Archie Bunker is a deeply flawed character. On his face he’s racist, sexist, and obstinate, but his stubborn adherence to these negative traits allowed Norman Lear and the writers of All in the Family to challenge those views head-on and create groundbreaking television. He wasn’t racist to promote racism, but he wasn’t some hollow strawman to be beaten down every week either. Archie was, like most real people, imperfect and complicated.
Unlike real-life racists and sexists, Archie had some of the best and funniest television writers putting words into his mouth so he came across as a charming, beloved character.
But it’s fucking unforgivable how he talks to Meathead about the proper way to put on shoes and socks.
I heard about this moment last year while Lear was doing press for the PBS documentary about his life Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You and it came up a few times in interviews. Lear said this scene, more than any other, is what people bring up to him when they talk about the show*.
This was around October, 2016–a full six months prior to this writing–and it’s bothered me every day since I heard it as I put on my shoes.
I put my shoes on like Mike in this clip. I put a sock on my right foot, and then a shoe on my right foot and tie it. Then a sock on my left foot, and then a shoe on my left foot and tie it. It’s more efficient, and you’re not needlessly crossing and uncrossing your legs. The whole crux of the debate about suddenly having to run outside halfway through getting your shoes on is inane, and Mike’s way is faster anyway, so you’d be able to get out faster with your shoes on instead of running around in your socks.
More importantly though, it’s gross how insistent Archie gets that Mike convert to his way of putting on shoes. Look. I genuinely believe in my heart that my way is better and that it will save you time, but I don’t care how you put your shoes on. Why would I? It makes no impact on my life. Waste time crossing your legs all willy nilly every morning. See if I care.
Archie Bunker is a monster. He’s a monster for the racism and sexism too, but like, geez louise, just let your son-in-law put his fucking shoes on.
*I believe this was in his WTF interview, which is now behind a paywall.