All in the Family hit TV in 1971 with the force of Cat 5 storm.
The story of the Bunker family — bigoted, sexist blue-collar worker Archie; sweet, daffy wife Edith; college-student son-in-law Mike; and Mike’s wife Gloria — was like nothing ever seen before. Racists had showed up on TV, but they were completely evil villains. Archie was just a regular guy. Unabashedly convinced straight white men should run the world, but as Mike once put it, he’s not the kind of guy who’d burn a cross on someone’s lawn (“but if he found one burning, he’d probably toast a marshmallow.”). He’s the kind of everyday racist profiled in so many of those Trump-voter articles the media have been running since 2016.
In many ways, Archie’s a horrifying character. Not an otherwise good guy with racist opinions. He’s often verbally abusive to Edith. Quite willing to bend the system to turn a quick buck (in one story he trades his vote for a local business discount). And it’s not just his opinions that are racist, but his actions. In one story, as foreman of the loading dock, he has to fire one of his crew — the lazy white guy, the hard-working Puerto Rican, the hard-working black guy. Suffice to say, he’s not going to fire the white guy. When I watched this as a tween, I knew that was wrong, but it didn’t strike a chord with me. Rewatching it as an adult with a job, I had a much stronger reaction and not favorable.
Now, I might be even less favorable. If Archie’s as racist as ever (he did mellow over time), will people be turned off? Roseanne is a hit, but while both the actor and character support Trump, the character isn’t and wasn’t as bigoted as Archie.
It’s quite possible lots of people didn’t watch at the time. No question it was a hit, but did African Americans enjoy the show? True, Archie the racist was the butt of most of the humor, but watching still requires listening to his bigoted crap. If I were Jewish, Latino, black, would I want to sit through it? I’ve no idea. Now, though, social media guarantees CBS (and the rest of us) will hear what people think.
Of course even if the revival tanks, it doesn’t follow it’s due to Archie’s politics rather than the changes since the days we had three networks plus PBS to watch. So who knows?
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