Leif M. Wright's Blog
Filed under Politics, All in the Family
If your mind has never been blown, get a mop bucket handy.
A television show aired 47 years ago that aimed to entertain all Americans but was based on the extremely volatile politics of the day (think Vietnam war, pre-Watergate, American youth in the streets being shot by government storm troopers), could literally be written and aired this very day, with better production values and modern actors, and you'd never notice that it was written almost half a century ago.
As the incredibly dull and predictable rock band RATT so inimitably said 34 years ago, "What goes around comes around". Who knew a bunch of hair metal dongles with a Hustler Magazine (male) centerfold playing lead guitar could say something so prophetic?
Recently, tipped off by a tweet from Jimmy Kimmel, I purchased the first season of All in the Family, a sitcom that ran from 1971 to 1979, during a time when there were only three television channels, and that meant there was a pretty good chance anyone you know who lived through that time was watching it. I know my dad was (which meant our whole family was). And watching it now, I can't help but think my dad thought it was a conservative show intended to debunk the ridiculous views of the leftists, even though my dad was closer to Rob Reiner's age than Carol O'Connor's.
Wikipedia's description of the show is succinct: "The show revolves around the life of a working-class bigot and his family. The show broke ground in its depiction of issues previously considered unsuitable for a U.S. network television comedy, such as racism, infidelity, homosexuality, women's liberation, rape, religion, abortion, the Vietnam War and impotence."
The series, regarded as one of the greatest of all time, portrayed a multi-generational family living in New York. Archie Bunker (O'Connor) is an outspoken, narrow-minded man prejudiced against anyone who is not white, heterosexual and however he thinks people should be. Michael Stivic (Rob Reiner) is referred to as "Meathead" by Bunker, and his values couldn't be more opposite of Archie's.
Archie, even though he is bigoted, is portrayed as loving and decent, a man simply struggling to adapt to changes in the world. It's a nuanced portrayal of a conservative digging his heels in against what he sees as encroaching liberalism.
Michael is a good-hearted and stubborn hippie, as well as being the most-educated person in the household, which gives him a kind of arrogance.
The first season deals with themes that might be familiar today: Women's equality (or lack thereof). Race relations and whether black people have a basis for claiming they aren't treated equally even though the law says they should. Homosexuality and whether gay (and other non-traditionally gender-oriented people) have and deserve the same treatment as cis-gendered people. But it deals with these issues comedically and in a way that makes a thinking person both enjoy and resonate. Archie is, after all, a real-feeling guy (played flawlessly by a profoundly liberal actor). He's a good guy who holds reprehensible political and personal ideologies. He's stubborn, but he's not unredeemably evil. By the same token, Michael is the guy with the right answers, but he's kind of an asshole about getting them across.
And we are still, almost half a century later, facing every single issue they're fighting about in this series, which both depresses me and gives me hope. Today's Trumperica is not the end of the world. At the worst, we'll go over this shit again in another 50 years.