Entertainment Weekly reported Norman Lear’s comments at the Television Critics Association’s press tour in Beverly Hills. The 93 year old producer of All In The Family,The Jeffersons and One Day at a Time (and I believe Maude and its spinoffs) announced that he is a “social conservative”.
Many of us who grew up watching those shows see in them the seeds of the Culture Wars that America is losing today. To read that he considers himself a social conservative was almost as shocking as reading that DW Griffith was a crypto-anarchist.
After pondering Norman Lear’s comment and recalling his trademark shows I think I can rectify his social conservatism with the content of his productions.
NORMAN LEAR is a social conservative!!!?? Did he change? Or was Meathead supposed to be equally as wrong as Archie? If so, the writers totally blew it over the years. Because Stivik, the know-it-all university student who married Archie’s daughter and moved into his house and ate his food and looked down on him as only a leftist could, was portrayed not as equal and opposite to Archie. No, it appeared to me back then that he was supposed to be superior to Archie. He was used to teach us what educated and “with it” young adults were like.
But in retrospect, given Lear’s surprising comment on his being a social conservative another way of looking at All In The Family might be:
The synthesizer of thesis -antithesis was either Gloria or Edith. All the feuds instigated by the politico-cultural polarities of the two men created stress between the women. And their contribution was LOVE. So in a way, though Bunker, a “typical” blue-collar WASP was cast as “reactionary” and racist, he also had a sense of fair play. Michael (Meathead) was cast as a self-righteous know-it-all, who somehow was portrayed as “car~ing” (Michael Savage snide tone implied).
The inevitable clash between the two men was also portrayed as being inflated by male ego. Thus the beginning of the dumbing down of the TV male (hetero) had begun.
And yet… despite the overall radicalism of the show Norman Lear included the key component in society: the subtext of FAMILY LOVE.
It is (or was) his recognition of family love as the mortar that holds society together despite political differences that should have allowed us to see Lear as a cultural conservative. Rather than being shocked and thinking “too little too late” we might have understood that all along he was showing the way; the Conservative way.
The Conservative Way is NOT political. Though Conservatives take part in politics, it is typically in a manner to resist the politicization of culture. For instance Marriage is NOT supposed by Conservatives to be a political issue.
As Lockeans have always maintained, humans in the State of Nature are not atomized beasts, but rather are social creatures. The Bunker family home is where they lived. The issues of the day were out there. But inside, though the issues had their echoes, the reality was that their world was higher than mere politics.