All In The Family / Archie Bunker

A couple of years ago I was at Pam’s (All Things Thriller) site and read her character profiles on The Soprano’s characters…I liked it so much that when I thought about covering All In The Family…I asked Pam if she would consider covering Archie, Edith, Gloria, and Mike in the same way.

She not only agreed, but she has given me permission to post her writing on my site.

All In The Family changed the landscape of television and pop culture in the 70s.  Some have said All In The Family was essentially a mirror held up to America at the time. It ran from 1971 – 1979 on CBS. The show was based on Til Death Us Do Part, a British sitcom about a conservative father and his liberal son-in-law. All In The Family may have been the most important television show in the 20th century.

The series spent five consecutive years at number one in the Nielsen ratings.

We will do these in installments on a Saturday. Today will be featuring Archie Bunker. The next will be following in the coming weeks. Hope you enjoy.

Flourish Line Border - Free vector graphic on PixabayAll Things Thriller

Remember Archie Bunker? If you’re around my age–mid forties to mid fifties–or older you do. And if you didn’t know him personally, you knew someone like him.

Your uncle…Your grandfather…The neighbor across the street.

The country was full of men like him back in the day.

Archie was a grumpy old man, except he really wasn’t that old. He was a middle aged guy stuck in a time warp of sameness…prematurely gray, paunchy, always in work pants, he looked the same when he was fifty as he did when he was thirty and vice versa

He enjoyed his paper, his beer…boxing and baseball on television….fat cigars and his chair. Especially his chair. Nobody could sit in that chair but Archie. Nobody.

And it wasn’t even that great of a chair…at least it was better than his wife’s. Edith. Her chair looked flat out uncomfortable.

Edith was a nice lady. And Archie loved her. He really did…Oh, he talked badly to her. Abusively… He was so domineering. And controlling.

I’m not saying that he cursed her, or, God forbid, raised his hand to her. He didn’t…He would have never done that, but the way he would tell her to stifle herself when she said something he didn’t like or if she was just getting on his nerves..

That kind of stuff wouldn’t fly today. And it shouldn’t.

Should have never flown then. Sadly, those attitudes weren’t that unusual in the 70s. There was a lot of backlash to the civil rights movement in the suburbs then…to women’s lib…to the intelligentsia…There were a lot more blue collar middle class people in the suburbs then.

The Bunkers lived in Queens, in a two bedroom, one bath, row house. They were probably about two rungs, on the plus side, from being lower middle-class. But they weren’t and that’s what counted.

Archie worked hard as a dock foreman to provide for his family. He really did. And he took good care of them.

It wasn’t easy for him either. He had to drop out of high school so he could work and take care of his mother when his dad died. From there he served in the Army Air Corps during WWII where he received the purple heart for being shot in the butt…

Yeah, that’s right. Archie got shot in the butt, but here’s the deal…he was on some cushy gig where he didn’t have to see combat, only he did see it. And when he saw it, he defended his country. And his friends. And himself.

He was a good father to Gloria, too. Of course, he wanted a boy, but from the moment she was born she had him wrapped around her finger.

Oh, he groused at her, too. A lot. But when Gloria miscarried her first baby–Archie’s grandson that he was so excited about–all he really cared about was her.

The way he sat on the side of her bed…and for the first time in his life, probably, he was speechless…the way he looked at her, so worried, just wanting her to be okay, said it all.

He was like that with Edith too. Very loyal to her.

And sometimes, ever so rarely, Edith would let him have it. She’d put her foot down and put him in his place. Those times were priceless.

But in the same way that Archie was misogynistic–because, make no mistake, he was–he was racist, too. He was unapologetically racist, though he would tell you that he wasn’t.

The fact is, Archie Bunker was so racist–it came so naturally to him–that he didn’t know the difference. To him, the Ku Klux Klan was racist, yes, but he was completely numb to the reality that they–the Ku Klux Klan–espoused 90% of his own political views…

That he was an equal opportunity insulter…he ribbed his son-in-law Mike, mercilessly about being Polish…he upbraided Catholics for being Catholic and Puerto Ricans for being Puerto Rican…that he believed there should be no violence and that there were some good people who were minorities was enough to keep him humane, but just barely.

Racism. Misogyny. Inexcusable then and inexcusable now.

Should it matter that he was a hard working, faithful husband and father that was wounded while serving his country during wartime? Are those enough attributes, enough mitigating factors to push Archie over the Mason/Dixon Line and onto the good side?…

That’s right, fellow Southerners, I said the good side. The South–during the Civil War–were the bad guys. Get over it..

I say yes.

Then again, I’m a middle aged white woman. I would say yes.

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

35 thoughts on “All In The Family / Archie Bunker”

  1. One of the best TV shows ever. Archie was one of the best characters as well because A) he was relatable, as you said, most people knew people like him, B) he was well-rounded (no pun intended) in that he had terrible flaws but also some great traits. The more you watched the show and the character developed, you could see WHY he was like he was – simple, everything black and white to him, afraid of change and confused by the fast-changing world.
    I’m surprised no one tried to re-do the show in the past few years in the Trump era… but rather glad they haven’t. It would be hard to write one as smart and as deep in today’s climate

    Liked by 3 people

    1. No it wouldn’t fly now because of the division. After rewatching the show…it was so brilliantly written. Mike can be just as narrow minded as Archie at times.
      It took a lot of time but the Archie character slowly evolved…not to what we would wanted but he did grow…and so did Mike.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Very true. It was even-handed, Mike was ignorant at times too & Jefferson next door was as prejudiced as Archie except he disliked all whites. And Dingbat Edith was at times the smartest of the bunch, like when she told Mike basically ‘if you were really a smart man you wouldn’ t make Archie seem so stupid’.Lear was a spectacular writer & observer of people.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I was going to say Edith was smarter than she showed. I’m on season 7 and the characters evolved…Edith maybe more than anyone else.

        Like

  2. Archie Bunker is representative of many Trump voters – unhappy with the way America has changed and wanting a return to their idealized vision of ‘the good old days’ – i.e. ‘Make America great again’. The show would not be as funny if done today, given the intense political correctness and the deep political divide of our times. I would not be able to laugh at someone like him like I did back then.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. No the show would not fly today because of political correctness…and the division. I’ve rewatched it recently and it is relevant today. It was written really well because as bad as Archie is… Mike can be just as bad in his own way. I stay away from extremism in both directions….I’m Sweden.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I never saw Archie as a bad person. He wasn’t so much a racist or bigot as he was a misanthrope: when you got right down to it, he didn’t like anybody. You knew he loved his wife and his daughter (which was the only thing that kept him from throwing his son-in-law out on his ass), but the rest of the world was another story.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I agree with what you said John … He also evolved as the show went along. I’m on the 7th season now…re-watching it. The writers did it very well. Mike could be just as bad or sometimes worse…both of the characters grew in the last few seasons…

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh no! They would not go over at all now. Can you imagine?

      Off topic…I logged in at around 15 after last night…loved the AC/DC talk. You guys had me listening to some I’d never heard.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. An nice..thanks for dropping in. Lot’s of good AC/DC rock talk and now supposedly there is a leaked picture that came out yesterday showing a video of the band. We could use an AC/DC record right now.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I just looked them up in front the huge lit up logo. Yes we could…like the Ramones…they don’t mess about. They just do what they do and ignore trends.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Pam, what an excellent write-up on a character that is woven into the fabric of American culture. His chair sits in the Smithsonian for crying out loud. Archie is the ugly American to me, the one so out of touch with reality as to be a laughable buffoon, which is why the series was so popular in its heyday. Unfortunately over time many Americans have gotten stuck in the Archie mindset, including our current laughable buffoon at the helm. Unfortunately when it jumps out of the tv screen and becomes real life it isn’t very funny at all. I don’t remember Archie ever getting knocked on his a** and beaten to a pulp like he in tv-land and those who emulate him in real life deserve many times over, but then I think what if they did? Would they miraculously have the reptilian scales fall off of their eyes and see things in a kinder and gentler way? F no. Archie’s ghost rises like a spectre and taints us all with its toxic fumes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pam is excellent.
      The writers with Norman Lear were great. They were even-handed… George Jefferson was as bigoted as Archie. He was smarter…but bigoted all the same….and Mike…he could be just as close-minded as Archie also.

      They showed the extremes both ways and did it fairly. Archie though…he hated everyone…I mean everyone. But…I’m in the 7th season and he is evolving along with Mike. I’d forgotten a lot about the later seasons.
      Lear knew how to write a show.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Isn’t Pam’s post today focusing on Archie? And won’t Pam be covering the other characters of the show? By saying George was a bigot and Michael was just as close-minded, you’re taking the deserved heat off of Archie. I look back and would still laugh at his buffoonery in the show, but in real life it is not funny at all.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes she is going to cover Mike, Gloria, and Edith. No Lisa I was just saying I liked the writers because they were even-handed. I think that is one of the reasons the show was a success and it worked
        I don’t advocate his ignorance…and hating everyone is not a good thing.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I knew some Archies as well…but extreme versions….Deadbeat dads, mistreatment of their wives, and basically bums….but I was lucky…my dad and wasn’t a great husband but he was loving toward me and taught me to treat everyone the same…”no better no worse…any color or any class”
        I’m just happy that I could help give Bailey a better childhood than me..

        How are you doing?

        Liked by 1 person

      4. My own dad wasn’t like Archie at all. My mom went from one extreme (quiet, shy, nature lover) to the other (loudmouth, verbally abusive alcoholic) so us kids had a taste of each. Yes, it is a blessing that as parents we can choose to show our kids a better way. In Bailey’s case he can bring those better ways to the big screen.
        I’ve been really busy writing up posts, reading, and doing things away from the keyboard. Getting mighty weary of this Covid isolation and no end in sight. My older son had a scare last week and his job made him take a covid test. He was negative but things were real tense for a couple of days worrying. How are things with you?

        Liked by 1 person

      5. We didn’t have Rockwell childhoods did we?

        I’m glad it was negative. He works at a hospital right? We have had a couple at work to test positive but they were carriers…they were around someone who were sick…they never were except one lost their taste for a couple of weeks. I’m never around anyone …so far so good.
        I was going mad when the lockdown was in place. Now I am back on a routine and pretty much normal. At work I stay in my office and work. Bailey is going to college once a week and the rest of the week online.

        We are doing good though…

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Ha! Thanks for the compliments. My intention when writing this piece was just to present that facts or, rather, the characteristics of Archie’s character–both good and bad–and let the reader decide whether or not Archie is/was redeemable. I thought it would be an interesting debate within today’s viciously partisan divide.
        To me, Archie’s good side mitigate’s his bad side enough that I consider him a good guy, relatively speaking. For me, I can’t say that Archie wasn’t really racist, because to me he was. Nor can I say that he wasn’t really misogynistic, because to me he was.
        The question to me, personally, is can a person who is a misogynist and racist be an otherwise good person? To me, it’s a case by case bases and in Archie’s case, yes he’s an otherwise good person.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. I want to thank you for letting me do this…I got more political comments than I thought I would get…yea I’m naive! Like I said in one…I’m Sweden.

        He did love his wife and child…didn’t physically abuse them…in fact like you said…Gloria had him wrapped around her finger. I think it comes down to intent.

        I watch the show and he does start getting better with his treatment of people and his treatment of Edith…that is because Edith starts snapping back and putting him in his place.

        Edith is the one I cannot wait to see…the more I watch the more I see she had some control over Archie and she grew more with the show.

        Thank you again Pam.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I had forgotten that this ran for so long. It eventually morphed into Archie’s Place and his character was pitiful when Edith died. In today’s climate, a show like this would never make it onto the air. I’m surprised that “Last Man Standing” still exists.

    I recall watching it as a kid with my dad and my paternal grandparents. My grandmother would shake her head at Archie’s antics as she was a spitfire. I think I already told you about my first hubby being of Polish descent and my dad taking great amusement at calling him “meathead” and, himself, Archie. It was all in good fun as my dad and my ex knew that the character of Archie was an amalgamation of the less than stellar parts of 1970s culture. Highlighting poor behavior with humor assists in examining it without getting stuck in the worst of it.

    Sadly, these days, everyone seems to have lost their sense of humor about anything.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When Edith died it was terrible. She was the moral compass of the show. Oh no it would never ever fly today.

      Norman Lear wanted it to end in the 8th season but Carroll O’Connor wanted to go on. He talked him into it and they had to kill her because Stapleton didn’t want to be on more than 6 shows. Lear was in tears telling Stapleton that they would have to kill the character…She told him “Norman she is only fictional” but he said…”not to me.”

      It’s funny in real life O’Connor was the exact opposite of the character…he did a great job. I want to see the original British show.

      Hey if they enjoyed it that is all that matters.

      Like

      1. Six shows or six seasons?

        Jean Stapleton was an exceptional woman and had great comic timing. O’Connor had a hell of a range. He was great on In the Heat of the Night. What happened to his son was awful.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. He did…I’m on the 7th season and he is evolving and so is Mike.
      Sammy came back? I have them all but I haven’t watched them…Archie Bunker’s Place.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I really liked that show, too bad it wouldn’t fly today because people are offended too easily and they would miss the joke entirely. The whole point of the show was how racist he was and how wrong he was for doing it. They were bringing racism to the forefront and doing it in a way that could make you laugh. It was actually quite brilliant.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Political Correctness has just taken over I agree.
      You are exactly right…they showed all forms of it and back then most people got it…today people would take offense.

      Liked by 1 person

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