Why Archie Bunker still matters

I would like to add my own small tribute to the continued celebration of Norman Lear's life and work. This is Ria.
who died Tuesday, 101 years old. It was through him that I was first educated about the mysteries and mechanics of childbirth. It happened when I was 9 years old.

One Friday evening, my younger brothers and I waited for our father to come and pick us up, yet again late for his court-ordered biweekly visits. As usual, we spent some time watching whatever happened to be on his pre-cable channel 12 TV. In this case, it was a rerun of Lear's most famous show, “All in the Family.”

Norman Lear realized the potential of television for social commentary with the help of nimble actors and writers who veered from comedy to drama and vice versa.

What we saw was a scene from the late Season 7 episode “Gloria's False Alarm” that we can now report, and it filled us with incredible lightness. A man with a droopy mustache and his hysterical blonde wife are having an urgent discussion about whether he should or not. Have his penis removed.

At least, that's what we concluded was a “vasectomy,” judging by the seriousness with which they approached this apparently life-altering, irreversible procedure. We kept thinking about this during the 90-minute drive to my dad's house, until he finally asked us what we'd been secretly giggling about in the backseat. . Our shockingly misunderstood answer must have suggested to him that he had neglected yet another fatherly duty. He spent the rest of the ride gently but efficiently teaching us everything there is to know about sex.

The evening's enlightening chat was undoubtedly just one of many candid conversations made possible by “All in the Family” and the new era of television it ushered in. Indeed, none were as thought-provoking as “The Brady Bunch,'' “Leave It to Beaver,'' or “Gilligan's Island.''

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We take it for granted now, but television's long journey to public acclaim began with Lear taking creative and commercial risks on his first show as producer. .

Back in 1971, it wasn't clear that an abusive blue-collar bigot named Archie Bunker would survive for many weeks, let alone remain one of the media's most iconic characters. ABC aired “All in the Family” twice, and when CBS finally aired it
pilot, the network prefaced it with a timid disclaimer: “Warning: The show you're about to watch is 'All in the Family.'” It seeks to shine a humorous spotlight on our weaknesses, prejudices, and concerns. We want to show in an adult way how absurd they are by making them a source of laughter. ”

The audience was ready for something bolder, even if the executives weren't. The show was a hit in part because it actively violated unspoken taboos. The fifth episode introduced the first gay character on a sitcom, and the sixth episode centered on Archie's daughter Gloria's miscarriage. Subsequent series would deal with rape, the Vietnam War, menopause, and certain trans-bashing archetypes.

Thanks to the Lear-developed spin-off “All in the Family,” hot topics ranging from abortion and alcoholism (“Maude”) to bus and gang violence (“Good Times”) I now have more freedom to work on things. Even the more traditional and light-hearted The Jeffersons broke new ground by featuring a wealthy black family (an idea that was suggested to Lear by a member of the Black Panthers who once visited the set). Leah argued). Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons later said George Jefferson was the first black man he ever saw write a check.

Lear realized that television had the potential to make social commentary with the help of nimble actors and writers who veered from comedy to drama and back again. His many imitators were not always up to the task. Thus, in the 1980s, Gary Coleman and his friends take turns ambushing unsuspecting young viewers in a confusing spectacle in which they play “Tarzan” with a wary neighborhood bike shop owner. “A Very Special Episode'' of the Reliable Amateur (“Diff'rent'') The Strokes''), a Pointer Sisters hit, and Elizabeth Berkley's enthusiastic, if unconvincing, portrayal bound together forever.
Caffeine pill-induced psychosis (“Saved by the Bell”).

A complex entertainment legacy

There's no question that Leah changed television. Those who prefer a straight laugh might say it could have been worse. But if you're going to blame Lear for the sitcom's fall from the disciplined professionalism heights of “The Dick Van Dyke Show'' and “I Love Lucy,'' the format's undisputed I guess I have to give him some credit for one of his triumphs, “Seinfeld.'' ” was probably a reaction to all the zealous molasses that preceded it. And isn't Lear's unabashedly flawed character the progenitor of prestige television's beloved antiheroes?

Would there be Tony Soprano without Archie Bunker?

While this connection makes sense, it also reveals a certain emptiness at Archie Bunker's core. Compared to Tony, an Italian-American Catholic from New Jersey, Archie is deeply and painfully rooted in his family and community.he talks about his father
one time (He was mentally and physically abused). In the pilot, we learn that he got a job as a union longshoreman through his uncle. Depending on the episode, he has one to three siblings.

He passionately despises white ethnicities, like “Pollack's” son-in-law Michael, as well as Jews and blacks, but he seems to have no heritage of his own. Is he British? If it weren't for Archie's record of dismissing England as a “fag country,” the last name “Bunker” would make this a reasonable guess. His lineage probably goes back to Bunker, far from Germany. But doesn't that make him what he calls a “kraut”?

Archie is a Christian, but something doesn't feel right about his identity. A working straight man from the suburbs of New York City,
AnglicanIt's true that the Anglican Church's famous liberal turn in the 1960s gives Archie an additional target – when we first meet him, he's a bloodbath he's just left off in a Sunday service.? He was arguing with his wife, Edith, about a sermon that he preached. But I suspect that assigning him to such a benign and “respectable” sect serves the same purpose as obscuring his origins.

In order for Archie to hate and fear as many types of people as possible, he must have enough religion to be enraged when his daughter and son-in-law suggest it, and be completely ordinary (minus economic and social privilege). Must be WASP. He criticized their atheism, but not enough to challenge his allegiance to something more specific than “American values.”

Archie Bunker in the Age of Trump

Archie's all-encompassing indignation made him an ideal foil for enlightened progressives, both on the show and in the audience. Even if Lear didn't apologize for how rich his work had made him, he wasn't one to dismiss what he did as mere entertainment either. He accepted his role as a progressive horsefly until the end of his life.

In response to the rise of the Christian Right that coincided with the election of President Ronald Reagan in 1980, Lear founded the left-wing advocacy group People for the American Way. The organization's “accomplishments” over its 42 years include helping block Robert Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court, trying to block Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court, and helping to block Alex Jones' nomination to the Supreme Court. These include destroying the platform and blocking the HGTV careers of filmmakers and real estate entrepreneurs Jason Benham and David Benham.

Leah originally wrote it to hate Archie. That this character was freed from his creator is a testament to the talent and skill he and his collaborators brought to “All of the Family.”

Like many on the left, Lear found new purpose in Donald Trump's unlikely 2016 election victory. Lear's selection for the 2017 Kennedy Honors, which traditionally includes a reception at the White House, allowed him to combine a victory lap with a podium.
Orangeman's public scorn. When a live production of an old “All in the Family” episode (starring Woody Harrelson) took place; father family) Lear was nominated for an Emmy the day after his 98th birthday, but he took it as another opportunity to express his disdain for the now-embattled commander-in-chief.

With gratitude, Leah and his producing partner Brent Miller
I couldn't help but notice Noting that the late-career victory “aired on the night of Trump's impeachment,” he hastened to add, “98 days until the election, and the day after one of us turns 98, everything will be over. It seems very poetic.”

This started something of a birthday tradition for Leah. On his 99th birthday, he reflected on voting rights in the “age of Trump.”
at the washington post” On his 100th birthday, he reported in the New York Times that “Archie Bunker probably would have voted for Trump.” Leah wrote “But I think he would have been sickened to see the American flag being used to attack Capitol Police.” We'll never know.

Nostalgic revival aside, it's hard to imagine a song like Archie Bunker's getting a sympathetic ear in today's polarized media environment. Watching old YouTube clips of this character, it's easy to forget his original purpose as a left-wing propagandist. The shocking lightness with which Archie utters the unspeakable and exposes humanity's deepest, most sinful thoughts is certainly hilarious, but it's also a reminder of a distant past when we could all be a little more honest with each other. Let me do it. Leah originally wrote it to hate Archie. That this character was freed from his creator is a testament to the talent and skill he and his collaborators brought to “All of the Family.”

In the heavily policed ​​monoculture of 20th century America, this was not a problem. But today, we don't know what damage an unrehabilitated reactionary like Archie can do. Especially if you notice the wisdom that sometimes appears in the abuse and vulgar slurs.

Bunker's home is so modest and small that the sound of the toilet (and Leah's first television) echoing throughout the house. Archie's intense obsession with his beloved armchair reveals that he is a man who does not share space lightly. Still, he and Edith open their home to their reckless boomer daughter and her self-righteous husband. “I just want to learn a little bit about society to help people,” his son-in-law says in the first episode, daring to suggest that Archie taking college classes isn't the best use of his stepfather's fortune. When I did, I protested. big.

More than 50 years later, Archie's reaction to Meathead's vague ambitions for good is similar to how Americans feel about the humanitarian justifications offered for unchecked immigration and endless foreign wars. is. Your mother-in-law and I are both human beings. Could you please help us? ”

If you squint, this rude but welcome appeal to common sense might remind you of another cheeky rant from Queens.



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