In an era where New Hollywood films and Norman Lear's socially-conscious television shows were driving American media in a more serious direction, Sherwood Schwartz's family sitcom, The Brady Bunch, was a bit of an anachronism, a throwback to a wholesome, campy style of TV that had quickly gone out of fashion.
The show never garnered much respect from critics, either when it originally aired or in retrospect, but that didn't stop the show from gaining a significant following in syndication among teenagers and children. The show was so focused on family values that it's no wonder that teenagers who loved it grew up to be Reagan Revolutionaries. Like much of the media from earlier decades, the show and even its parodic film spin-offs display attitudes problematic to modern audiences. Here are 10 Brady Bunch Jokes That Have Aged Poorly.
10 Jungle Fever
In one episode of the original show, Mrs. Brady tells her husband that a case of Asian flu is going around the neighborhood. Mr. Brady responds that "jungle fever" is also common, but not in the neighborhood. Unless Mr. Brady is referring to a Spike Lee movie that wouldn't be released until years after the show was cancelled, he's probably using an offensive term for interracial relationships.
9 Charlie Chan
Charlie Chan is a fictional detective who was the protagonist in many Old Hollywood films. While beloved in the 1930s, in part for being portrayed as kinder than most East Asian characters in America movies, the character has incurred more and more controversy in recent years for reinforcing East Asian stereotypes and often being played by Caucasian actors in yellowface makeup.
Mr. and Mrs. Brady are apparently not concerned with this controversy, as they once did impressions of Charlie Chan in front of their children, complete with faux-Asian accents.
8 Stalking Wolf
In one episode, the Bradys visit a Native American reservation and a tribal chieftain honors the family by giving each of them tribal tattoos. He names Peter "Stalking Wolf" and the young man replies "That's what all the girls call me." Jokes about stalking are a touch taboo in a post-MeToo world. While standards were different in the 1970s, it's still odd that The Brady Bunch, a show that was sometimes derided for its complete lack of edgy humor, featured a casual joke about stalking accompanied by an enthusiastic laugh track. The joke probably would feel more natural in Family Guy than in The Brady Bunch.
7 General Custer
General George Armstrong Custer was an American general who is often seen as a villain due to his role in the Indian Wars. In an episode of The Brady Bunch, Alice compares the boys to Indians who are trying to "attack" the girls by ruining their sleepover.
She then compares herself to General Custer, which is certainly a joke that would likely offend modern audiences, or at least the rare modern audiences who have any knowledge of General Custer beyond his comedic portrayal in the second Night at the Museum movie.
In the 1990s, teens were too hip for The Brady Bunch, so The Brady Bunch Movie is more a mean-spirited parody of the Brady Bunch series than a traditional adaptation. Much of its humor is derived from juxtaposing the wholesome, square Bradys with the cynical world of the 1990s. Viewers tend to find it clever or insulting - perhaps it's both. But one scene in the film that has aged poorly involved an older woman expressing her amorous feeling for one of the Brady boys by putting her hands down his pants. Yikes! Watching that sequence, it's incredible how much societal attitudes surrounding this sort of humor has changed over the years.
5 Jan Vs Marcia
In an age of Katy versus Taylor and Nicki versus Cardi, there's been lots of discussion of society's insidious desire to pit women against each other. The Brady Bunch only adds to that problem, with Jan Brady seeing her sister Marcia as a rival and feeling intensely jealous of her and her looks.
The Brady Bunch Movie may have its issues, but one of its better moments is the joke at the end of the film where Jan's grandmother gets her to finally stop comparing herself to her sister.
Now to counter some mild praise of The Brady Bunch Movie with some harsh criticism. In the movie, Jan is depicted as a schizophrenic whose internal voices drive her jealousy of Marcia. Somehow, Jan's schizophrenia spreads to Cindy. In 1995, this joke seemed cleverly transgressive, as took Jan's attitude towards Marcia in a very dark direction. In 2019, the there is much media discussion of a mental health crisis, so this joke seems insensitive and uncomfortable.
3 Marcia And Greg
In A Very Brady Sequel, Greg and Marcia realize that they're in love with each other - despite being half-siblings - and share a kiss. This whole subplot was inspired by the fact that the actors who played Marcia and Greg on the original show became a couple.
To some, this use of meta-humor might make the subplot less upsetting. After all, the writers of the film probably weren't trying to encourage any immoral behavior between siblings. To others, this subplot is pretty gross.
2 The Bradys: Anti-Vaxxers?
In one episode of the show, the kids catch the measles and it's not really an issue. They're all cured without the help of vaccinations. One shouldn't get their medical knowledge from sitcoms, but in the modern age, some anti-vaxxers are pointing to the episode as proof that vaccines are unnecessary.
How ridiculous. It's inexplicable why this episode even exists, as it was behind the science of the time, although it was ahead of its time in that it predates that modern anti-vaxxer movement.
1 Male Doctor
In that same putrid episode about measles, the Brady girls are pretty uncomfortable at the prospect of seeing a male doctor to rid them of their malady. When she meets said doctor, Jan says that he shouldn't get too close to her, followed by a laugh track. There's a joke that's so disgusting it warrants no further discussion.