Norman Lear M. J. Sobran, Jr. - Essay

M. J. Sobran, Jr.

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

All in the Family we have always with us. It is now reduced to buttocks humor—at the expense, of course, of Archie's arse. The latest episode showed him sitting on a knitting needle and later getting pinched on the backside. The poor guy can never do anything right, at least not until his immaculately liberal Gloria and her husband the Meathead have conspired with humiliating Experience to show him the light. It's an old TV joke—sit-comdaddies are always feckless …—but it's a durable one….

Consider: every time Archie defames some minority, he is instantly confuted by the materialization of an urbane Representative thereof, who invariably speaks in epigrams so polished as to make one wonder why affirmative action (let along police action) was ever thought needful. His bigotries are not only ethnic: one show exposed his shameful prejudice against transvestites. The aforementioned episode also showed him seething with irrational hostility toward an Old Person, merely because she, an uninvited guest in his house, relentlessly insulted him, corrected his grammar, and complained of his cigars. Whereupon the Meathead gave him a lecture on the necessity of respecting one's elders. Season after season, Michael tirelessly explains a) that They are no different from Us, and b) that to the extent They are different, They're just that much more adorable.

Needless to say, the show is fueled by sneaking sympathy for Archie, and the Meathead—that sniveling social conscience—is there just to keep the pressure groups from growling. (p. 230)

M. J. Sobran, Jr., in National Review (© National Review, Inc., 1978: 150 East 35th St., New York, N.Y. 10016), February 17, 1978.