Tuesday, November 15, 2011

those were the days

Norman Lear introduced a show back in the early seventies called 'All In The Family'.  The show centered around a fictitious middle aged blue color bigot named Archie Bunker.   Archie was a character who didn't have a college education.  He had to quit high school so he could  help his family make it financially through the Great Depression. Archie was a veteran of WWII.  After the war, he was given a job on the loading dock by his uncle. By the '70's, when we were introduced to Archie, he had become the foreman of that very same loading dock. He had a wife Edith and a daughter Gloria. There was also another member under his roof, a very liberal son in-law Michael Stivic.

The ill-tempered Archie Bunker was played by actor Carroll O'Connor. The idea behind the show was to show how ignorant and stupid conservatives are. The show stereotyped and tried to paint people who were Republicans as reactionary, ignorant, racist, bigots - etc. Here's the twist. The character was written so that everyone would not like ol' Archie - but everyone did.

It's been 40 years since the show began. I was just starting junior high school at the time. I was apolitical - a child with more important things on my mind at the time.  I enjoyed the show and didn't really pick up on the left leaning intentions.  At the time, I saw both right leaning father and left leaning son in-law as clownish and bigoted.  I wasn't a big fan, but I did see enough to get the gist of it.

Now 40 years later I have a respect for the Archie Bunker character.  Though not the most respectful of husbands, he stayed true to his wife Edith until death they did part   Archie worked to keep a roof over his family's heads and food on the table. For most of the shows run, it was the son in-law Michael (aka: Meathead) Stivik that was always at odds to Archie.  Michael lived under Archie's roof and ate Archie's food while going to college for his degree.

The differences between the Archie character and Mike's character were heated and polarizing. Their arguments were used as a platform to air social and political issues of the day.  Here's the thing, the more Meathead preached, the less I cared listening to him. Maybe the show was intended to have the reverse effect - to dislike Archie - but I ended up disliking the son in-law. Why?  Because Michael Stivic was a perpetual ingrate.  He was under Archie's roof and ever telling Archie how wrong he was and how he should live. 

Meathead was a leach, sucking off Archie's generosity.  Archie might have been hard headed and ignorant - but Archie was that man that paid the bills.  Mike Stivic was all mouth and full of liberal hypocrisy.  The last we had heard of Michael was that he had been arrested during a nude protest at a nuclear power plant.  He eventually abandoned his family to join a commune with one of his college students.  How fitting.  Perhaps he's occupying a tent on Wall Street at this very moment.

All In The Family eventually morphed into Archie's Place. His wife Edith died not far into the spin-off.   Archie proved to be a person that could indeed change. His character developed into a person that was still grumpy, but more tolerant to other races. A more tolerant Archie went into business with a Jewish man who was just as liberal as his ex-son in-law.  Archie also took in and raised a little girl, 10-year-old Jewish daughter of Edith's drunk step-cousin, who had abandoned her.  Archie raised and cared for her as if she were his own grand-daughter.  As it turned out Archie was a good man.

"Norman Lear originally intended that Bunker be strongly disliked by audiences. Lear was shocked when Bunker quietly became a beloved figure to much of middle America. Lear thought that Bunker's opinions on race, sex, marriage, and religion were so wrong as to represent a parody of right wing bigotry." -Wikipedia

As the show played out, the good guy was the guy that did right by people.  Archie Bunker had lots of flaws to be sure, but he was a man of his word and a man who kept his promises.  He was the man you could count on in the end.  No matter how you view him, in spite of his faults and failures, Archie Bunker ended up true to his family.
Post a Comment