How watching All in the Family made people understand one another better

all-in-the-familyLast week I read an article about the release of a new Netflix version of the 1970’s show One Day at a Time (starring Rita Moreno giving the redux a bit of Latin-flavor). The original show starring the late Bonnie Franklin followed a single working class mom’s struggle to make ends meet during difficult economic times.

The article in the Atlantic noted that the new version is every bit the civics lesson that was emblematic of the original. I have not watched any episodes of the new show and remember the old show as being okay but not as any kind of social statement. I was pretty young at the time.

There was also talk of an All in the Family remake although without Carroll O’Connor playing the bigoted Archie Bunker (not to mention Jean Stapleton) I cringe at the thought of who might play the modern day Archie. By the way, I never liked the show. But it’s important to note that I did watch it regularly (keep in mind television content choices were still extremely limited in the 1970’s) which is something that would almost never happen today.

I learned a few things from the intentionally dislikeable Archie Bunker. That people could feel so differently about things than I did even at a somewhat tender age. The thing is that most of the people around me were watching the same things. The reference points for Archie Bunker for baby boomers are very similar whether you consider yourself conservative or liberal. And All in the Family was a show designed to make you not like Archie so it’s fair to say it had a message-based overall liberal bias. Yet conservatives (for the reason noted above) watched it too and I don’t think they were particularly offended.

As the series rolled-on, Archie’s outlook changed, mellowed, even opened up a bit. It’s impossible to know how Archie’s mellowing influenced those who initially felt the same way as Archie, but I suspect All in the Family did have that kind of influence.

All in the Family and One Day at a Time aired in the nascent days of VCR’s and Sony Betamax’s. So a much higher percentage (compared to today) watched the shows live. Since those were the pre-social media days, apparently people talked about it around the ‘water-cooler’ (something I never did and still never have).

In the process of having everyone watch and talk about the same thing at the same time, people had a better sense of what those that disagreed with them were thinking. It did not change people’s minds but was different from the ability to create single narrative channels of the present day. If you don’t like something today you will likely NEVER watch it. Add to that is that if you see or hear that the political viewpoint is not that of your own you’re even less likely to try.

No it’s not universal. I know conservatives that watched and enjoyed the West Wing and liberals that watched and enjoyed 24. But in a world that’s increasingly about “I’m right and you’re wrong”, All in the Family remains etched in my (and many of my fellow boomers) memory and I for one am glad I have that reference point.

Don’t we all need to try harder to understand the point of view of those with whom we do not agree?

About markkolier

Futurist, entrepreneur, left lane driver
This entry was posted in Living in the World Today, Television shows and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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