Archie has occurred to me a lot recently. I saw very few episodes of the show, but discussion of Archie was always in the air in the 1970's. Perhaps I haven't given it due credit in my journey from left to right on the political spectrum. My politics aligned somewhat with Michael's, but I found him an unlikeable character. The show had clearly lined up to show Archie and his ideas in the worst possible light, buffoonishly so, and this struck me as artistic abuse. As it became clear who Norman Lear and Rob Reiner were in later years, the portrayal of Archie made more sense. They had no understanding of the ideas they were mocking - even I, who also mocked them, found the stereotype to be more worthy of agit-prop than comedy. The artificial setups to always show Michael as the intelligent, thoughtful one held a childish unfairness.
But that wasn't what stuck in my craw. Michael lived in Archie's house. In all the commentary about Archie I never heard that mentioned. I imagine it came up on the show, but it was conveniently overlooked when people absorbed the stereotypes. It seemed the most basic fact about the situation: Gloria had a poorly-paying job, Edith took care of everyone, Archie provided most of the support, yet it was Michael who was delivered the put-down lines.
Perhaps my resentment at deferring to my stepfather through those years was part of this. I certainly thought of criticisms, challenges, and put-down lines while living in his house. But you just didn't say them. Respect for elders entered into it, but in an even more basic value, there is an enormous ingratitude in criticising a person while sitting at his table.
I doubt I was entirely acquiescent. Even more, I was likely to display my resentments with sullenness and distance. But still...there were places you just didn't go. I don't think that's as true anymore. The ubiquity of blended families has made that virtue unsustainable even as myth.
Because Archie gradually became more endearing, and Michael became the butt of later episodes, I assume that the writers were just being true to their craft more than their politics. Stereotypes that stark cannot long endure on the stage.
The Tea Parties and town halls have brought my thoughts back to Archie. The participants in those events are not Archie Bunker buffoons, but they are portrayed that way. So it occurs to me - even if the stereotype of those Joe the Plumbers were true, isn't it their house? Aren't they the ones supporting the rest? Aren't their critics coming off a lot like Michael - self-righteous, condescending, sarcastic.