Episode One: “It’s All in The Family”
Humor is always a way of saying something serious.
Remember the TV series “All in The Family” from the 1970’s? It was the #1 TV show in America from 1971 to 1976 and regarded as one of the most influential television series. I’m sorry my fellow, Baby Boomers, yes it actually was that long ago.
What was it about this show that made it worthy of such accolades?
It was damn funny.
The shows cynical and free-floating satirical humor still resonates in my head.
I distinctly remember our family sitting in the living room every weekday night, eating popcorn and laughing unabashedly, looking at Dad’s pride and joy, our enormous wooden-console Stereo-TV, tuned into CBS, one of the three available station’s.
I’m sorry… Generation X’s, Millennial’s, Y’s Z’s, Centennial’s, Boomlies, Dis or Dat’s, Boomlets or whatever: I don’t have the time to explain these archaic phrases of “tuned in” and “three channels.”
It’s set around a working-class bigot and his family. Carroll O’ Connor did a superb acting job portraying the father of the Bunker Family. He became legendary as Archie Bunker, soon a household name for millions of viewers in in the TV audience.
Here’s the punch the show really packed: it was the first prime-time TV show which broke ground by depicting issues considered, “Unsuitable for prime-time Television,” back then.
The shows central unsuitable-for-prime-time-TV issue?
Who the hell wants to watch a TV show depicting the ethically wrong bad shit they do all the time? Nobody. Not surprisingly, the show’s first season was less than lackluster. It was almost shit-canned.
The show’s creators and producers solved this enigmatic problem, which has tortured me in the writing of my upcoming book, I Almost Murdered a Complete Stranger: Embarrassing Truths of a Madman’s Journey:
How do you make a revolting shit-sandwich smell better long enough to get folks to take a bite of it and possibly learn something?
The show’s answer was genius: “Douse it heavily and frequently with aromatic, fresh scented and clean-seeming humor.”
Relax, this is all in fun! Nothing personal.
Spray-repeat, spray-repeat. Quickly roll the credits and don’t air the Turd-Hoagie again until next week.
The screenplay was written in such a brilliantly comical tone it actually masked the nauseating and hateful smell of bigotry from the public’s nose and caught folks by surprise.
Carroll O’ Connor’s authenticity in portraying Archie Bunker was powerful, and it progressively shreds apart the social veil cloaking the hideous malevolence of bigotry. The horrific shitstorm of damage and trauma inflicted by bigots on their fellow human beings was naked and in plain sight to millions of Americans weekly, dressed up in hilarious giftwrap and bow.
WHAT’S IN A WORD?
O’Connor portrayed the perfect Bigot. So potently, in fact, that an American colloquialism emerged from the show. Some Fifty years later, referring to someone in the middle of a conversation as, “Archie Bunker…,” sends a clearly unwelcome and despised message: “Hey stop talking, asshole. You’re a bigot.”
The word bigot became despised by all.
Bigot: A person who is intolerantly devoted to his or her own prejudices, especially one who regards and treats members of a group of people with hatred or intolerance.
Back the TV bus up, friends! Did you just read what I just wrote?
Intolerance, prejudices, and hatred? I’m pretty sure you have to wear a special button and set up safety zones to even use those words today. This show took on the big enchilada of political incorrectness and stomped the living shit out of those nasty words!
In fact, the “B” word is so reprehensible today; it’s been replaced with a kinder, gentler word; Stigma or stigmatize.
Stigmatize: To discredit or label with shame, to dishonor, vilify, scorn or disparage.
I’m a recovering alcoholic, and throughout my alcoholism and recovery, the stigma of alcoholism has been a living and malevolent force of evil in my life. I’m not complaining about it. At least the tail end of my alcoholism was tortured by stigma, not bigotry.
I’d rather be dishonored, vilified, shamed, and disparaged by normal people than bigots any day.
THANK GOD THE MESSAGE GOT OUT
We’re blessed that we aren’t living in times such as those today. Four decades later, massive waves of social and legal reform, founded on the principles of humanitarianism and tolerance has transformed the social landscape of our country (that’s what it says in Wikipedia, at least).
We now live in a politically correct world, where the social consequences of shame, disgrace, and vilification inherent in prejudice and bigotry, so commonplace in our previously harsher social eras, is clearly unacceptable. While we’re not perfect, this toxicity is being progressively driven out of our standards of conduct.
QUESTION: DID A DAMN THING ACTUALLY CHANGE?
Has exposing to the public the vicious, damaging and dehumanizing impact on people bigotry has actually changed our “Standards of conduct?” Or did it just change our vernacular? Use a different language with one another?
Did another veil slip underneath our eyes to mask the issue using a new and well-crafted charade of semantics, which still renders it acceptable and normal behavior?
Hey, Are YOU a (PC) Bigot?
Hold on now readers; I’m not accusing anybody here of anything. I know that’s a vile and despised word we now all (appropriately) shun. Labels like that suck.
They dehumanize you, don’t they?
Folks, we’ve made progress through intense honesty and self-assessment. So, it’s a worthy question we should open-mindedly ask ourselves. It’s also a tough question. But take heart, faithful readers. Now that you understand that the degrading effect of stigma is identical to that of bigotry, it’s a little easier to assess. Here’s why:
For one thing, Psychologists, sociologists and a host of academic researchers have done an amazing amount of work in defining the various classes of stigma, its causes and its impact on people.
For another it’s easier, to be honest with yourself. Because no matter what your self-assessments conclude, YOU ARE NOT A BIGOT. They don’t exist anymore. You’ll just be an everyday, regular guy or gal who stigmatizes people!
Whew! That’s a whole lot easier to swallow.
So please, stay tuned in to CBS folks. My next blog going to feature a scientific, efficient and quick self-assessment you can do, see where you stand on your tendency to bundle categories of people into dehumanized “Others.” People, you or anybody else have no business interacting with because of their (merited), vile and repugnant label. The ones you put on them.
That’s not all: my first book is due to release July 19! You can click here to read more about it on my book page or scroll down to watch my book trailer.