Archie Bunker Redux

by | Aug 24, 2023 | What I'm Seeing and Hearing | 1 comment

[The photo is from Wikimedia Commons, and the caption explains that Edith is showing Archie a food can because people were concerned about inflation.]

I nearly always have a song playing in my head that provides the backdrop or soundtrack to what is actually going on around me. Sometimes an overheard phrase or some slogan on a bus or billboard will trigger a chorus or tagline to some song. Sometimes I don’t even notice the song until my husband remarks “You know what song is playing in my head right now?”  

It’s not always clear to me why I’m hearing a particular song.

For several days, the theme song to the 1970s TV show “All in the Family” was playing in my head. I had no idea why, but the lyrics were oddly pertinent to our own times. (If you aren’t familiar with this program, it featured the notorious Archie Bunker, who played what was then the stereotype of the right-wing blue collar male chauvinist racist Nixon supporter, along with his cheery yet horrifyingly put-upon wife Edith and his daughter and her husband ‘Meathead,’ a mildly liberal full-time grad student who all live in the same house in a working class neighborhood in Queens.) 

But when I thought about the snatches of lyrics that were going through my head, I got more curious about the show:

And you knew who you were then/girls were girls and men were men/Mister we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again/Those were the days!

Along with

Didn’t need no welfare state/everybody pulled their weight/guys like us we had it made/Those were the days!

(I don’t claim these lyrics are totally accurate–they are just what I was hearing. But you only have to look at them, espeically my highlighted phrases, to get a sense of the perspective.)

So during last night’s Republican debates and Trump’s “interview” with Tucker Carlson, I found a streaming platform that offered the show. I chose episode 1 from season 3 (September 1972) somewhat at random, but it turned out to be about gun control! Since I had just finished writing a biographical essay about Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, for one of my freelance gigs, I was curious.

The amazing story is that gun control was a live issue 51 years ago. As far as I know, there had been no school shootings, no shopping mall or supermarket shootings, no movie theater shootings. And yet there were concerns about the uncontrolled proliferation of guns following the assassinations and plane hijackings of the sixties and early seventies. Archie hears a TV commentary regarding the need for gun control and goes to the local station demanding “equal time.” The station manager is both appalled and amused by his views and tells his staff something like, “He’s an example of a soon-to-be-extinct species.”

Sadly, of course, Archie and his ilk are far from extinct today. If anything they have proliferated like poison ivy, which I read yesterday is becoming more widespread and even more poisonous due to the warming climate.