All in the Family is one of the greatest comedies television has ever seen. I say that as a conservative because I am able to laugh at what is a caricature of a working class conservative (i.e., the character of Archie Bunker.) Largely created by Norman Lear, the quintessential example of a proud and uber-liberal Jew who had (and still has) contempt for the predominantly white Christian America he grew up in. (Kevin MacDonald has a past post on Lear’s All in the Family here.)
And as great as All in the Family is, the damage Lear effectively wrought upon conservatism is incalcuble. Lear’s Archie Bunker character probably did more to shape the public’s idea of what a conservative is – namely, the meme of working class conservatives as provincial, logic-challenged bigots who boss their wives around, etc. In fact, I would argue that one can trace the near-instantaneous culture-elite creation of the ‘Reagan is an idiot’ or ‘Bush is an idiot’ memes to cultural legacy of All in the Family.
Deadline Hollywood interviews Lear about his new autobiography, which from the sounds of it, will need to be translated into the King’s English:
DEADLINE: One of the first things that comes across in the book is how Jewish it is. There are a lot of Yiddishisms and, let’s call it, Jewish humor. How would you define that?
LEAR: I use the expression “the foolishness of the human condition.” Burlesque was Jewish humor to me and Jewish humor is inside the human condition. If I knew more about Irish humor, I might find it the same…
DEADLINE: The point at which you became involved in issues regarding the Constitution — what turned on that switch for you?
LEAR: Being a Jew. I mean I would prefer to say, I was born to Jewish people. The fact is, I was very conscious as I wrote of being Jewish. When I ran into Father Coughlin and suddenly I realized I’m disliked, if not hated, for being Jewish. And at the same time, we were studying civics, I’m learning about the meaning of the Constitution and the Constitutional guarantees of liberty and freedom, and you know, in the eyes of the law we are all the same, and now I’m finding that hatred exists in the world and I’m a victim of it. Dogma, also, I learned, separates us and I don’t like what separates us. There is a straight line from Father Coughlin to a sensitivity to the Declaration and the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment, all of that. It’s all of a piece. Thrillingly, I learned that in the writing of the book. Holy shit! I didn’t know that.
DEADLINE: What do you mean, all of a piece?
LEAR: That I’ve been that same person at 8, or at 9 and at 15, all the way through. The same American who was unhappy with where America was going shortly after the War and is miserable about how it’s behaving today, and I can’t let that go without saying why. Because America fails to look itself in the mirror, doesn’t see the myth it lives in or has created for itself. Like it is God’s chosen country and doesn’t see its own humanity as related to humanity everywhere. My bumper sticker reads “Just Another Version Of You,” and I believe it. America’s forgotten that and thinks it’s God’s chosen and it behaves that way too often. And I say that with as much love as I think can exist for the country I was born in.