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.

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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.

Classic TV Episodes: All In The Family – Edith’s Problem

This particular episode was about women going through menopause which today would not receive a second notice…but then, comedy shows just didn’t feature subjects like this. All In The Family had so many great episodes that it is hard picking out one. In this one, the tables are turned and Edith rounds on Archie with a vengeance because of her mood swings caused by menopause.

All in the Family changed the game in sitcoms and television. In the early seventies, many country type sitcoms were canceled when this show debuted in 1971. As Pat Butram of Green Acres said: “CBS canceled everything with a tree including Lassie.

The show tackled controversial subjects such as racism, rape, gun control, feminism, and homophobia. It was under fire from the first episode for its controversial subject matter. Critics and viewers were divided on what they were seeing…some saw it as comic genius and some as tasteless bigotry. The backlash did not come only from the public and the reviewers. Several actors including Harrison Ford turned down roles in the show because they were offended by the script’s humor.

Lucille Ball lambasted CBS for running such an “Un-American” show on the same network her own series was airing on. I seriously doubt if the show could be made today on network television. The show was a huge success in the seventies.

Mike Stivic: [Edith is going through menopause] What did the doctor say?
Archie Bunker: He just said that menopause is a pretty tough time to be going through; especially for nervous types.
Mike Stivic: So?
Archie Bunker: So he prescribed these here pills.
[takes bottle of pills out of paper bag]
Mike Stivic: Oh, good.
Archie Bunker: I gotta take three of ’em a day.


“If you’re gonna change, Edith, change! Right now! CHANGE!”


All In The Family: Edith’s Problem

Characters: Edith Bunker, Archie Bunker, Mike Stivic, Gloria Stivic, and The Waitress

The Bunker family is thrown into an uproar when the normally docile Edith undergoes several sudden and unexpected mood swings, yelling at her family and displaying a foul temper that makes Archie look like a pussycat! Though the men in the family don’t quite know what is happening, Gloria does: Edith is going through menopause. Perhaps the best and funniest line of the episode is when an upset Archie, who’s frustrated at his wife’s sudden and constantly unpredictable mood changes, yells at Edith: “If you’re gonna change, Edith, change! Right now! CHANGE!”

The short scene starts at 15 seconds.

The complete episode

Boy, the way Glen Miller played…”

Those Were The Days

Boy, the way Glen Miller played.
Songs that made the Hit Parade.
Guys like us, we had it made.
Those were the days
Didn’t need no welfare state.
Everybody pulled his weight
Gee, our old LaSalle ran great.
Those were the days
And you knew where you were then
Girls were girls and men were men.
Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again.
People seemed to be content.
Fifty dollars paid the rent.
Freaks were in a circus tent.
Those were the days
Take a little Sunday spin,
Go to watch the Dodgers win.
Have yourself a dandy day
That cost you under a fin.
Hair was short and skirts were long.
Kate Smith really sold a song.
I don’t know just what went wrong
Those Were the Days