explainer

The actress who played Marcia Brady is tired of anti-vaxxers using her image.

The United States is currently experiencing an outbreak of measles, but rather than concentrate on efforts to control the disease, some anti-vaccination groups are taking advantage of the attention to spread – pun intended – their own message.

And it’s meant that something as innocent and simple as an episode of The Brady Bunch has become collateral damage.

In the 1969 episode Is There a Doctor in the House?, the entire Brady clan falls ill with measles, and, in typical Brady fashion, the topic is treated lightly – and everyone’s back in good health by the end of the episode.

Mum Carol describes symptoms as “a slight temperature, a lot of dots and a great big smile,” and as the kids succumb one by one, there’s great deal of jolliness – including an attempt by Bobby to colour in Cindy’s measles spots green.

The children are treated with bedrest, and their measles are resolved by the end of the episode. It’s a very Brady measles outbreak indeed; and one that doesn’t reflect the gravity of the reality of the significant risk the disease poses to those who aren’t able to be vaccinated from it.

But apparently, it’s evidence enough for those with an anti-vaccination agenda to demonstrate the world’s taking measles too seriously.

Somewhat unfortunately, eldest sister Marcia (Maureen McCormick), also says at some point in the episode, “If you have to get sick, sure can’t beat the measles.”

She uses a joyful tone – which is the tone the character usually speaks in; but it’s reason enough for anti-vax groups to turn the line into this meme:

brady bunch measles
Image: YouTube.

The episode has also inspired other anti-vaccination memes which downplay the risk of measles and the need to use the available vaccination:

Image: YouTube.
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brady bunch measles
Image: Instagram.
brady bunch measles
Image: YouTube.

The use of the episode and creation of the memes to support the anti-vaccination agenda has caught the attention of McCormick, who this week spoke to website NPR about her frustration with the issue.

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"I was really concerned with that…because I was never contacted," the actor said.

"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.”

brady bunch measles
Marcia Brady was played by Maureen McCormick. Image via Getty.

McCormick added that her own daughter was vaccinated, making her position clear. She also explained that she herself contracted measles when she was child, and unlike in The Brady Bunch episode, was quite ill from it.

"Having the measles was not a fun thing," she said. "I remember it spread through my family."

The son of the creator of the show, Sherwood Schwartz, has also publicly said his father wouldn’t be pleased it was being used for an anti-vaccination agenda.

"Dad would be sorry, because he believed in vaccination, had all of his kids vaccinated," Lloyd J. Schwartz told NPR.

The resurgence of the anti-vaccination message is of concern especially in the U.S. at the moment because the American Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention this year has listed six measles outbreaks.

Earlier this year, the NSW government was also prompted to issue a measles outbreak warning.

Australian communicable diseases director Vicky Sheppeard has previously explained symptoms of measles to Mamamia: fever, sore eyes and a cough followed three or four days later by a red, blotchy rash spreading from the head and neck to the rest of the body. The infection is highly contagious and can spread through coughing or sneezing.

Nama Winston has had a decade-long legal career (paid), and a decade-long parenting career (unpaid). Now a Mamamia Contributor and freelance writer, Nama uses her past experience as a lawyer to discuss everything from politics, to parenting. Instagram: @namawinston Facebook: @NamaWinston.

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