ALL IN THE FAMILY ♦ This Day In The USA ♦ January 12
by Davis Fleetwood
Abe Lincoln may have ended slavery. Martin Luther King Jr may have planted the seed of a dream. But that dream would have been deferred if America did not get to know Archie Bunker.
On This Day in the USA, January 12, 1971 the Controversial comedy All in the Family debuts. It would run for 21 years and starred Carroll O’Connor as ultra-conservative Archie Bunker; Jean Stapleton as his wife, Edith; and Sally Struthers and Rob Reiner as the couple’s liberal daughter and son-in-law.
Norman Lear, the producer of All in the Family, set out to “create a Television show that had the same impact on race relations as the Broadway musical Hair had on US foreign policy.”
According to Lear:
Agit prop and satire can be effective tools to bring about social change. For example, burning draft cards, dropping acid and having multiple sex partners (often referred to as the hippie trifecta) may not have ended the Vietnam war, but place those events in the Broadway production of HAIR and replicated over and over again in different media and those events helped spark the debate that changed public opinion that ended the Vietnam War.
Using those criteria we can assess the impact of ALL IN THE FAMILY THIS WAY:
Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of the bus and this helped spark the Civil Rights movement, but it was boundary exploding sitcom ALL IN THE FAMILY and its spinoff THE JEFFERSONS that drove how the point that bigotry just aint cool.
Before the character of Archie Bunker came along, white folks tossed the N WORD around about as frequently as, well, about as frequently as black folks us the word now.
How do you spell progress?
Sure, we still have bigots in this country, but sales of white coned shaped headpieces have dropped considerably in the last several decades.
That is progress.
Perhaps even more significantly, burning a crucifix on your hyphenated American neighbors lawn no longer makes the top ten list of welcoming ideas as published in Southern Living magazine’s annual issue “THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD: Helpful tips on protecting the real estate value in your community”.
And for what do we owe this cultural shift?
The work of Martin Luther King Jr? Malcom X? Rosa Parks?
Yeah, sure, they played their part. However, if you have ever seen MISSISSIPPI BURNING, the seminal documentary on the civil rights struggle, you know it takes a white man to save the day.
And that white man was Archie Bunker, who, in true Shakespearean fashion, showed us how one man, can be both the King of his Castle and the court fool.
I’m Davis Fleetwood reminding you that history is based on actual events.
All in the Family – Archie Bunker Meets Sammy Davis