Monday, November 1, 2010

Hey America, meet Archie Bunker's grandchildren!

Hopefully, even if you're too young to have watched the show, you are aware of one of the most important television shows ever produced:  All In The Family.  It thematically and chronologically encompassed the Seventies, running from 1971 to 1979 and addressing what seemed like every possible social issue in a society where such things were still widely considered taboo. Racism, homosexuality, feminism, was all in there.  Many of the best confrontations were between pater familias, Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor), and son-in-law, Michael Stivic (Rob Reiner).  Archie is exactly what central casting would deliver for a quintessential Tea Party character of today:  conservative, reactionary, distrustful, prejudiced and mad-as-hell.  Mike (or "Meathead" as Archie calls him) is mad-as-hell, too, but in direct opposition to his father-in-law; Mike is an outspoken liberal who came of age in the Sixties' summer(s) of love.  He sees everything his generation wants to fight and reform distilled in the figure of Archie.

Fast forward to today -- some almost 40 years after the show premiered -- and w're still talking about the same things. Afghanistan and Iraq have replaced Vietnam and Al Qaeda has replaced the Soviets, but, other than that, the themes remain.

Enter Joey Stivic.

Joey is Mike and wife Gloria's only child and Archie's grandson. Joey's a Generation Xer who's now in his mid-thirties.  Joey left Astoria, Queens for Park Slope, Brooklyn.  Joey voted for Obama. And Joey probably went to Washington, DC, this past Saturday for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.

Stewart and Colbert were both born in the last years of the Baby Boomer period and would have been weened on All In The Family. They no doubt see today's Rush Limbaugh as yesterday's Archie Bunker in Gucci loafers.  They recognize that the Tea Party has breathed new life into the old Archies, and they have to wonder how on Earth this happened.  How is it that, in 2010, we are still having this argument?

The Rally's call for a moderate middle and a pragmatic approach in discourse if not policy is a generational synthesis born of the dilalectical forces between Archie and Meathead.  Joey's generation is sick of the shrill and wants to restore some reasonableness.  It's not that he isn't passionate; he is, but it's a more pragmatic passion that tries to actually facilitate change rather then simply scream for it while vilifying anyone who doesn't agree.

Archie and Edith's LaSalle may have run great, and Mike and Gloria's Mustang was cool; but Joey drives a Prius.  He wants it all  -- dependability, design and responsibility.  Joey still loves his father and grandfather and forgives them both for thinking his car is a little fruity.  He simply rolls his eyes and forges ahead...because he's got stuff to do.

[Image sources: Mike and Archie; Joey Stivic; Rally.]