Archie Bunker comes to terms with gay marriage (video)

In honor of the Hawaiian Senate’s passage last night of legislation legalizing gay marriage (the governor will sign it at 10am today Hawaii time, 3pm NYC time), I give you Archie Bunker coming to terms with the concept of gay marriage.

My friend Damian forwarded me this video from vintage “All in the Family” footage from the 1970s.

In this episode, Cousin Liz dies, and Archie doesn’t want Liz’s “friend” Veronica to get her tea set because “Veronica ain’t even family.” Edith has to explain to Archie that “Veronica and Cousin Liz were like-married.”

Archie responds: “Liz was a lez?”

In the end, Archie relents, but only after Edith puts her foot down.

"Liz was a lez?"

“Liz was a lez?”

For those not in the know, All in the Family was a hit show 40 years ago.  It was about a bigoted man, Archie Bunker, and his good-hearted, but kinda mousey, wife Edith, who he used to boss around, but who would still often get the better of him.  The entire premise of the show was the lampooning of bigotry by showcasing it.

A few thoughts…

First off, Archie is looking a lot younger nowadays. It’s freaking me out a bit.

Second, as has been said before by others, I do wonder if this show could even be aired on TV in this day and age. Conservatives would flip at the depiction of them as racist bumpkins, and I wonder if some people on the left would miss the joke and fail to understand that the show is using Archie’s bigotry as a foil for defeating it.

I really never watched All in the Family all that much. It was my parents’ show, so I caught it by default, back in the time of one TV per family, and 4 main channels (along with PBS and a local station where I’d watch Creature Features on Saturday).

It’s a good clip.  And still rather timely.  Enjoy.

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Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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36 Responses to “Archie Bunker comes to terms with gay marriage (video)”

  1. Jake Orlando says:

    “…but you ain’t!”

    I just about lost my shit when she said that. Powerful, powerful words.

  2. SkippyFlipjack says:

    john liked this one, made it its own post

  3. Yeah, I generally found only 2,5,7,9, 11 and 32 to be the only real stations. There was 26, that was useless, and I seem to remember 44 being occasionally interesting. But it was the first six that really only ever had stuff I wanted to watch. Amazing in retrospect.

  4. olandp says:

    Thanks, I knew She was cousin to one of them. That is not just a plot device, it is life. There are people who are meaningful to people who are meaningful to me, for whom I do not care.

  5. Naja pallida says:

    During the show’s run, O’Connor was actually quite disturbed by the reaction he got from some people who saw Archie Bunker as some kind of hero, but was glad that it wasn’t very many people. And he was annoyed that so many of the acting job offers he got after that were specifically to play bigot roles. He even did a commercial endorsing George McGovern, that he wrote himself and gave to the campaign, just to make a point.

  6. The_Fixer says:

    I don’t know if they were cued for laughter (I wasn’t there), but I think that it was natural. We tend to look at older comedies as not being as funny as they were at the time. “All in the Family” was hilarious and hadn’t been done before (in this country; the concept came from England, IIRC). Some comedies wear better than others, it seems that the Saturday night block on CBS had comedies that did wear much better than a lot of other comedies. In spite of its age, “I Love Lucy” wore much better than “The Phil Silvers Show”.

    The timing, as you and emjayjay pointed out, is critical for the audience. I think it’s because it takes a certain amount of time for the line to “sink in”.

    There was a show on for two seasons that got cancelled, in spite of the fact that I grew to love it, named “Happy Endings” (even had an unconventional gay character). It had no studio audience, and all of the lines were delivered rapid-fire manner. I think that is one reason that the show didn’t take off. It was very funny, but you missed a lot because you were laughing and didn’t get a chance to the hear the next line. I think if the writers had paced the dialogue a bit, it probably would have taken off.

    Timing, as they say, is everything.

  7. mirror says:

    Maude was Edith’s cousin, and was with Edith when she and Archie first met. Actually, it is an interesting plot device, used for Archie and Mike as well, to push the conflict between the people and their ideas out into the open by forcing them to interact repeatedly because of their shared love and devotion for another person.

  8. mirror says:

    To their credit, they didn’t completely hold back from poking at Mike’s (Rob Reiner) own backwardness or hypocrisy from time to time. The linked youtube scene above where Archie is in the bar with gay former football star Steve, is part of an episode (Season 1 Episode 5?) that ends up showing both Mike’s more enlightened views and the hypocrisy of his unconscious prejudices.

  9. mirror says:

    This is such a great episode. And this scene is so well-written and well-acted. Philip Carey here does a great job showing the undercurrent of anger I remember seeing as a kid in many gay men that age around this time in the Bay Area. Of course, I was 7 to 12 years old, so this is hindsight, and I particularly note it mainly in contrast to where the guys were at emotionally 10 years later. Ah, too much to say on this, so I won’t go on.
    The whole episode is great.

  10. Steven Jaeger says:

    Norman Lear had a whole batch of series in the 70’s and 80’s and even 90’s, from All in the Family (which was based upon a Brit sitcom), Sanford and Son, Maude, The Jeffersons to Diff’rent Strokes, Facts of Life, and even Who’s the Boss? Most of them spent a significant part of their time poking fun at the bigots, right wingers

  11. cole3244 says:

    he doesn’t.

  12. cole3244 says:

    why can’t the bigots turn themselves around, they are the problem.

  13. SkippyFlipjack says:

    “Daddy do you know how many people were killed by handguns in New York last year?”
    “Would it make you feel any better little girl if they wuz pushed outta windahs?”

  14. BeccaM says:

    I remember ‘All in the Family’ quite well, having been born in ’63. (My father watched it a few times before he realized they were making fun of Archie’s reflexive bigotry. Took him a while though because subtlety and satire weren’t his strong suit.)

    For what it’s worth, CBS and the show did catch a hailstorm of flack from the conservatives of the day.

  15. milli2 says:

    This was a fascinating show. My older brother, who’s basically a Rush Limbaugh-loving birther, continues to love this show today. I still wonder if he gets that it is making fun of him.

  16. Stev84 says:

    It’s 2013 now and people can still lose their jobs.

  17. Indigo says:

    As best I can recall, those audiences were cued for their laughter. Better than laugh track, imho, but not as spontaneous as a one-act play without cameras running.

  18. Indigo says:

    You’re right, what I call vaudeville timing is the beats they count . . . Archie’s quadruple you referred to is a classic. I loved it.

  19. David says:

    Greatest sitcom ever! (Along with “I Love Lucy” and “The Mary Tyler
    Moore Show,” I hasten to add.) There was also the first-season episode with Archie’s
    “manly” buddy Steve… see and

  20. The_Fixer says:

    Like you, John, I was raised in the Chicagoland area, but a few years earlier. I remember Channels 2,5,7,9,11,20,26, 32 and later 38 and 44. come to think if it, 20 might have been gone by the time you came around, it was a second PBS channel.

    I have fond memories of watching the Saturday night block, think it started with “All in the Family” at 7:00 Central time. It truly was groundbreaking, my friends and I never missed it. Toward the later part of high school in the summer, we’d take camping trips about 300 miles north of Chicago. Battery-powered TVs were very expensive back then, but we had an ace in the hole. The local CBS affiliate up North was on Channel 6. Due to the way that TV channels are allocated, the sound for Channel 6 could be heard on an FM radio at the bottom of the band. So we listened to “All in the Family” rather than watched it. Which worked rather well as the show was light on physical comedy that one had to see and heavy on dialogue. Not being able to see it made us use our imaginations a bit more when it came to Archie’s facial expressions and Edith’s frenzied running around.

    Thanks for the clip, was fun.

  21. emjayay says:

    It’s more than just vaudeville timing. They played the beats very clearly, which is just basic theatrical acting. As my acting teacher once said, actors don’t need beats, audiences do. Archie’s quadruple take was in the transition of one beat to another. If you think about the beats, you can easily chart how actors on this show or Maude played them.

  22. Ryan says:

    I’m not sure that we’ll ever get something like it again. You need someone who both has strong points of view but also who understands the other side to portray them in a way that is realistic. Too many shows either have the other side be caricatures or are so obsessed with being balanced that they end up not saying anything.

  23. annatopia says:

    join the club!! lol

  24. annatopia says:

    great clip from one of the best shows ever.

    “First off, Archie is looking a lot younger nowadays. It’s freaking me out a bit.”

    John, I second this emotion….

    my whole family used to watch this show…. these are some of my earliest tv memories. wow did i just date myself or what?

  25. PolishBear says:

    You’re making me feel old, John … but that’s OK. When “All In The Family” was still a prime time sitcom back in the early 1970s, my whole family watched it. Even today I can watch re-runs and get more laughs from it than from most new sitcoms today. And the “Lesbian” episode wasn’t the only groundbreaker. Archie Bunker once saved the life of a customer in his cab by giving her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation … only to later discover she was actually a HE:

  26. Matt N says:

    that was so good.
    so well done.

    btw, i love the “Edith, you’re so knave” and “this whole candle stine romance thing.”

  27. olandp says:

    Oy vey! I’m old.

  28. olandp says:

    Hate to quibble, but Maude was a cousin, I think Archie’s, but I’m not sure about that. I am old enough to remember that. I saw the first episode of All In the Family, before my parents. There was a disclaimer that ran before the first ten or eleven episodes explaining that the idea was to shine a spotlight on prejudice. They thought the audience wouldn’t get the joke, but were wrong. Some of them however thought Archie was right.

    I remember one episode when Archie said Ronald Reagan would be President, that got a laugh. Later we all cried.

  29. emjayay says:

    The audience seems overdone, and I’m not sure but they probably were shooting it in front of a studio audience. They may have also added more laughs. This kind of stuff onstage can have the audience reacting more than you would think. Ever been to a hilarious play?
    The audience reaction could certainly have been mixed down by about half though.

  30. Well, anyone born in the 80s probably wouldn’t know it.

  31. Houndentenor says:

    They were filmed (or taped) in front of live audiences. The laughter was (usually) from the audience. Moving back to this format (it was the original one pioneered by Desilu productions for I Love Lucy) in the early 70s created a theatrical, relevant and audience-friendly sitcom which became the principle form for comedies up until the last decade. The problem with the 90s sitcoms was that they went for quick laughs over character and story becoming increasingly silly and superficial. Whole episodes of All in the Family function as one-act plays, often with only two scenes. It’s a delight to watch these old shows. I don’t know what the current distaste with the “laugh track” is. I only find it odd on shows that were filmed without an audience with the canned laughter added in (some seasons of M*A*S*H, for example).

  32. Indigo says:

    John’s too young to remember that part.

  33. Indigo says:

    I miss the vaudeville timing. Today’s sit-coms just hop along without that old-time sense of audience. I do not, however, miss the laugh-tracks.

  34. S1AMER says:

    All in the Family did more to educate more people about more issues than any series before or since. It truly was remarkable. I am old enough to have enjoyed it when it first ran, and to appreciate to this day how enlightening (and funny!) it was.

    Oh, but in your description of the show for the young ‘uns, you forget to mention that this was a multi-generational household, and that Archie’s son-in-law, “Meathead,” was the voice of liberalism on the show. Rob Reiner played him, and did so very well.

    You also should have mentioned that the Bunkers had black neighbors (including the Jeffersons, who later got their own show), and a feminest neighbor (Maude, ditto), and all sorts of other people to bump up against Archie’s prejudices and Edith’s sweet humanity.

    And you should also mention that Norman Lear, All in the Family’s producer and a dedicated liberal, used some of his profits to found People for the American Way, an important organization to this day.

  35. mirror says:

    That is a very moving episode. Thanks for posting it. I was a little shocked that you had to explain All In the Family, as if you were telling kids about vinyl lps.

    I also like this scene from the first season, way back in 1971. The bar friend of Archie’s reminds me a lot of some gay men I knew growing up who were family, family friends, or acquaintances, but that might just be because the whole vibe of the scene puts me in a time warp, including the way both parties dance around the words they use.

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