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President Archie Bunker

February 22, 2016

Last night I had a strange but vivid dream that Archie Bunker had just been elected president. He had brought along all of his racist, misogynistic, antisemitic, and homophobic thoughts and mannerisms. In this alternative dream world, the influence of his liberal son-in-law Mike was nowhere to be found.

Now, keep in mind that Archie Bunker, the main character of the TV show All in The Family, was popular when I was a newborn baby – I was born in 1972 – and that the opinions expressed by the title character were laughably old-fashioned at the time. And yet, I think my dream makes sense.

Why do I say that? When I woke up, I was intrigued and looked up Archie Bunker on wikipedia. Did you know:

  • Show creator Norman Lear originally intended that Bunker be strongly disliked by audiences
  • It didn’t work: Archie Bunker was hugely beloved by viewers and was even voted TV’s #1 character in 2005
  • Rather than being motivated by malice, he is portrayed as hardworking, a loving father and husband, as well as a basically decent man whose views are merely a product of the era and working-class environment in which he has been raised
  • There was something called the “Archie Bunker voting bloc” in the 1972 presidential elections
  • as well as a parody “Archie Bunker for president” campaign

I guess my question is, how much of a parody is this really?

As a child, I didn’t get why people liked Archie Bunker. But I did love the opening song.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. February 22, 2016 at 7:58 am

    When I look at why Trump is doing so well, I can’t help but wonder just how many working class “Archie Bunkers” there are in the US. People like the IT folks at Suntrust and Disney that got totally screwed by their employers and see Trump as the one who “gets it.”

    I don’t know. This is the most confusing presidential race I have ever seen.

    JamesNT

    Liked by 1 person

  2. February 22, 2016 at 7:59 am

    misc. comments:

    1) I’m older than you (viewed that show as an adult) and just want to note what courage and persistence it took for Norman Lear to put that show on American prime time TV back in the day!

    2) A slightly more recent show of similar (less-polished or classy) ilk was Fox’s “Married With Children” with it’s central Al Bundy character, who was also beloved by MANY despite the crasser, more sexist tendencies on display. Remarkably, MWC played for a hugely successful 11 years.

    3) Long ago, the Karl Rove operatives of the Republican Party recognized that there was such an audience out there, that could be politically-activated through mass mailings and radio (before the digital age) for conservative causes. Unfortunately they were right. And now through ‘social’ media this audience echo-chamber has become even more organized and powerful.

    4) People need to re-acquaint themselves with 1930s Germany.

    Like

  3. Frog Leg
    February 22, 2016 at 10:33 am

    I think a big part of the reason Archie was so beloved is that so many people know someone like him. And it is possible for him to be both “racist, misogynistic, antisemitic, and homophobic” and a “hardworking, a loving father and husband,” just like one of the older relatives so many of us had.

    Like

    • February 22, 2016 at 11:06 am

      Amen! Was going to write something similar but you already nailed it =)

      Like

    • February 23, 2016 at 2:46 am

      I’m confused about the claim that the writers/producer intended Archie Bunker to be disliked. I know it is in the wikipedia article, but the visual evidence seems hugely sympathetic:
      (1) all the other characters enable him, granting status and (TV) love despite what he says or does to them
      (2) the laugh track underscores almost every AB line, giving another form of social proof that he’s an ok guy
      (3) the plots (sometimes, often, always?) make sure to show some positive side to him, usually as a resolution close to the ending
      (4) while he says a lot that is vile, the only nasty things we ever see him do are toward his family and they either brush it off, ignore it, or are amused by it.

      Also, is there an example of a successful show where the main character is a proper villain (disliked by the audience)? Avoiding this seems like (profitable) script-writing 101.

      Like

  4. cat
    February 22, 2016 at 11:44 am

    “Archie Bunker was hugely beloved by viewers and was even voted TV’s #1 character in 2005”
    I really would love to see the cross-tabs on that survey. I’d bet a small fortune that the character is beloved by a certain demographic that is roughly 63% of USA population.
    He always came off as a mean ahole who wanted to be the center of attention and resented everyone who didn’t agree he should be the center of attention to me.

    Like

  5. February 23, 2016 at 9:15 am

    Wow — I just had a dream that George Jefferson was chairman of the Federal Reserve.

    They just don’t make them like that any more.

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  6. February 23, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    Richard Nixon loved Archie, and thought that the other people on the show just picked on him reprehensibly. He felt that holding Archie up to fun was a vile plot of the liberal media; his own views seem very close to Archie’s own.
    http://www.thenation.com/article/our-nixon-white-house-home-movies-and-tapes-cnn-tonight/

    Like

  7. Richard
  8. March 12, 2016 at 4:16 am

    In episode 106, “Archie and the Quiz” , there is a direct reference to the fact that Archie was born in 1924.

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