Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Flintstones (1967)

From the March 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

Often during the evening the main, even only, TV programme of interest to the work-wearied are animated cartoons. And of these, the Flintstones series were sure fire entertainers, wherein we come face to face (cartoon wise), with our past as interpreted by the prevailing outlook. Here too we saw vindicated our own secret, rebellious thoughts when young. We heard high placed dignitaries spoken of as "the big poobas"; we saw the nasty boss man getting a poke on the nose. And we rejoiced in the boisterous debunking of all authority.

These cartoon characters, happily, are indestructable (rather like those metaphysical phantasies or theological hobgoblins of Good and Evil), for they are continuously taking one hell of a beating and instantly returning undamaged and looking for more punishment.

So after a day of hard yakka (work) at our place of employment we turned on TV and watched the antics of the Flintstones. Who was there who did not feel an instant affinity with Fred Flintstone when he, with unrestrained ringing exultation, yelled out, "Yabba-Dabber-Do" upon hearing the exquisite sound of the knocking-off whistle? Who has not secretly wished for the audacity to reveal their own overwhelming relief upon hearing the same sweet, intoxicating sound? Instead we carefully smother a sigh of relief, then meekly and in conformity we tread our way out of our pen and wearily wend our way homewards, or to temporary forgetfullness in other ways.

Even granting all these fleeting moments of delights and simple pleasures with the one-eyed square the cartoons, alas, contain the nauseous worm of corruption. The Flintstones depicted Stone Age society, in its economic foundation, as being identical with modern society; ideologically a similar identity was also claimed for it. It was assumed that commodity production—and therefore capitalism—was the economic system of the Stone Age. Aside from the obvious overlaying of modern techniques (TV, motor cars, telephones, etc), upon the Stone Age methods of labour, tools and social life (which all aids the humour of these cartoons situation), there went the subtler propaganda of the apparent timelessness of the money economy. Everything was depicted as bought and sold.

Labour power, it would appear, naturally was as much a commodity to be bought and sold during the Stone Age as it is today. Fred Flintstone was depicted as a stone quarry labourer working for a "Company". Long before human society had developed labour productivity sufficient to support a parasite class, Fred Flintstone was portrayed as being dependent upon the personal whims of his boss for his continued employment and livelihood; and his mythical boss was likewise portrayed, in his turn, as dependent upon local and world markets for the sale of his commodities and profits.

Cartoons must of course be allowed their share of what is pompously known as artistic licence. The Flintstones used it to poke fun at modern working class conditions. How many workers, as they laughed, took time out to realise who was on the end of the joke?
Peter Furey
Melbourne, Australia

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