All in the Family featured the curmudgeonly Archie Bunker. Archie was television’s most famous grouch, blunt, blustering, straightforward and untouched by the PC crowd. He was the archetype of the conservative male. Michael desprately tried to reeducate him, but he persisted in his breviloquence.

Looking back at the last 40 years, we realize: ARCHIE WAS RIGHT!


Of Straw and Men

It's no surprise to my regulars that I'm a fan of All in the Family.  I think the collage as a blog header gives it away.  Archie Bunker is and was Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin's idealized conservative straw man. 

I say "idealized" because they created a character that embodied every single negative trait that they could portray in a person.  Michael on the other hand is the embodiment of liberal insight, wisdom and hope.  Incidentally in real life Carroll O'Conner  (Archie) was a liberal whose political beliefs were more in line with Michael.

Archie was a straw man.  Lear used Archie as a way of down playing the significance of World War II and the contributions of the generation that went through it.  Archie was always reminding everyone that he was a "veteran of the BIG ONE".  Archie's actual military accomplishments are undistinguished, except for earning a purple heart for getting hit in the butt with shrapnel.  Archie was a bigot.  Archie wasn't very smart and often mispronounced words.  Archie was "religious" but didn't go to church, or let his faith interfere with his prejudice.  Archie believed in stuff but his beliefs were ignorant.  Archie was a straw man.

Norman Lear used that straw man to knock down traditional American values.  Pastors and preachers all across America helped him do just that.  "You don't want to be an Archie" was a theme used in sermons.  The joke was often on Archie, or Archie was simply the joke. 

In the end, All in the Family was truly ground breaking television. It introduced cursing on broadcast TV.  Nothing was done about it, because the show was so popular.  It ran down traditional America in a way that people saw as light and funny.  It changed the perception of an entire generation and caused them to look with skepticism and judgment on their parents and grandparents.

My friend Outlaw X posted an example of how Lear used his straw man to pontificate the liberal point of view.  Check it out.

The show went off the air in 1979 after a long and popular run.  It's been 35 years since the end of the show, and despite knocking down the straw man, we now know that Archie was right!


  1. Anonymous8:24 AM

    Being hit in the butt with shrapnel means you were close enough to where artillery was falling to feel it. "Hit in the but" is not a "near miss". It is a wound and but for a lucky break in the wind, might have been fatal. It was a matter of inches. Pure luck.

    Fully 2/3 of the US military during WW2 were never even that close to artillery falling.

    Minimizing the valor of the whole generation, indeed.

    Leer should have based Bunker on a more believable character... John F-ing Kerry.

  2. Lear admitted latter in life that Archie was based on his father. Which leads me to believe that part of the character was based on Lear's revisionism of his relationship with his dad.

    The audience was never supposed to like Archie. Michael was meant to be the hero of the show. The public loved Archie, and Michael reminded them of the smart aleck, self righteous kid who never appreciated how great he had it, or who made things that way. Michael was banging Archie's daughter, living in his house, eating his food and nit picking everything Archie said or thought. Every dad in America was on Archie's side, no matter what he thought about Puerto Ricans.

  3. We've said for years that the only reason "AITF" was on TV was to show conservatives in the worst light possible.

    Thanks for an excellent re-cap of what the show was really all about.

  4. I think Norman Lear was shocked that his show backfired that badly on him. I don't believe that the libs at that time understood how America felt about all of the garbage that the libs were partaking in.

    I just loved Archie and his "everyman" way of looking at life. Sometimes he got a smack down, but most times, he came out ahead of the Meathead.

  5. Res Ipsa4:59 PM

    Carroll O'Conner was an outstanding method actor. He mimicked several New Yorkers to come up with Archie. The show writers wanted the dialog to be "realistic" so O'Conner got to say things the way that fit the character. That made Archie very believable, but it also limited the amount of damaging remarks they could put into his mouth.

  6. Denny Crane was also a consolidation of all things wrong with conservatives and right wingers. Same approach, same goals, same outcome.

    I almost feel sorry for Lear, being so angry at his dad he wants to mock a parody if him on national tv.