All Historical information about The Flintstones can be found in the link to the video below.
A link to the particular episode referenced in the post can be found here:
The animated series The Flintstones may be known to an entire generation as one of the most successful cartoons ever, but its beginnings were far rockier than its high ratings suggest. A product of the Hanna- Barbera studio (the birthplace of Yogi Bear and Scooby- Doo), The Flintstones was pitched to and rejected by studio after studio before ABC, an up- and- comer in the industry at the time, picked it up and began airing shows in 1960. The rest is history; the show- in part because it was intended for whole families and not just children- became wildly popular. Fred Flintstone’s lovably short temper- a tribute to the Honeymooners’ Ralph Kramden- is offset by Wilma’s Levelheadedness and eventually the cute gurglings of the baby Pebbles. The Flintstones’ neighbor, the Rubbles, included Fred’s best friend Barney and his wife Betty (and a son Bamm Bamm, who appears later in the series). With the two men’s get- rich- quick schemes and their wives’ exasperated tolerance, the show entertained children and their parents alike until it left the air in 1966, due in part to the shift in focus from an adult audience (sponsored by Winston Cigarettes) to appeal to a younger crowd (the cereal and Welch’s endorsement attest to the change).
The show’s setting, though, is perhaps its most defining feature; set in a universe where cavemen coexist with dinosaurs and prehistoric mammals, The Flintstones’ most unique definer is that the families can have modern sitcom- like comic situations in a world where everything is made of rock and wood and powered by animals or the characters’ own two feet. Fred and Barney are on the bowling team for the rock quarry where they work; they build helicopters powered by pedaling, have sinks and showers turned on by tugging on the trunk of woolly mammoths, and buy alligator bags for their wives (and by alligator I mean little live reptiles with handles attached to their sides).
This anachronism- taking something out of its place in time for rhetorical effect- is crucial to the show’s popularity; never before had a primetime sitcom done something so radical as to put a modern family with modern problems in a world where modern solutions did not exists.
In the particular episode we will discuss, the link to which can be found above, Fred Flintstone mocks the people of Bedrock for being so obsessed with the ‘Hollyrock’ movie industry before he is inadvertently cast as a double for the main character and becomes himself fanatical about becoming a big star. After a display of typical sitcom comedy (Fred takes abuse as the double, makes funny quips about his situation, and is ultimately deceived by Hollyrock), Fred learns his lesson and vows not to be snared by the movie industry again.
What makes this episode, and by extension the show, so novel in its form is that there are direct references to real- life places and people with a Flintstones twist on their name (usually a reference to rocks). The show is informing its audience that they are to make direct parallels between Fred’s world and their own. It is an appeal to pathos; it is appealing to our sense of familiarity and by doing so giving us comfort in their strange land. The same can be said for the Flintstone’s lifestyle; Wilma does the cooking and tends to the house- as was expected of women at the time- but she does so with little elephants that are used to vacuum the furniture and birds that help with the laundry. The televisions and radios are made of rock and seemingly unattached to anything.
This is not just anachronism, it is archaism. It is deliberately reminding us of a time long past, a time we as modern human have no exposure to (no would we ever have since the show simultaneously refers to several different periods in time at once) and thusly gives the whole show a more serious tone. That’s not to say The Flintstones is anything but a comedy- far from it- but simply that each silly little issue Fred and Barney run into, every scheme thwarted by their wives has a weight to it; perhaps these situations exists everywhere. Perhaps every husband and wife in every universe argued as the Flintstones do.
In an inadvertent way, the show is actually a proponent of human evolution. Sure, the purpose is comedy, but there is an underlying truth there that prehistoric humans were like their modern counterparts in many ways; in fact, they are so alike that they share the same problems, the same beliefs and ethics down to women’s rights and typical household values. Perhaps this wasn’t the intended effect, but it certainty sends a message.
In the world of television, The Flintstones set a precedent for animated shows everywhere, pioneering the adult- oriented cartoon as well as a single story line per episode (which was novel at the time). Culturally, the show is making a much grander statement; Fred and Wilma Flintstone, a prehistoric couple from a time we can’t even imagine, have the same values and petty quarrels that a husband and wife might share today.
The goal may not have been to promote Darwinism. It may not have been anything more than an attempt at doing something novel with the setting of the show. Regardless, The Flintstones paved the way for shows that followed to depict things that never would have appeared on television before Hanna- Barbera productions though of the premise of their new series.
It’s not the Honeymooners. It’s not a typical comedy in any right. The Flintstones is a cultural phenomenon that allows audiences to see and thusly consider something they may have never before, when the issue was avoided by producers; husbands and wives do share beds, couples do have problems with conception (Bamm Bamm is not a biological child of the Rubbles), and perhaps modern humans were evolved from prehistoric Freds and Wilmas.
What does that say about the media’s perception of Darwin’s theory? What does that say about human evolution as a cultural phenomenon? More importantly, what does that say about our underlying values as humans?