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

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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.