Those Were The Days

The implications of a beloved 1970s sitcom regarding a realistic American family

(Clockwise from top right) Carroll OConnor (Archie Bunker), Rob Reiner (Michael Stivic), Sally Struthers (Gloria Stivic, née Bunker), and Jean Stapleton (Edith Bunker), the cast of the television series All in the Family.

(Clockwise from top right) Carroll O’Connor (Archie Bunker), Rob Reiner (Michael Stivic), Sally Struthers (Gloria Stivic, née Bunker), and Jean Stapleton (Edith Bunker), the cast of the television series All in the Family.

On January 17, 1971, Norman Lear brought a controversial but largely beloved television series to the world called All in the Family. The sitcom focused on a working-class family with polarized political and social views and its messages that still have implications today.


Archibald “Archie” Bunker, the main protagonist of the show, went into the workforce during the Great Depression after dropping out of high school in order to support his family and later served in World War II, receiving a purple heart in Italy. He settled down and married the doting Edith Bunker and had a daughter named Gloria Bunker. 

Archie is characterized as a hardworking but short tempered bigot. He says plenty of tone deaf remarks about black people, Jewish people, women, feminists, and Polish people. Even though he is specific with his comments, this really comes from a generalized sense of disdain for humanity. His views do not come from a sense of hatred, they are really bestowed upon him through ignorance. Bunker’s abusive father had a worse outlook on the world than he did, fostering Archie’s bigotry.


The character of Archie Bunker originally was intended to be a hate sink for viewers. According to, “I had a father who was a bit of an Archie Bunker,” says Norman Lear, who created the show. Lear states that his father would use racist terms for Asian people and black people. “He was, in my mind, a long way to what became Archie Bunker.” Lear wanted to put the bigotry of the stereotypical American uneducated white man on full display for people to laugh at and used his father as a mold. Unbeknownst to him, the public loved Bunker due to Caroll O’Connor’s perceived hysterical portrayal. 


A crux of the television series is the antagonistic chemistry between conservative Republican blue-collar Archie and his liberal Democrat scholar son-in-law Michael Stivic, who Bunker nicknames “Meathead”. They argue over issues from as big as systemic racism to as little as how you put on your socks and shoes. Although Archie is brash, Michael can go overboard himself and become performative and controlling with his progressivism

Another diverging dynamic in the family is the feminist Gloria Stivic, and her mother, Edith Bunker, who is a traditional, meek housewife. Gloria, on her birthday, starts to resent her mother for how submissive she is to Archie. Edith may go out of her way to cater to her husband, but it shows that there is way more to her. She exhibits emotional intelligence no matter how many times Archie calls her a dingbat. While Archie is frugal with his social interactions, Edith is accepting of individuals of all walks of life. In an episode, Edith learns of her cousin’s homosexuality and learns to tolerate this when it was a very different time. Archie later learns of this and when he condemns her, Edith says that God should be the one to judge. This is clearly citing the quote from Jesus to men preparing to stone an adulterous woman, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.”


This dynamic is accurate to families who have people that get into arguments when they have opposing or different opinions on a political, economic, or social scale. Certainly, many people at Triton have dealt with this at least once, right?


Archie Bunker himself correctly predicts the election of Ronald Reagan, a prominent figure of the right-wing, in an episode released in December 1976 titled, “The Baby Contest”. Bunker has an exchange with his liberal son-in-law telling him confidently, “You’re gonna get Reagan in 1980, wise guy!”. Documented by Roper Center For Public Opinion Research, Reagan was favored by working class white men. There is a large group of Americans who are labeled the “Archie Bunker vote” which denotes a collection of blue-collar working class Americans. Presidents like Geroge W. Bush and Donald J. Trump have been said to have secured this particular bloc of people. 


According to Dave Kaufman of, “Archie is a lovable bigot. Most bigots are human. They are usually portrayed as one-dimensional bigots whom you are supposed to hate. People are more complicated than that. Most people are bigots because of fear, of apprehension, not because of hate. They hate what’s different. There’s a little bit of Archie Bunker in all of us somewhere. If anyone is not like Archie, they can recognize in him someone they know who is, even though most won’t admit it.”


Archie actually becomes more open-minded as the series goes on. He learns his deceased friend was Jewish and delivers a eulogy and caps it off with a moving remark and a heartfelt “shalom” after patting his late friend’s grave. He saves the life of a drag queen with CPR and he threatens the KKK to bust their kneecaps after being coerced into the hate organization.

Moving past Archie, this show has tackled serious issues that television has not really put on display at the time. The show features racism, anti-Semitism, adultery, homosexuality, women’s liberation, rape, religion, miscarriage, abortion, breast cancer, impotence, the Vietnam War, menopause, and other topics previously considered unsuitable for U.S. network television comedies. It was groundbreaking in its portrayal of the problem at stake.


In a multi-part episode titled “Edith’s 50th Birthday”, a man impersonating a police officer forces himself on housewife Edith. In a shocking scene that ends in the pervert’s face being burnt with a cake and thrown out the door, it later served a greater purpose than just suspense and entertainment. 


The New York Police Department has used this particular portion of the show in order to show the woman’s side of rape. Referenced from, “During the year of production, Norman Lear consulted with Gail Abarbanel, the founder and director of the Rape Treatment Center at Santa Monica Hospital, and held advance screenings at hospitals across the country.” Although the depiction of this harsh topic has not been seen by too many people before, it is repurposed and shines light on something not talked about a whole lot back in the day.


Who knew that a show from the late 20th century would be so accurate to how things are today? It really gives support to the idea that in the grand scheme of things, society changes at a slow pace. People like Archie can change, serious issues come to light, and despite the theme song of this show considering the “old days” the “good days”, golden ages can have an underscore of detriment. At the time of this show’s airing, subjects involved in this show were seen as very controversial. The show was even the first to depict a toilet flushing!


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  • Wikimedia Foundation. (2022, December 28). Archie Bunker. Wikipedia. Retrieved January 31, 2023, from 
  • Doubek, James, et al. “‘All in the Family’ Is 50 Years Old. A New Book Looks at How It Changed TV.” NPR, 2 Nov. 2021,
  • Kaufman, Dave. “‘All in the Family’ Producer: ‘Archie a Lovable Bigot.’” Variety, 3 Aug. 1971,

  • “How Groups Voted in 1984 | Roper Center for Public Opinion Research.” How Groups Voted in 1984 | Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, Accessed 31 Jan. 2023.
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  • Let him who is without sin cast the first stone definition & meaning (no date) Available at: (Accessed: January 31, 2023).