A vintage Brady Bunch episode has been co-opted by the anti-vaccination movement — much to the annoyance of one of the classic sitcom’s stars.
Maureen McCormick, who played big sister Marcia Brady on the show, is speaking out about the 1969 episode “Is There a Doctor in the House?” which sees all six Brady kids coming down with the measles. Anti-vax activists are using the lighthearted episode — in which the children enjoy getting to stay home from school during their illness — to downplay the seriousness of measles in the wake of outbreaks which public health officials have linked to misinformation about vaccinations.
Though the virus — which was thought to have been eradicated in 2000 — can be fatal and cause significant side effects like pneumonia and permanent hearing loss, it gets a glowing review from McCormick’s character in the 1969 episode.
“If you have to get sick, sure can't beat the measles,” Marcia chirps in one scene.
But McCormick is herself upset that the show — and her character’s line — are being used to promote anti-vax narratives.
"I was really concerned with that and wanted to get to the bottom of that, because I was never contacted," the actress told NPR of coming across references to the episode.
"I think it's really wrong when people use people's images today to promote whatever they want to promote and the person's image they're using they haven't asked or they have no idea where they stand on the issue,” she added.
McCormick made it clear that she supports getting vaccinated.
“As a mother, my daughter was vaccinated,” she said. She also clarified that her own experience with the virus was nothing like Marcia’s.
“Having the measles was not a fun thing," she added. "I remember it spread through my family."
The creator of The Brady Bunch, the late Sherwood Schwartz, also approved of immunizations, according to his son, who told NPR his dad would be disappointed to see his show being used as anti-vax propaganda.
"Dad would be sorry, because he believed in vaccination, had all of his kids vaccinated," Lloyd J. Schwartz said.
The episode is stirring up debate online. One anti-vaxxer shared the clip to demonstrate “how we dealt with the measles before the media started equating it to ebola.”
Another claimed the show was proof that “getting the measles used to be no big deal.”
The irony is that it's likely the vaccinated spreading the disease through shedding, and getting the disease naturally increases immunity. Look up Brady Bunch episode 13, getting the measles used to be no big deal.— Kelly Brinn (@KellyBrinn413) April 26, 2019
But others are mocking those who would use an old sitcom to back up their scientific claims.
You didn't Inoculate your children with the measles vaccine because of this episode of the Brady Bunch.— Rick Shimelplatzer (@Rickagain) April 28, 2019
Please put your family on a spaceship at once and leave our planet.
Thank you. pic.twitter.com/JM0eQCNzH2
The Brady Bunch kids got measles in one episode and were happy to stay home from school. Anti-vaxxers are citing episode as evidence you can get measles and everything is going to be fine. Context: That show aired 50 years ago and all conflicts were resolved within 30 minutes. https://t.co/DKlXkbYnRO— Tessie Sanci (@tessiesanci) April 29, 2019
Anti-vaxxers are using a Brady Bunch episode as PROOF that the measles is benign. https://t.co/gotC9Ird4a More proof: idiocracy is real.— Pamela Grow (@PamelaGrow) April 29, 2019
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