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  • Writer's pictureThe Gimp

Sympathy For The Devil: I Mean, Archie Bunker

You heard me. I'm been known to trash people like him in my time, especially if they remind me of my abusive father. But having watched the show All In the Family on my own because it was basically off the air by the time I would have been aware of it, I see a lot of myself in Archie.

Not his ideas philosophically, which were basically stolen verbatim from his father, like mine were until I really discovered my own voice in my late 20s, but how he was raised. And how people with abusive parents struggle coming to terms with the fact that the only parents they've ever known, who taught them everything, who told them they loved them, could be wrong - very wrong, about a lot of things.

Disagreeing with them, even after they're gone, can sometimes feel like a betrayal, which makes you a "bad son." And in a lot of ways, nothing can feel worse. Sure, you're angry and hurt in the moment when you know you're losing your childhood and your adulthood because this asshole won't listen to you and keeps screaming at you, quoting bible verses and threatening to hit you.

But you almost develop a kind of Stockholm Syndrome, like prisoners do in jail toward the warden. You hate the situation you're in and the people responsible, but you feel like you can't do it without them, because you rely on them for so much, and that's part of the abuse.

After watching this next clip from the show, where Archie talks to his brother about his father, it really helped me get some kind of insight, real or imagined, into my Dad, who clearly had a Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

I was homeschooled for the first 16 years of my life, and I was given the false impression that I was some kind of genius. Granted when your teacher is a religious fanatic with no rules to keep him in check, your education is basically going to be on the same level as a white kid in 1940s Mississippi.

I remember a kid in the neighbourhood telling me when I was 12 years old that homeschooled kids have a harder time getting into and staying in university. I didn't really believe him, but I was listening. Turns out, the kid was right.

I had my suspicions that a lot of what my dad was saying and doing was a load of bollocks as a kid, but I brushed them off because his was the only perspective I'd ever had. If my uncle cursed at dinner when we were over there, he'd just tell me he was Anglican and therefore "not a Christian."

I think what this show establishes, more so than the Britcom that inspired it, is that people are complicated and sometimes they're not all good or all bad. They can have morally reprehensible ideas, but they're not vindictive. They're not actively trying to screw others over. They just have really ignorant, primitive ideas. You can be ignorant without being vindictive or violent.

It doesn't excuse those ideas in any way, but I'd rather a blissfully ignorant donut like Archie Bunker than a lot of political pundits these days, who advocate or condone actual harm coming to people - until they're caught and have to face serious consequences for it, of course. I'm not naming any names, I'll just close with a photo below and you can judge for yourself.

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