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CSotD: All in the Family Indeed

I’m blaming Norman Lear.

We had, in our house, “The Archie Bunker Rule,” which was that nobody who would not be welcome through the door was welcome through the television. My boys railed against it from time to time, and I relaxed it if they could make a good case for an exemption.

But I watched the first few weeks of “All in the Family” and that was enough. I couldn’t see how 22 minutes of racist humor were redeemed by Rob Reiner saying, “Ah, Archie, you’re so wrong!” and everyone hugging.

In the writers’ room, BTW, that’s called the MOS, or “Moment of Shit,” the writers being the ones who have to insert it.

And it’s phony. At some point, people began making “Archie Bunker for President” buttons and bumpersticks and whatnot, which should have triggered Cease & Desist letters from Norman Lear.

But did not.

I’m not going to ascribe motivations, but I am going to point out that Norman Lear had to know that the show had a substantial fan base who liked Archie and agreed with him.

Archie helped to lift the rock and let the slime flow, and Archie begat Newt Gingrich and Grover Norquist and Jerry Falwell and Rush Limbaugh and what i want to know is how do you like your blue-eyed boy now that he’s in the White House?



Juxtaposition of Years Passed

Margaret Bourke-White took the photograph in 1937 and Ann Telnaes drew the cartoon this week and maybe the years in between were just some anomalie, a freak of history.

Bourke-White was highlighting the racial disparity, the divide between the Happy White Family in the auto ad and the miserable black people lined up for relief in the wake of floods in Louisville.

It’s fair to assume (I haven’t done the necessary research to know) that those floods impacted the poor more than the rich and, thus, fell more heavily upon black citizens, given the divides of the time.

The rich did not build their homes in the flood plain, not because they were smarter but because they could afford not to.

But the photo became iconic not because of the floods but because it epitomized the larger, more enduring divide in our society.

Telnaes turns it on its head, because, in her iteration, the people lined up could readily be in the car, except that they have been lied to and forced onto the street by powerful, dishonest, power-hungry men.

Bourke-White’s image told us how it was; Telnaes throws down an accusation of why it is.

Is she doing more than saying, “Oh, Archie, you’re so wrong?”

Well, there’s no hug.

And she wasn’t part of the deliberate set-up for this MOS.

The question, as it always is in editorial cartoons and columns, is whether you are changing minds or simply reinforcing the views of those who already follow you.

You may be comforting the afflicted, but are you afflicting the comfortable?

It was easier in a world in which people had three television networks, one or two local papers and radios that broadcast music and baseball games.

Those were the days.


Do try this at home

Rod Emmerson has been publishing a series of “How To” panels for prospective cartoonists and anyone who wants to understand the medium in which he works. This is his latest.

Earlier entries were more basic advice on how to draw, and, again, if you are a budding artist, you can pick up some useful tips from one of the better practitioners of the art.

But, if you’re only a fan, you will still be a better and more informed fan. Here’s an article that not only discusses why he has been doing it but helps link you back to the episodes you’ve missed.


Meanwhile, back at the scene of the disaster


RJ Matson spoofs the president’s response with a reference to the way W was gobsmacked at news of the World Trade Center attacks and continued to read to a classroom of children rather than getting to work with a response.

Trump’s response is to find other people to blame for things caused by his own stalling and dithering, and he has prepared for this moment by creating an atmosphere in which he is not expected to be honest and yet is believed by his loyal supporters.

If he announced that horses could fly, anyone saying otherwise would be denounced as “fake news” and “libtards.’


The problem this time around, as Matt Wuerker points out, is that his lying and rationalizations and, mostly, his revenge against those who make him look bad is likely to cost lives.

There is some good news, in the category of “you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

Ireland has quadrupled its support for WHO, which won’t replace the American funds but stands as a commentary on our abrogation of social responsibility.

And, locally, the captain of the Roosevelt is said to be being returned to his command, oh, and, by the way, it turns out the Acting Secretary of Butt Kissing who relieved him was lying about the number of people to whom that email was sent.


Which Tom Toles affirms is what you do when you serve in an administration dedicated to the theory of the Big Lie and the overthrow of the Constitution.

And let’s remember once more that Trump did not pack the Supreme Court, that the decision to ignore the Constitution and stall Merrick Garland’s confirmation was made by Senate Republicans before Trump even emerged as the perfect stooge for a faction that longed to see Archie Bunker in the Oval Office.


Let’s also bear in mind, as Dear Leader calls for the overthrow of state governments that the armed psychopaths who listen and obey are not the biggest problem.

I’ve used this meme far too many times, but it is the good people who will not listen and cannot learn whom we must fear most.


Mister, we could use a man like Victor Laszlo again …

Community Comments

#1 Brian Fies
@ 9:49 am

Good ‘un today. Lear always thought his viewers were smart enough to see through Archie’s foolish bluster but of course not all of them were. I still think, on balance, “All in the Family” was a net good for society, not least because we can now call somebody an “Archie Bunker” and everyone knows exactly what we’re talking about.

I like your family rule but am not sorry I let people like Don Draper and Walter White through my TV door. Or, for that matter, Seinfeld and friends, whom I couldn’t abide in real life. Terrible people can be terribly entertaining.

Thanks for Emmerson’s lessons. Great stuff.

Wash your hands.

#2 Kevin Tolman
@ 10:57 am

Norman Lear actually stole the idea for Archie Bunker from the Brits.

Here are a couple episodes of the BBC show, Till Death Us Do Part.

Of course, the Brits had the same problem of people watching because they agreed with Alf Garnett.

#3 Mike Peterson
@ 1:04 pm

Can’t help but think Archie was a solution in search of a problem.

There was no racist humor allowed on TV before he came along. And if someone cracked a racist joke in the barbershop, the barber would cock an eye in his direction to remind him that there were kids present.

Racist language was as unacceptable as vulgar language. N—-r jokes were as unacceptable in polite society as jokes about genitalia. And most of society was polite.

Bear in mind that a very few years before “All in the Family,” the Smothers Brothers were kicked off TV for refusing to abide by network standards. They used to play the network censor the same way football players play the refs: Argue the call so that they’ll cut you slack next time.

They used to insert purposefully offensive jokes so that, after the censor rejected them, they could slide in the less offensive jokes they’d planned in the first place.

Lear convinced the censor that he was Helping Make America Better when America was just fine, thanks.

#4 D. Trigger
@ 2:43 pm

Kevin Tolman —

*Norman Lear didn’t steal anything. He bought the format for “Til Death Do Us Part” in a deal with producer Beryl Vertue. Creator Johnny Speight is cited in the closing credits. Vertue also worked the deal for him to make the American version of “Steptoe and Son” — “Sanford and Son”.

Anyhow, yes, it does makes me wonder how Alf Garnett played out among Brits. The show, much like “All In The Family” ran for a long time and became a national institution.

#5 Tom Falco
@ 4:15 pm

Our whole family watched All in the Family and we saw Archie for what he was. We laughed at him, not with him and I daresay most of the viewers felt the same.

My mother and I would quote Archie to each other and then laugh at how ignorant he was.

I had a friend who was not allowed to watch Green Acres because they lived on a farm and his mother felt that they were mocking farm people. I think bigots knew Archie was being mocked.and most likely tended to stay away.

And Lear did not “steal the idea” he bought the rights which was common in the day – many of our American shows were British shows first, including Threes Company, Sanford and Son, American Idol and so many others.

#6 Mark B
@ 8:32 am

There was also a German show like that which pre-dated “All in the Family”

#7 Kevin Tolman
@ 9:07 am

Stole was intended to be figurative.

Even when All in the Family first came out there was the occasional mention in the newspaper that it was based on a British TV program but in those days before cable, satellite, internet and streaming it meant nothing to people.

In fairness to Mr Lear, his All in the Family spin off shows, Maude and Good Times, were “stolen” by the BBC as Nobody’s Perfect and The Fosters.

There are certain things in life where theft is the sincerest form of flattery. In a figurative way.

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