The Flintstones and the Buckets are two families that we grew up with. But looking back as an adult, we have no idea why they got married in the first place.
There’s been a concerted push in recent times to bring the television shows of our youth in line with our adult sensibilities. A recent example would be outing Friends as transphobic. This is wrong. The key, is to allow them to stand as an example of what used to be, and if there’s a lesson to be learned from that, learn it.
Simples. However, there’s something I’ve spotted during my last trip down the Youtube hole: the enablement of the dickhead partner in harmless fiction. Now, we all watched essentially the same shows growing up, so we’re all extremely familiar with the family units that are presented upon it.
The characters might be different, but the tropes remain the same. The curmudgeonly paternal figure, the doting attractive wife, the individually different but equally problematic kids.
However, as television shows enter the zeitgeist and become part of our lives, those figures become important. It sounds trite and alarmist, but fiction matters. While not every viewer of Happy Days spent the latter part of their twenties banging teenagers in a restaurant toilet, I’m fairly certain that many took parenting cues from Mr. C when it was their turn to teach their own Fonzie.
Nevertheless, these figures are certainly important to out, because we’ve grown and we’ve identified our behaviours. Mostly.
Honestly, when Pepe the Frog jumped to the top branch of the toxic masculinity tree, I was devastated that Fred didn’t get the call-up. He’s perfect. He’s a force of emotional anger that goes nowhere. He runs on the spot, and he can barely hold a job.
But, let’s stick to the fictional facts. Let’s call it for what he is. He’s a shit husband. Yes, he goes to work, and he puts the Brontosaurus burgers on the table/side of the car. But that’s his problem. He’s even outdated in the prehistoric town of Bedrock.
He represents one of those classic machismo-enabled tits who is completely reliant on his partner to do the things that he really should be doing for himself, and once his teensy tiny world is upset, he resorts to confused juvenility.
Wilma, girl. What the fuck are you doing? He’s dragging you down with him.
More to that fact, his cro-magnon beta is also part of this problem. Beyond his propensity for negging (You’re too fat, Fred!), Barney is Fred’s subordinate by virtue of somehow being stupider than Fred. And yes, fine, maybe I should work a shift for Mr Slate before I judge, but let’s be honest here, the animals do all the work.
And let us be even more honest, in the episode Operation Switchover, Wilma is set to win Good Cave-keeping’s Housekeeper of the Year, Fred marginalises her achievement by claiming that his job is harder. And to prove it, they enter a wager where they swap for a day. When Wilma excels at Fred’s job at the quarry, and he fails at Wilma’s end of the bargain, he loses the plot. Wilma, what are you getting out of this union exactly? You can do bothhhhh.
What these two represent is man’s earliest douchebag partners, those who inexplicably both have partners who really should GTFO as soon as possible. Betty, Wilma. What the fuck do you see in them? One has anger issues, and the other might be a couple of teeth short of a Sabretooth. Take the kids, take the dog/dino and find someone who lets you live.
One who doesn’t shackle your worth to the stove, and bristle at the sight of you stepping into ‘his world’.
Yes, the show might paint Fred as a bumbling oaf who gets locked out by his own pet, but who is the real victim here? Willlmmmaaaaaaa… move out, and take Betty with you.
Quick aside, you can put Fred’s crossover buddy, George Jetson, in the same category. Except that George is devoid of the nobility of blue-collar work, as his job is literally pushing a solitary button, an emasculation he takes out on his family.
In many ways, George is worse, as he’s bringing the vintage Flintstone pomp into the future. A future, I might add that literally does everything for him. Entitlement, thy name is George.
Speaking of institutionalised emasculation, we have the long-suffering Richard Bucket from Keeping up Appearances. Married to Hyacinth, a slave to the middle-class stuffery that made the English Empire so great (and she totally would have voted in favour of Brexit), Richard is her forever victim. Naw.
All he really wants to do is read his newspaper, or sleep forever…but would settle for a minute of peace. Not that he ever receives it, as dealing with his wife’s insane demands, or chasing her dementia-addled Father around the high street (who I might add, really should be in the arms of care), or being told what to think. He’s unsure what to think, because he has tied his worth to what he’s been told, not what he thinks.
He knows his opinion has no value, so he asks her first. Simply put, Richard has no sense of self.
What we have here, is a person who has been completely ground down by the toxicity of their partner. I find Richard very lonely. He has no friends, save for his exchanges with the Vicar next door, or the rare beer with Onslow, but he can never stay, he’s forever sent back into the house, or on another Hyacinth errand.
I’m sure all he wants to do is to wrap the cord of that white slimline telephone around the frog-like neck of his wife, but why isn’t anyone helping him? All they do is offer him a knowing nod, or a quiet Poor Richard.
Richard, Wilma. Dudes. They need you more than you need them. Maybe you can both hook up? Let your scars bind you.