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MICROPOLIS: 'All in the Family' and the Search for a More Perfect Union

Wednesday, June 05, 2013 - 04:00 AM

Actress Jean Stapleton, who played the iconic role of Edith Bunker on TV's 'All in the Family,' died on Saturday, at the age of 90. For this latest episode of Micropolis, WNYC's Arun Venugopal examines the impact the show had on his own family -- who immigrated from India just a year before the show premiered, in 1971 -- as well as others trying to make sense of the era.

"Everything was topsy-turvy. The war and everything," said 87-year-old Betty Ann Collins, who lives in Sunnyside, Queens, not far from where the show was set. "The show brought you back. And it was good, because the people needed that show. They could laugh and put up with the nonsense that was going around."

Ira, who's spent most of his 70-plus years in Queens, said those were different times.

People were not shy about voicing their prejudices. The political correctness hadn't taken hold. [1:02]
ARUN: Is that good or bad?
IRA: There are good things and bad things.  People sometimes hold in their opinions and then they explode. And if they let all their opinions out, even if it's uncomfortable, then they won't explode.
"People were not shy about voicing their prejudices," he said. "The political correctness hadn't taken hold."
His wife Reina, sitting next to him in a Sunnyside park, said the show was hilarious in the way it dealt with racial issues, but was conflicted about whether the character of Archie Bunker was a positive legacy.
"I mean, if people were to ridicule my culture, my religion in that way, I'd say 'Well, it's a comedy show,' but I'd go on to think 'Well, is that going to influence other people to say, 'Yeah, I think like that too.'"
Listen to the Micropolis segment, above, including an exploration of Edith Bunker's function as the moral center of the show.

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Comments [4]

Nathan from Hoboken, NJ

Yeah...as Archie might say: It is those Jews and their liberal ideal!

How dare they push the envelope via TV and make us think about the kind of nation we area/were!!!

Thank you Normal Lear for everything you did with wonderful shows, thanks to the wonderful actors, and wonderful scripts that have helped us realize that more and more people are Americans, and the wider that term becomes the better we are as a nation.

Jun. 05 2013 06:04 PM
Diana

My chorus teacher in Junior High School told me I sang like Edith Bunker. Despite his original intent with the comment, I took great pride in it.

Jun. 05 2013 12:21 PM
Rich from ringwood

Thanks for your moving piece about the greatest sitcom of all time, "All in the Family," and for describing the essence of the show, which is also the essence of America's beautiful uniqueness; our freedom to talk openly about, and even laugh at, our flaws and lesser selves.
Thanks again.

Jun. 05 2013 10:55 AM
Bill from New Rochelle

Your piece on Jean Stapleton was wonderful. The ALL IN THE FAMILY show was brilliant in so many ways. O'Connor dragged all manor of foul American behaviors into the light; and Stapleton showed it for what it really was. Thank you.

Jun. 05 2013 08:22 AM

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