“The First Plan Isn’t Always the Best Plan”
Everyone we meet adds a certain something to our lives, as we do to theirs. Recently I spent a week in Reno, and during that time, I got to know and visit a mid 70’s silent generation era Nevada man. My new friend was most likely an Archie Bunker type in younger days. Age and a recent stroke has a great way of mellowing anyone out. I sure hope he doesn’t die too soon of a Fox News overdose.
Archie Bunker is a fictional character in yesteryears America. “You use yesteryear to refer to the past, often a period in the past with a set of values or a way of life that no longer exists.”
The show All in the Family is what my generation in the 70’s referred to as a sitcom. Today, you may be more familiar with the Mexican Novela than with a sitcom. One main difference is that with a Mexican novela they never seem to come to an end.
Archie was also a World War II veteran, a blue-collar worker, and a family man. All in the Family, as the sitcom was called, got many of its laughs by playing on Archie’s bigotry. When Archie wasn’t getting enough laughs out of his wife Edith the show brought in his meatball liberal son-in-law.
Edith Bunker played an undereducated but kind, cheery and loving woman who is less politically opinionated than the rest of the family.
Her main role is as the voice of reason and rock of understanding, often contributing a unique perspective to any topic.
If my friend would’ve found an Edith in his life then I can honestly say that his life today would’ve been much fuller and meaningful.
It’s important to note that Edith is decidedly less bigoted than Archie (e.g., she is good friends with her black neighbor Louise Jefferson, while Archie is always at odds with her and husband George).
Though her opinions sometimes sharply differ from Archie’s, she often sticks up for him and stands by him in his times of need.
She is the most naïve family member and the happiest character on the show. For example, in a conversation with Gloria, Edith stated that she favored capital punishment, “as long as it ain’t too severe.” Edith was popular among audiences for her sweetness, unconditionally loving everyone she knew and staying optimistic during tragedy.
More than once, Edith sharply chastises Archie for casting judgment against other people, particularly when he mentions God.
In one episode “Cousin Liz” (Archie went on a diatribe about how God hates gays) and “California. Edith then warns Archie to back off and says that God should be left to deal with those matters and the people involved.
Meatball (aka Mike) and his wife (Archie’s only child) provided an ongoing political and social sounding board for a variety of topics.
Archie has a gruff, overbearing demeanor, largely defined by his bigotry towards a diverse group of individuals: blacks, Hispanics, “Commies”, gays, hippies, Jews, Asians, Catholics, “women’s libbers”, and Polish–Americans are frequent targets of his barbs.
As the show progresses, it becomes apparent that Archie’s prejudice is not motivated by malice, but is rather a combination of the era and environment in which he was raised and a generalized misanthropy.
Archie himself is depicted as a striving, loving father, and basically decent man; nevertheless, he is ill-tempered and frequently tells his long-suffering wife Edith to “stifle yourself” and “dummy up”.
Archie “turned the angry white male into a cultural icon”, according to CBS News. Archie’s dilemma is coping with a world that is changing in front of him. He doesn’t know what to do, except to lose his temper, mouth his poisons, look elsewhere to fix the blame for his own discomfort.
He isn’t a totally evil man. He’s shrewd. But he won’t get to the root of his problem, because the root of his problem is himself, and he doesn’t know it. That is the dilemma of Archie Bunker.
As the series progressed, Archie mellowed somewhat, albeit often out of necessity. In one episode, he expresses revulsion for a Ku Klux Klan-like organization which he accidentally joins.
On another occasion, when asked to speak at the funeral of his friend Stretch Cunningham, Archie—surprised to learn that his friend was Jewish—overcomes his initial discomfort and delivers a moving eulogy, wearing a yarmulke, and closing with a heartfelt “shalom”.
He is a compulsive gambler, who, in earlier years, frequently lost his entire weekly paycheck in poker games, as related by Edith in the Season 4 episode “Archie the Gambler”; he quit only when Edith threatened to leave him, taking then three-year old Gloria with her.
He is college educated, and even flew Huey Medivac Search & Rescue helicopters for the National Guard. He told me that on account of covid and the stroke he had several years ago he hasn’t been out of the house in over a year.
He is a stubborn man to the point of refusing any physical therapy for his stroke or other social interactions. His days are normally spent listening to the radio and television ingesting opinions from talk shows.
Even though he doesn’t know it, the world always wants to know what category to put you in, which is why it will occasionally send difficult situations your way. The stroke and two failed marriages, as a result of marrying the wrong type of woman is why he has lived as a single parent of one son. That one son now is his only connection to the outside world.
His home can be characterized as belonging to a slum lord. A slumlord (or slum landlord) is a slang term for a landlord, generally an absentee landlord with more than one property, who attempts to maximize profit by minimizing spending on property maintenance, often in deteriorating neighborhoods, and to tenants that they can intimidate. Severe housing shortages allow slumlords to charge higher rents, and when they can get away with it, to break rental laws.
He was born towards the tail end of the era of the “silent generation” from 1925 to 1945 – so called because they were raised during a period of war and economic depression.
The “baby boomers” came next from 1945 to 1964, so he mostly associates with this era.
Think of these not as inconveniences or even tragedies but, as opportunities, as questions to answers.
While most of us now, on account of Covid spend more time connected to a device than is healthy for our eyes or our hearts, we also spend more time digitally than is good for our emotional well-being.