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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Required Viewing, Blogging, Tweeting...

Posted by on Tue, Oct 9, 2012 at 1:32 PM

Today's must-read post comes with today's must-watch, must-forward, must-blog, must-tweet, must-Facebook video:

Time for a history lesson and a strategy session all in one, everyone. This week marks 35 years since Norman Lear brought a lesbian to his legendary TV series All In The Family in an episode that most of you have probably never even heard of. The episode is still remarkably, depressingly relevant, and I think we can learn something about how to frame the argument for marriage equality and civil rights in general from the writers of this award-winning piece of television history.... First airing on October 9, 1977, episode "Cousin Liz" guest-starred future Superman’s Mom K Callan as Veronica, the long-time partner of Edith Bunker’s recently-deceased cousin. You can probably guess how Archie reacts to the news, but (spoiler alert) Edith stands up to him.... Later, Archie threatens to take Veronica to court for Liz’s heirloom silver tea set, exposing her as a lesbian and threatening her job as a schoolteacher. Edith intervenes brilliantly, and in my view, the last sentence of her argument should be a major talking point in Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, and Washington ahead of marriage equality votes on November 6:

Archie: Well who the hell wants people like that teaching our kids?! I’m sure God don’t! God’s sittin’ in judgment!

Edith: Well, sure he is, but he’s God; you ain’t!

Edith: Archie, listen, you wouldn’t want to be the cause of somebody losin’ their job! Archie, she’s all alone in the world now and she’s got nobody to take care of her like I have. And she can’t help how she feels. And she didn’t hurt you, so why should you wanna hurt her? Archie, I can’t believe you’d do anything that mean.

I doubt any network will rerun "Cousin Liz" this November, but hey, we have YouTube now. LGBTs, you know what to do. Straight allies, you can help too. Do all of us queer people a solid and send this video to friends and family in the “movable middle” of Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, and Washington before the vote next month. Ask them to watch it before they cast their ballots. Ask them to think about what their vote will do to their lesbian, gay, and bisexual neighbors. On our behalf, ask them if they’re really still meaner than Archie Bunker.

It's amazing how funny—and, like Matt at Asterisk said, how depressingly relevant—this 35-year-old episode of All In The Family still is. Watch it, blog it, post it, tweet it, Facebook it.


Comments (27) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Thank you! Anyone as cut-to-the-chase as I: the excerpted bit starts at the 20-minute mark.
Posted by gloomy gus on October 9, 2012 at 1:43 PM · Report this
I kept thinking how Paul Mccartney is starting to look a lot like Edith.
Posted by sall on October 9, 2012 at 1:50 PM · Report this
stinkbug 3
I doubt any network will rerun "Cousin Liz" this November

Am I the only one that watches AntennaTV? (Although the Cousin Liz episodes doesn't air this month. They're finishing season 6 and then restarting sea 1.)
Posted by stinkbug on October 9, 2012 at 2:19 PM · Report this
I must be getting really old, because I couldn't get over how young Archie and Edith looked.
Posted by Clayton on October 9, 2012 at 2:19 PM · Report this
I have long maintained that All In The Family was one of the best shows ever aired. more tough social issues dealt with in realistic ways than anything I've seen in the last 30 years.
Posted by Chris Jury on October 9, 2012 at 2:33 PM · Report this
And of course Edith's best friend was a drag queen who Archie had saved by administering mouth to mouth. The drag queen is beaten to death by bashers in a later Xmas episode, causing Edith to doubt her belief in God. This was a SITCOM plot line people!
Posted by PoliGeek on October 9, 2012 at 2:39 PM · Report this
Thanks Dan! It's good starting even before the last bit, certainly 14:00 or before.
Posted by cracked on October 9, 2012 at 2:46 PM · Report this
I started out at the 20 minute mark, but ended up watching the whole thing anyway. I work with elderly folks sometimes, and you'd be amazed at how "progressive" they really are. My grandpa disagreed with Tammy Baldwin's lifestyle, but he voted for her every election when he was alive because she was the best candidate and she supported legislation that was important to him.
Posted by MinnySota on October 9, 2012 at 2:52 PM · Report this
Just amazing!
Posted by Why are there cars? on October 9, 2012 at 2:57 PM · Report this
very bad homo 10
No, I'm not crying at work or anything, why do you ask?
Posted by very bad homo on October 9, 2012 at 3:00 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 11
I've seen this recently - maybe five or six months ago. To me, it's depressing how far TV has retreated from the sort of dialogue All in the Family routinely broadcast.
Posted by Matt from Denver on October 9, 2012 at 3:06 PM · Report this
preachy-comedies like this and MASH suck
Posted by Skit on October 9, 2012 at 4:22 PM · Report this
dangerousgift 13
I like the part when she goes "Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh"
Posted by dangerousgift on October 9, 2012 at 4:42 PM · Report this
TreGibbs 14
If television was half as good as it used to be, I would probably get basic cable. This was wonderful, relevant and brilliantly acted.
Posted by TreGibbs on October 9, 2012 at 5:48 PM · Report this
saxfanatic 15
I remember this. I watched it when it was originally broadcast. Dear God I'm old!
Posted by saxfanatic on October 9, 2012 at 6:02 PM · Report this
I saw this in a video presentation by the author Steven Capsuto 20 years ago. He then wrote a book about gay and lesbian images on radio and television from the 1930s on. It's on Amazon:…
Posted by Imageee on October 9, 2012 at 6:21 PM · Report this
michael strangeways 17
It was sometimes a bit screechy/preachy, like all Norman Lear shows, but All in the Family was brilliant.

And, the aforementioned "drag queen" episodes with "Beverly LaSalle" are just amazing. You can find them on YouTube. San Francisco drag artist Lori Shannon was just terrific in that role.
Posted by michael strangeways on October 9, 2012 at 8:26 PM · Report this
@5, I'm with you. I may have loved Dukes of Hazzard more, but All In the Family was one of the best shows on television ever. And the best parts of Edith remind me of my mother, who's been pro queer for as long as I can remember. It doesn't matter who you love, it matters that you love.
Posted by jt on October 9, 2012 at 9:20 PM · Report this
This is a great example of how long it has taken us to get this far. If you look at most of what they talked about on All in the Family it seems dated. The wide open racism and sexism (not just by Archie) seem from a completely different era (because they were). But Gay rights were progressing at a similar speed and then just stalled for about twenty years. My explanation is that it corresponded with the stalling of economic progress. There is a strong correspondence between economic and social progress, not only in this country, but other countries as well.
Posted by Ross on October 9, 2012 at 9:43 PM · Report this
Unfortunately, I can believe people would do something that mean. Come on, in a world where a "kill the gays" bill is even seriously proposed?

There will be no true freedom until the last religious building is burned to the foundations.
Posted by NT on October 9, 2012 at 9:50 PM · Report this
Ok, NT, I'll skip the R-74 phone bank at temple this week.

Jesus H, spare me from the righteous.
Posted by jt on October 9, 2012 at 10:02 PM · Report this
nocutename 22
I watched the whole episode; it was surprisingly good. I watched an old M*A*S*H episode a few months ago, and tried to explain to my kid how, in its day, that show was considered so funny. It was embarrassingly bad.

#19's point is fascinating. The racist and sexist lessons that All in the Family teaches are such forgone conclusions now that they seem kind of silly and ridiculous if you're watching those episodes today. But I think it might be because even in the mid 1970s, Archie's attitudes towards women and blacks were absurd throwbacks. Nothing said on All in the Family regarding sexism or racism was really all that revolutionary. Whereas this episode predated the Brigges initiative (California prop 6, of Anita Bryant notoriety) by two years, and was an issue largely not of interest to the general public in 1977. Not only did the show become more overtly political as it went on, but since it came from Hollywood, many on the staff had a logical interest in the rights not just of gays in general, but of gay teachers, specifically--the target of prop. 6.

It can seem discouraging that so little movement has been made since 1977, in terms of tolerance for gays and marriage equality, but when you think that by 1977, first wave feminism had been a front page issue for more than 70 years, while racism was an issue of national interest since the 1940s, and then you stop to think that Stonewall only put gay rights on the national consciousness since 1969, you realize that the first salvo fired in this war happened only 8 years before this episode of what was in its day the most popular and influential tv show ever.

It may seem discouragingly slow, and it's irritating that full civil equality for gays and lesbians still hasn't arrived, but many factors, including this episode of a show that captured the cultural zeitgeist, suggest a relatively fast movement.
Posted by nocutename on October 9, 2012 at 10:28 PM · Report this
John Sterlin 23
Thanks for posting this Dan. I've not seen an episode of this in so long I'd forgotten how great an actor Carroll O'Connor was. My parents would not allow me to watch this back in the day.

My partner and I have also been together 25 years. I guess my only critique of the episode is that I'd be considerably more shaken than Cousin Liz appeared to be at my husbands passing. I think my mascara would run...

Lets all get the word out!
Posted by John Sterlin on October 10, 2012 at 10:18 AM · Report this
Whenever I've seen K Callan in the years since I've thought of "Cousin Liz."
Posted by RealityBites on October 10, 2012 at 2:08 PM · Report this
I haven't watched an episode in many years--this was a good re-introduction.

The Meathead versus Archie story-lines, and anything with Sally Struthers, probably wouldn't have aged as well.

It was always Edith's common-sense kindness swerving Archie away from his instinct to be selfish and bigoted that gave the show its emotional center: that was also the punch-in-the-gut quality that is so rare in sitcoms of any era.

Still, I think its worth noting that even if sitcoms used to be better, dramas today are much stronger than in the past: the past decade has seen the likes of The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Dexter, Nip/Tuck, Battlestar Galactica, and The Shield, among others.
Posted by Functional Atheist on October 10, 2012 at 5:35 PM · Report this
sissoucat 26
@NT Diderot, Enlightenment philosopher (1713-1784), would have agreed with you :

"Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest."

Because, as he put it :

"The philosopher has never killed any priests, whereas the priest has killed a great many philosophers."

Posted by sissoucat on October 11, 2012 at 1:03 AM · Report this
I had a totally crappy day today, and this was the best antidote ever. I laughed, I cried. It was totally cathartic. i miss those days of TV. I guess that's why I don't own one now.
Posted by monkeylover on October 12, 2012 at 4:06 PM · Report this

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