Before Family Guy. Before The Simpsons. Before The Jetsons. There were The Flintstones. Hanna-Barbera's animated sitcom about a family that lives in the stone age, with animal hides in place of normal clothes, dinosaurs in place of regular animals and cars made out of rock instead of steel sounds too bizarre to be anything more than a novelty show, doomed to be consumed by a niche audience.
But The Flintstone's explosive popularity is anything but 'niche'. Their appeal may have waned in recent days, but for a long time, they were the Star Wars of the animated world. Every accomplishment that The Simpsons is credited with, from making cartoons attractive to adults, to introducing adult themes in the world of animation, had been done by The Flintstones much earlier.
A large part of it was intentional, too. Hanna-Barbera had become famous for the Looney Tunes, and the company was worried they would be doomed to be seen forever as the company that caters exclusively to children. The Flintstones was a conscious effort on their part to create a program that adults could watch and enjoy.
Naturally, since the show was primarily a comedy, it could often be counted on to introduce jokes that children would not understand, but would elicit a chuckle from their parents. Indeed, some of these jokes upon repeat-viewing can seem a bit too risque, coming from a network that had an established audience among the very young. Here are 30 examples of such jokes from The Flintstones:
30 Fred And Barney Go To Some Nasty Parties
Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble are best friends. They are also members of the Loyal Order of the Water Buffaloes, an in-universe pastiche of the real-world Society of Freemasons.
In one episode, the Water Buffaloes leave for a three-day convention without their wives. Wilma and Betty become suspicious of what exactly is going to happen at the alleged 'Covention', and organize the wives of the other group members into a separate team, intending to track down and spy on their husbands together.
The ladies' worst suspicions are confirmed when they discover a party organized by the Water Buffaloes that includes showgirls jumping out of cakes (and presumably doing a lot of other things that are decidedly not kid friendly). The Water Buffaloes dreams of a frat party are dashed when, instead of showgirls, they are greeted by their hopping-mad wives!
29 Betty Is Forced To Question Her Husband's Faithfulness
Betty Rubble is the cheerful best friend of Wilma Flintstone and loving wife of Barney Rubble. One question that has flummoxed generations of Flintstones fans is how a guy like Barney managed to get a gorgeous woman like Betty.
Whatever led to their union, it's clear that Betty is not only a loving wife but a jealous one as well! This was proven in an episode where Barney comes home accidentally wearing Wilma's lipstick on his shirt. Betty immediately suspects the worst. Arguments follow, with Betty assuming the worst kind of a relationship between her husband and best friend.
This wasn't the only time Barney found himself in hot water. Once Betty spots Barney removing cream from a showgirl's chest, and immediately thinks he is making a pass at the girl. Considering Betty's looks, you'd think Barney would be the insecure one...
28 Wilma Often Goes Too Far While Punishing Fred
So... we're pretty sure Wilma is a horrible human being. Sure, most of the time, she's a loving and supportive wife. And she does have to put up with a lot, being married to a guy like Fred. But that doesn't change the fact that she often goes way overboard when it comes to chastising Fred.
How many times in show has Wilma beaten up Fred, to the amusement of the audience? She's punched him so many times it's a wonder he doesn't suffer from brain damage (Or... does he? That would certainly explain some of his behavior).
With the kind of physical violence that Wilma inflicts on Fred regularly, its no wonder their marriage is in trouble. And it's not like its funny because Fred is much stronger than Wilma, since its repeatedly show that Wilma is an extraordinarily strong woman...
27 Lots of Cross-Dressing Confusion Leading To Embarrassing Results
There was a time when it was considered pretty standard practice to have characters dress up in drag in cartoons. One of Bugs Bunny's favorite gambits was to put on a wig and lipstick and play on the emotions of Elmer Fudd.
But the cross-dressing schtick takes on a decidedly more inappropriate meaning when it happens in The Flintstones. See, the 'stones were created specifically for adults. They dealt with many real-world situations relating to adult relationships. That is why watching Barney dress up in a skirt and flirt with men makes you feel somewhat uncomfortable. The premise is taking to even greater heights when it's Fred's turn to put on a dress. Suddenly, the otherwise-plain-looking Fred Flintstone becomes an irresistible belle-o'-the-ball. Of course, the whole situation is played for laughs. But you do wonder if Fred is secretly enjoying the attention...
26 Proportions That Would Make Jessica Rabbit Blush!
In one of the many high-jinks that Fred and Barney manage to get themselves entangled in, the bumbling duo is called upon to judge a beauty contest. Neither actually want to do it, since they (rightly) suspect that their wives will have a big problem with this. But circumstances force them to go through with the task anyway.
Naturally, things start going haywire almost immediately. There is a gangster hot on their trail, who insists they crown his girlfriend "Cookie" the winner of the pageant. Also in the mix is a millionaire who wants Fred to bestow the title on his daughter.
It's all pretty grown-up stuff for a Saturday morning cartoon. But the "Crowing moment of awkward" occurs when one of the contestants informs Wilma about her physical measurements. Wilma's resulting shock makes you wonder just how impressive the girl's measurements were...
25 A Naughty Party Thrown In Bamm-Bamm's Honor
Kids grow up so fast. It seems only yesterday that Bamm-Bamm was two years old, playing with Pebbles, smashing things into dust with his comically oversized club, and generally making a case for home insurance in the stone age. Years down the line, various spin-offs of the original show revealed Bamm-Bamm to now be a strapping young man with a job, and an impending wedding to his childhood sweetheart, Pebbles.
In the days leading up to the wedding, Bamm-Bamm's bachelor party is held, with all his male friends attending. The party is most definitely for adults, considering the fact that a girl is supposed to jump out of the cake in the middle of it and 'Entertain' the guests. But then the girl demands more money to perform, and ultimately Barney is forced to replace her in drag. So many levels of weird...
24 The Very Bad Habit That The Flinstones Openly Promoted
Before we get into this entry, you have to remember that the days in which The Flintstones was conceived was a very different time from today. Cigarettes were much more mainstream in those days, and the extensive research linking them to cancer was yet to be conducted.
It was in such circumstances that The Flintstones debuted in 1960. One of their early sponsors was Winston. This was right in line with Hanna-Barbera's intention to market the cartoon for adults.
The show's association with the brand led to such notorious commercials as the one where Fred and Barney watch their wives do chores. Barney muses that its hard to see them working so hard. The two go to the back of the house and settle down to light a couple (so you get prejudice thrown in for good measure as well.)
23 The Joke That Baffled And Mortified Audiences And Critics
There is a joke in The Flintstones that has gained massive notoriety, precisely because no one can be sure if it is a dirty joke or an innocent play on words. Fred and Barney are in the costume store looking for a dress to wear. Barney wants a dress that makes him look tall. Fred makes the suggestion that he should buy another head. And Barney retorts "What do I need three of them for?" The two then break out into laughter.
There's really only one way to look at that joke, isn't it? Here the first head refers to Barney's head, while the second head would belong to Barney's... you know. And the laughter resulting from the joke makes the meaning even more explicit. We wonder how that particular comment managed to make it past the censors in the 1970's...
22 The DC Reboot Of The Cartoon Is All Kinds Of Disturbing
If you're a Flintstones fan, or a DC fan, you might have heard about the comic reboot of the cartoon that DC came up with recently. You may also have heard that the reboot has been pretty roundly hated by hardcore fans. That is because DC has followed its motto "Darker and grittier is better" when it comes to life in Bedrock.
So The Flintstones comic, far from being bright and sunny, is instead a bleak and terrifying look at how Fred and the gang would deal with modern day problems. The comics include graphic details about the horrors of war, marriage equality and a dystopian consumer culture. The entire series is about as not-suitable-for-young-minds as you can get, which makes you wonder who exactly it was aimed at, because adult Flintstones fans don't seem to like it either.
21 Wilma Thinks Fred Is A Disturbed Creep
Roughly 70% of jokes on The Flintstones relied on Fred landing himself in one type of misunderstanding or the other. In one of the earlier episodes, Wilma arranges with Fred to meet up at a dressmaking store. Fred, being Fred, decides it would be a good idea to surprise his wife by bouncing from a trampoline straight through a window into the room where she is waiting for him.
Without pausing to consider the breathtaking stupidity of such an act, Fred bounces off the trampoline and in through the wrong window... where a strange woman is about to change her dress. The woman is horrified to find a flying lunatic creepy looking to spy on her as she undresses. Wilma is called in, explanations are provided, and Fred's wife is once again forced to question her wisdom in linking her lot to such a man.
20 Fred And Wilma's Marriage Is In Serious Trouble
One of the ways in which The Flintstones managed to appeal to an older audience was by bringing in a more mature depiction of grown up relationships. Fred and Wilma may deal with cartoon problems most of the time, but beneath the toon-hijinks was the story of a man trying to raise a family, keep his wife happy, and hold on to his job under an unreasonable boss.
In the made-for-TV movie Flintstones on the Rocks, we find that many years of such a lifestyle has taken its toll on Fred and Wilma. Their age-old bickering has devolved from being mere squabbling into something more serious. Things are so bad now that the two are forced to attend counseling, where they both vent out their frustrations against each other to the therapist. Then their anniversary comes up, and both forget to celebrate it...
19 Barney And Betty Deal With A Heartbreaking Reality
As cheerful and fun as Barney and Betty are, they were never as happy as when they adopted Bamm-Bamm. The events leading up to the adoption were pretty heartbreaking in their own way. The whole thing started with Pebble's birth. Naturally, Betty and Barney are smitten with the newest Flintstone and want to spend all their time playing with her.
Finally, Fred grows tired of their constant presence and tells them to get their own baby. This leads to the revelation that Barney and Betty are unable to have their own children. The two are forced to deal with this reality, which is made even more achingly clear with the presence of Pebbles in the house next door.
Fortunately, the story ends on a good note with Barney and Betty finding and adopting Bamm-Bamm and finally getting to start their own family.
18 A Rare And Harrowing Look At Fred Struggling With Body Issues
Fred's physical appearance is often played for laughs. He's an out-of-shape guy who likes to eat, drink and laze about. Most of the time, Fred doesn't seem to be aware of the fact that his physical appearance can be a source of amusement to the audience.
One time, however, this fact was brought home to him with sickening clarity. In one episode, Fred agrees to appear in a weight loss commercial. Later, he is humiliated to discover that his photo was used in the 'Before' part of a 'Before-and-after' portrait used in the commercial.
The body-shaming aspect of the episode does not end there. Fred decides to take up a challenge to lose 25 pounds in 1 month. We see Fred take up one exercise regimen after another in several vain attempts to lose weight, finally embarking on a drastically-modified diet.
17 The Heartbreaking Story Behind Bamm-Bamm's Arrival
Bamm-Bamm is the son of Barney Rubble and Betty Rubble. He's a sweet kid, with an unexplained superstrength that creates as many problems as it solves. From all appearances, it seems that Bamm-Bamm has it made, with loving parents and a loyal friend in Pebbles Flintstones.
But later in the series, you realize that Bamm-Bamm had a difficult past life that no one talks about. See, Barney and Betty found Bamm-Bamm as a toddler left on their doorstep in a crib. No one knows who his birth parents were, and it is even hinted in the live-action movie that the reason Bamm-Bamm is so inhumanly strong is that he was raised by wild mastodons before coming to live with the Rubbles. Suddenly, the image of the two-year-old child dressed only in ragged animal skin and swinging a wooden club around becomes much more tragic.
16 Dino Has A Short Romance With Startling And Permanent Results
Dino is the boisterous pet owned by the Flintstones that made every child who watched the show beg their parents for a pet dinosaur of their own. The interesting thing is, Dino was originally supposed to be able to talk, with a fully-developed personality, much like the dog Brian from Family Guy. But the character quickly became a non-speaking stand-in for pet dogs, hurling himself on top of various family members and slobbering over them at a moment's notice.
In one particular episode, we get to see another animal side to Dino, in a decidedly not-suitable-for-children manner. We see Dino fall in love with a female dinosaur that belongs to a neighbor. By the end of the episode, Dino has physically consummated his relationship with his mate, resulting in baby dino-puppies. That we never hear from again. So, deadbeat dad?...
15 Barney Is Driven To Extremely Desperate Measures
Barney has always been the happy, cheerful sidekick foil to Fred's more impatient lead character. He's not very bright, but he is a loyal friend and a good husband. There doesn't seem to be much that can happen to drive the ever-present optimism out of Barney and make him contemplate terrible deeds.
But such a situation does arrive once. When Barney and Betty first meet Bamm-Bamm, they take him to the adoption agency. The agency takes in Bamm-Bamm, and subsequently decides to give him away to a millionaire couple. Barney tries to fight the decision in court but to no avail.
In his despair, Barney sees only one way out: taking his own life. In a harrowing sequence, we see Barney tying a rope to a boulder with him at the other end. Moments away from jumping off a bridge, Fred saves Barney.
14 Fred Has A Very Serious Impulse Control Problem
Fred Flintstone has never been a model of restraint. If you're going to have a show that depends on wacky hijinks, you better make sure the lead protagonist gets into the wackiest, hi-jinkiest situations possible. So almost every episode deals with Fred getting caught up in a situation he should most certainly have left well enough alone.
In one situation, however, Fred's poor impulse control takes on a much more unsettling aspect. Fred is shown to be completely unable to resist the siren call of the gambling table. The moment Fred hears the word 'Bet', all he can do is hunt for a game to bet his money on.
Considering gambling addiction is a very real problem that regularly destroys the lives of its victims, having a crippling gambling addiction seems like a strange personality quirk to give to a cartoon character.
13 Betty's Innocent Possession That Carries A Sordid Past
Betty Rubble is as sweet and amenable a character as you can get. She doesn't anger easily, she's usually cheerful and optimistic, and she cooks a great meal. It is difficult to look at Betty, and imagine any kind of a dark chapter in her past life
Until you see the paddle she keeps among her souvenirs. The paddle apparently belongs to a sorority that college-age Betty belonged to. Anyone who knows anything about sorority clubs knows that the club is used as an instrument of punishment and even humiliation.
The fact that Betty came into contact with the paddle at some point in the past is surprising enough, but it is even more astonishing that she felt a deep enough attachment to the device to keep it stored among her belongings. Makes you wonder what she was up to in college...
12 Fred's Innocent Inquiry That Shocks A Hotel Manager
We don't mean to keep crapping on Fred Flintstone, but it must be admitted that he is not a very bright man. So legendary is his dim-wittedness that it essentially became the template for future dim-witted cartoon patriarchs, from Homer Simpson to Peter Griffin.
One famous example of Fred's lack was wits occurred at a time when Wilma was about to give birth to Pebbles. Barney gets Wilma inside a hospital. Fred, being Fred, somehow manages to lose his way and winds up inside a hotel. Still thinking he's inside the hospital, Fred walks up to the manager and says "I'm looking for my wife. She just came in here with my best friend."
The manager is understandably shocked, but the situation is mercifully sorted out fairly quickly, and Fred leaves for the hospital to witness the birth of his daughter.
11 Fred Makes A Shocking Reference To A Genre Of Movies
Oh, Fred, you're at it again! Not content to keep your dirty jokes confined to your best friend and confused hotel managers, now you feel compelled to trot them out in front of the doctor as well.
This incident occurs in the primetime special Fred's Final Fling. In the episode, we see Fred at the doctor's office. He's there for a check-up, which also includes having his x-ray taken. The doctor holds up the x-ray for a closer look. Fred chooses that moment to make a quip: "How 'bout it, Doc? Flintstone in an x-ray-ted picture!"
Guffaws from the audience follow. Not only was the line a dirty joke, but it was also a sly reference to the fact that The Flintstones had by that time expanded beyond their cartoon into toys, comics, and every other type of conceivable merchandise.
10 Barney Flips The Dirty Script On Fred
In most cases, Fred is the instigator, while Barney is the follower. That means Fred usually gets all the good jokes, while Barney has to be content with being the appreciative audience. In one rare instance, however, Barney got to be the guy with the epic one-liner, although it was the type of quip you have difficulty believing managed to get past the censors.
In the episode, Fred and Barney are relaxing at home, discussing their television watching skills (look, not every Flinstone plotline could be a gem). Anyway, in the course of the conversation, Fred asks Barney "How's your antenna?" It's an innocent enough question. But then Barney takes it to a whole other, dirty level by replying with a smirk, "Just fine, Fred! How's yours?" To cap it all off, Fred looks quite offended by the turn the conversation had taken...
9 Fred's Assault On Unsuspecting Women Continues
At this point, we have to wonder if Fred wasn't an actual offender, considering the number of 'accidents' he managed to get involved in with other women. There was another instance, this time in a dream sequence from 'Rip Van Flintstone'.
In it, we see an elderly Fred walk to his house, intending to surprise Wilma. Arriving at the house, he sees a woman bending over who looks just like Wilma. Fred grabs her from behind. The woman jumps and turns to reveal herself to be not Wilma. The strange woman thinks Fred is a masher and sics her pet dinosaur on him.
Remember that this was a dream sequence, which means Fred dreams about coming on to strange women and getting assaulted by their pet dinosaurs afterward. Seems like a really specific kind of kink that Fred can only ever dream about...
8 Fred Does Not Believe In Equality Between The Genders
Despite being set in the stone age, The Flintstones share the modern world's sensibilities. Of course, that world was the world of the 1960's, when people had very different ideas about equality compared to present times.
One major example of this comes up in the special Wind Up Wilma. In it, long-suffering housewife Wilma Flintstone gets an offer to be a pitcher for the baseball team The Bedrock Dodgers after nailing a couple of robbers with well-aimed melons at the grocery store.
You'd think Fred would be thrilled for his wife, but his reaction is quite the opposite. He digs in his heels and refuses to support Wilma's budding baseball career. This is because Fred believes a woman's place is in the kitchen and taking care of her family. Not quite the message you want to send impressionable young female fans...
7 Fred Expands His Lunatic Activities To Include A Hotel
We've already talked about how Fred's stumbled into one too many 'accidents' involving females other than his wife for it to be considered completely innocent. What sets this entry apart is the fact that, this time, best friend Barney also comes along for the ride, which fortunately does not end inside a jail cell.
So Fred and Barney are in a hotel where, as usual, they end up getting confused and gate-crash some poor woman's room who was just trying to mind her own business. Does the female lodger laugh off the misunderstanding? No, she very understandably is terrified and calls in the hotel manager to have Fred and Barney arrested. The situation is sorted out soon enough, but can you imagine being Wilma, and having to hear about yet another one of her husband's accidental break-ins into strange women's rooms?
6 There's A Simple And Sleazy Way To Persuade Fred
Let's move out of the toon world and into the live-action adaptation of The Flintstones starring John Goodman and Rick Moranis. The movie stayed quite faithful to the cartoon, and John Goodman made an excellent Fred Flintstone. Right up to exhibiting cartoon Fred's poor impulse control.
We get to see this whenever Fred interacts with his secretary Rosetta Stone, a very, very attractive young woman who can basically make Fred do anything she wants by batting her eyelashes at him. Now, granted, Rosetta Stone is played by a young Halle Berry, so her being able to get any man to do anything by speaking seductively is quite reasonable, but it's a strange plot device to use in a movie that is seen by many young children. Of course, there is also a whole side-plot about Fred's possible infidelity, because why not?
5 Wilma Gets Into All Sorts Of Grown Up Situations
Like we've mentioned before, The Flinstones was for an older audience. There were certain aspects to the show that probably flew over the heads of younger viewers, but which caused quite a scandal among adults. One such fact that was considered quite revolutionary for its time was the way in which Wilma's relationship with Fred was depicted.
For instance, Wilma and Fred were the first animated couple to be shown sleeping in the same bed. Wilma was also the first female cartoon to be shown to get pregnant in the middle of the series and have a baby. This is as close to a depiction of procreation as any cartoon had come to portray on television. Later on in the series, Wilma gets a job and attends couple's counseling with Fred. All these situations were pretty ground-breaking for their time.
4 Fred Has A Double Who Hits On His Wife
In The Man Called Flintstone, which was a parody of the novel, Moonraker, Fred finds himself caught up in a case of international intrigue, and is joined by a man who looks just like him, but is a secret agent called Agent Slag.
Agent Slag is as close to the drinking, womanizing James Bond as you can get in a cartoon. He is shown to be able to sweet-talk any woman into working for him. Indeed, one particular female is so besotted with Agent Slag that she follows Fred back to his house all the way from Italy, convinced that he is Agent Slag and that the two of them will get married.
Matters come to a head when Slag meets Wilma and proceeds to hit on her aggressively. Instead of getting charmed, Wilma proceeds to dole out some heavy physical punishment.
3 A Mass Attack Confession Leads To Laughs
Let's go to another live-action movie about The Flinstones, this time set in Viva Rock Vegas! In this movie, the characters are all presented in their pre-marriage state, when Fred and Barney met Wilma and Betty for the first time. There is also a scheming villain in the mix called Chip, who plans to marry Wilma for the sake of her money.
In one scene, Chip wants to pin a crime on Fred and declares that a person in the room has committed a crime, who should step forward and confess. Many people come forward. One of them admits to systematically poisoning the world water supply for dinosaurs, which will lead them to become extinct in the coming years.
The moment is played for laughs. But that is how the audience is introduced to the mass murderer responsible for the demise of dinosaurs.
2 And A Man May Be After Minors...
We go back to the same scene with Chip because one disturbing revelation clearly isn't enough for a movie about finding true love in the pre-historic age. So the scene is set with Chip declaring that a crime has taken place in the casino and that the criminal must come forward to confess his crime.
Many people come forward to confess their crimes. One guy, however, does not come forward. Instead, he recedes further into the background, looking shiftily around the room and asking his date standing by his side how old she was.
That's... wow, that's even more disturbing than the dinosaurs, because this relates the joke to something that actually happens in the real world, and that men go to jail for. We don't get to see the girl's reply, so we are forced to leave the matter unresolved.
1 Every Episode of The Cartoon Shows Cruelty
So what made The Flintstones popular in the first place wasn't their discussion of adult themes, or that opening song that we all know by heart. No, what set the show apart from the start was the amusing way it used pre-historic animals in place of modern appliances.
And that... becomes a problem when you think about it. See, it was around that time that live-action shows and movies were starting to put strict rules in place forbidding the use of animals in a way that could harm them or encourage audiences to go out and hurt animals while mimicking their favorite shows.
And then came The Flintstones, which placed great emphasis on showing some sad-looking prehistoric animal looking at the camera and making some gloomy remark about what they're being forced to do: Work which, in reality, would be done by machines.