Meathead | Mark’s Remarks

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The IMBD television app that is on our Smart TV suddenly started advertising reruns of “All in the Family”  and I couldn’t resist.

This show started when I was a wee lad and I grew up watching, even though I didn’t fully understand it.

Now, after many years of watching reruns and reading about the show, I understand the controversy and also the appeal of the show. I also understand now how it changed television forever.

On Saturday nights when we visited, my grandpa would watch the Bunkers. Grandma would wander into the living room while we watched.

“I don’t like that ‘ol Archie Bunker,” she’d say.  

She had the same attitude toward Bob Newhardt, but I digress.

A lot of people didn’t like Archie. After all, he was the “hero” of the show and he was, well, a bigot. He represented a lot of close-minded folks in the early 1970s.  And let’s face it, he still represents some folks today, as bad as we hate to admit it. 

Some people back then, those working hard for equal rights for everyone, were outraged. Networks passed on the show twice and the original pilot was aired three times before it caught on with audiences.  Most of the executives who saw the show in its infancy didn’t want anything to do with it.

But, after they gave the show a chance, they started to see how brilliantly written it was. Constantly, Archie Bunker was proven wrong, or made to look like an imbecile for his beliefs. I am not sure this was the goal of that show, but this is what happened often. 

Archie would wear his prejudices on his sleeve, and would end up looking like a fool. He also had some pretty good ideas and views on certain subjects, and his opinion was equally impactful.

Also, there were times when he’d change his tune.  He’d be taught a lesson, whether he was willing to admit it or not. His learned behavior would be challenged, shaken up, and sometimes he’d be educated right along with the nation.

One of the most amazing qualities of the show was Carroll O’Conner himself.  He played Archie Bunker in all three pilot episodes, broadcast in 1968, 1969 and 1971.

Over several seasons, the show was top rated.  Carroll O’Conner, a brilliant actor, did something amazing: he made an anti-hero, unlikeable character into someone we still loved.  

If we didn’t love him, we found at least some of his qualities endearing. 

Sure, some folks still couldn’t stand him. Like Grandma.

But there’s something important there. If we are open-minded enough to like Archie Bunker, even if we were totally against the way he behaved or the beliefs he had, can’t we be more tolerant of one another?  

There are people who are just not getting it. There are people who were raised a certain way and in a certain place.

And everyone has an opinion or belief.

You can talk to some people until you are blue in the face, and they won’t get it. No amount of talking will get them to just listen without taking something personally.

Listening. Isn’t that the key? Is it possible for us just to listen to one another and have conversations?  

Can we actually express our opinions, most likely making mistakes with some comments, and get our points across without someone wanting to destroy us or spar with us? Aren’t we intelligent enough to just listen? Are we able to respect one another despite our differences?

And in the end, can we still decide we’re going to like one another? Even if someone calls us “a meathead.”

Archie spent eight seasons showing us how hard-headed, narrow-minded and completely unreasonable people could be.  

Yet, somewhere in there, we saw a friend, a dad, an uncle or grandfather who we knew and still loved.  We might have seen someone in Archie that we disagreed with, yet still respected and understood because of where he came from.

And all along, we hoped Archie would change; that he would listen to the truth and the right information, and change his tune about certain things.

He probably wouldn’t, but we accepted him anyway.

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