At Imagine Hope we help many blended families. I am currently in a blended family and I come from a blended family. Perhaps that is why my sister Natalie (who I never refer to as my step sister) and I loved to watch the reruns of The Brady Bunch. Since our “group had somehow formed a family”, Natalie and I would pretend to be Marcia and Jan when we were little. We probably watched every episode multiple times. I am sure we wondered, “why can’t our older brother be as nice as Greg?” or “why can’t we have a live-in maid as nice as Alice?” The show made us believe that family life was easy, and all family relationships were happy. Many Americans were first exposed to “blended families” via this late sixties sitcom. Later, the Brady Bunch was sometimes even used as an analogy for a “perfect family”. But were they really perfect? The Brady Bunch
Despite my great temptation to write about the rumors and myths of the behind the scenes antics of the show, I will focus on the dysfunctional family characteristics of the characters. Yes, I am saying that the Brady Bunch was a dysfunctional family! Before you launch into calling me a lying heathen blasphemer, hear me out.
First of all, let us start with the marriage of Carol Martin to Mike Brady. We are to believe that Mike’s wife and Greg, Peter and Bobby’s mother is deceased. However, it is never said directly. Mike hints around about it in a conversation in the “wedding” episode, but the mom is never spoken of. This is a huge mistake in raising children who have lost a parent. We do not see the father allowing conversations about the mother, no rituals celebrating the mother, no pictures of the mother, and no visits from the mother’s family. Mike shows no grief over the loss of his wife. Ignoring that there was a loss is a violation of the children’s right to mourn.
Secondly, we are to believe that Carol is divorced from Marcia, Jan, and Cindy’s father. We never hear much about that. We never see the father. The girls never have parenting time with their father. There are no weekends with Dad, no weeknight dinners, no nightly phone calls (on that silly pay phone Mike installed to teach the kids financial responsibility only to be inconvenienced in the end) and no visits with grandparents from Father’s side. In fact, they change their name to the new step father’s name and call him Dad! This is not a healthy transition into a blended family situation either.
Now I will address the actual blending of the families. There were few actual issues or challenges addressed on the show. In the first season, the boys did have a bit of difficulty adjusting to their new step mother, and continued to go to Alice for their “mothering”. This is a very healthy transition while the kids test waters to see if this new mulleted blond mom is going to love them. Alas, the wise Alice encourages bonding between the boys and Carol, only to be left feeling rejected and irrelevant. So what does Alice do? She becomes passive aggressive to address her codependency and runs away. And what does the family do in response? They enable her codependency and run after her telling her how wonderful and needed she is. Not only in one episode, but in two!
As far as the children go, and the children are the focus of the show, they did not have many typical struggles of blended families. They are of the same religion (we presume), same ethnicity, same socio- economic status and blend easily into the same role. However, there is little feuding for “alpha” between Marcia and Greg. Marcia being the oldest girl and Greg being the oldest boy would have been jockeying for position as “leader” of the kids. But in the end, Marcia and Greg were highly parentified. That is, they were left parenting the younger children often with advice, directions, and comfort.
I know that there was a live-in maid, and a stay at home mom, but I believe chores and responsibilities are every child’s God given right. They need family responsibilities so that they can learn value and feel valuable as a member of their family. What chores did the children have? Only one time did we see Carol ask for help, when she asked Peter to clean out the fireplace. How did entitled Peter respond? He felt that his “mom” was treating him like Cinderella and tried to run away (wow- we see the codependency again). How does Carol respond? She offers to run away with Peter! I have never recommended that approach in any of my parenting sessions.
The last that I will discuss (but far from the last example) is sexual discrimination. A good example is how Greg got the attic room because he was “becoming a man”. I do believe Marcia was also becoming a woman ( and since girls mature earlier than boys, the debated one year age difference should have equaled out) yet the boy gets the room. One example that really stuck in my craw was the episode where Marcia and Greg competed for class president. Both siblings begin in a heated race, but once Marcia sees Greg acting chivalrous and defends her honor while quashing an ugly rumor, she swoons and concedes. CONCEDES!!! Never mind the fact that the boys in the house refuse to see a female doctor. Sexual discrimination in this house shows the boys that females are in a “one down” position. What kind of message do you feel it may show the girls?
I hope you have enjoyed our week of dysfunctional families. Continue to check in to see what families Natalie and Joleen feel put the “fun” in dysfunctional.
Written by Alexa Griffith, LMHC, LCAC, NCC, RPT, Guest Blogger for Imagine Hope Counseling Group