology or Beyond the God the Father or both. What I do remember is that reading Mary Daly changed my life. Up to that point (I was a junior in college), I was a double major in religion and Japanese studies. I imagined that I would do my senior thesis project on a topic that incorporated both of those areas and then go onto graduate school in religion. But after I read Daly (and Rosemary Ruether and Carol Christ, among others), I became increasingly interested in feminist theology and theory. The next year I wrote my undergraduate thesis on women’s experience as a category for theological reflection. I graduated with a major in religion and a minor in Japanese Studies and then attended Claremont School of Theology where I proceeded to take as many classes in feminist theology and theory as I could. Eventually I ended up in a PhD program in Women’s Studies at Emory University. Now I teach in a Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies Department.

While I can’t remember many specific details of Daly’s work, what I do remember is the troublemaking spirit that infused her work. I was instantly drawn to this theologian who, while exposing the limits of Catholocism/Christianity, remained dedicated to not wholly rejecting religion, but transforming it. She was a playful writer and a visionary, aiming to not only provoke her reader but have fun with them too. This playfulness (sense of humor, emphasis on joy, witty wordplay) is evident in many of her books–especially their titles: Gyn/Ecology, Pure Lust, Websters’ First New Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language Conjured in Cahoots with Jane Caputi, and Outercourse: The Bedazzling Voyage, to name a few. Her troublemaking spirit was not limited to her writing; it was also present in her teaching. I recall her getting into a lot of trouble at Boston College for creating women-only classrooms (men were welcome to take her classes, but only as tutorials). If you want to know more about Daly (and get a sense of her as a troublemaker), I recommend checking out her blog, Mary Daly: Radical Elemental Feminist. I love her opening line:

Mary Daly is a Positively Revolting Hag who holds doctorates in theology and philosophy from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland.

In my dissertation, Feminist Ethics and the Project of Democracy, I argue that we urgently need feminist role models who aren’t saints, but are moral exemplars of the resisting spirit and who don’t necessarily show us how best to resist, but that resistance is always possible. These role models inspire us, providing us with the hope that we can transform oppressive institutions and live better lives. Their specific methods may not always be effective but, through their writing/teaching/activism/daily experiences, they encourage us to keep working and fighting and questioning. Mary Daly was one such feminist role model.

Mary Daly died January 3, 2010.