Monday, October 7, 2013

Adoption Movie Guide: The Flintstones (Barney and Betty adopt Bamm-Bamm)

Flintstones... Meet the Flintstones... They’re a modern Stone Age family…

Well, actually, the 1994 cinematic version of the Flintstones features two modern Stone Age families. Fred Flintstone has married Wilma, who came from a wealthy family. Fred’s work at a local mine isn’t sufficient to provide Wilma with the luxury she is accustomed to – and Wilma generally seems OK with this, but money is a concern. Their neighbors and close friends, Barney and Betty Rubble, have been unable to have children. Fred secretly loans Barney some money so that Barney and Betty can adopt Bamm-Bamm. To thank Fred for this, Barney secretly switches competence examinations with Fred. This was a bigger deal than Barney realizes; with Fred’s score assigned to him, Barney is the lowest-scoring employee and is marked for termination. With Barney’s score assigned to him, Fred is promoted to vice-president, and is tasked with firing Barney. Now, the Rubbles and Flintstones have to cope with their strained friendship while Barney also has to figure out how to convince the adoption agency that he should still be able to keep Bamm-Bamm.

How is This Relevant to Adoption? 
Barney is excited to be a father. He rejoices that there will be “someone to carry on the proud name of Rubble.” He asks whether he’ll be a good dad. The Rubbles’ adoption of Bamm-Bamm is a central element to the backstory of the film.

Strong Points
Barney is certainly excited to be a father. Fred and Wilma are – initially and ultimately – supportive friends. Wilma overtly supports Fred’s assistance to the Rubbles.

Barney acknowledges that adoption will require a substantial life change. He doesn’t have an unrealistic, idealized view of parenthood. He knows that “from now on, I’ll be spending 24 hours a day attending to the needs of a helpless little boy…” and yet, he still excitedly pursues parenthood. 

Barney and Betty are excited to adopt Bamm-Bamm even though he has some difficult behaviors, is easily startled, and has speech delays, and even though others say unkind things about him. They don’t give up, and he eventually attaches to them.


Some children could come away from the film thinking that the Rubbles bought Bamm-Bamm, rather than realizing that they had to have money to be able to provide for him. Parents will need to make sure that their kids don’t apply this misinterpretation to their own story.

One adult suggests that all it will take to help Bamm-Bamm overcome his behavioral challenges is, “a little love.”  


Fred requires Barney to keep his assistance a secret.  Secrecy and adoption are usually a dangerous combination.

Barney eventually announces, “I owe my son to Fred.” I can’t help but think of how awkward the obligation and indebtedness expressed by this sentiment may eventually be to Bamm-Bamm.

When Barney and Betty go to the adoption agency, they are initially presented with a monkey. The scene is played for humor, as the monkey is actually intended for two adult monkeys. The scene could be interpreted as insensitive.

It’s a little surprising to say this about a Flintstones movie but – there is a lynch mob scene. Also, Bamm-Bamm and a young friend are kidnapped and their lives put in jeopardy.

Recommendations and Conclusions

I wish I could give The Flintstones a wholehearted recommendation. The characters are well-loved, and from one point of view, the film captures a family’s realistic, excited, and friend-supported approach to adoption, followed by a strong commitment to their child in spite of difficulties.  Unfortunately, I have to temper the recommendation because of the way in which secrecy is woven into the film, because of the potential to misinterpret the adoption of Bamm-Bamm as a purchase, and because of the scenes of peril – lynch mobs and kidnappings are particularly scary, especially for a film that features a semi-anthropomorphized dinosaur. So, here’s the recommendation: It could be a good film for your family – but watch it yourself before showing it to your kids.  Some other films showing a family’s pursuit of adoption are Martian Child, Meet the Robinsons, and The Odd Life ofTimothy Green, but none of this capture quite the same angle as The Flintstones.  
Questions for Discussion
Why was it important for Barney and Betty to have money if they wanted to adopt Bamm-Bamm?

What made Barney and Betty good parents?

What made Fred and Wilma good friends?

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