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!