How 'All In The Family's Archie Bunker Helped Us See Ourselves

By | October 3, 2017

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Left: Sammy Davis Jr. guest-starring on 'All In The Family' with Carroll O'Connor as Archie Bunker. Right: Archie gears up for one of many arguments with his son-in-law (Rob Reiner). Source: (Bettmann/Getty; IMDB)

On All In The Family, Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor) was the patriarch of a working-class white family in the early '70s. As expressed in the show's theme song -- the nostalgic "Those Were The Days" -- Archie and his wife Edith see changes in the America they knew, and have trouble accepting them. Archie embodied a familiar American intolerance and even racism, as well as general bewilderment about what the hell had happened in the late '60s -- and yet, he was human and lovable in his way. The show challenged audiences to think about their own attitudes, and made us laugh too.

Prior to the arrival of All In The Family in 1971, the television industry was best known for broadcasting programs that portrayed families who were the epitome of everything that was wholesome and perfect. Instead of the family coming to the dinner table with clean hands, good manners and pleasant things to discuss, the Bunkers let it all hang out!

Archie Bunker Knew What He Knew

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The Bunker family, who lived in Queens, NY, consisted of, husband/father, Archie (Carroll O’Connor), his wife Edith (Jean Stapleton) and their one daughter, Gloria (Sally Struthers). Archie was a white, working-class bigot who couldn’t see past the end of his own nose. He was extremely self-centered and if anyone disagreed with him, he was skeptical about their credibility or intentions. Edith was a doting wife who was ever mindful that her one and only role in life was to please her husband. Gloria was kind-hearted like her mother but stubborn like her father.