Monday, January 07, 2008


Edith Bunker My Role Model: Who Would Have Thought

My husband says Edith Bunker (married to the notoriously ignorant Archie Bunker of the sitcom All in the Family), is a perfect Christian woman.

Trying with all the self control I can muster, I have decided to study the attributes of this character. At first glance she comes across as a simpering fool who tiptoes around her chauvinistic, bigoted husband squeaking out in her silly voice “O’ Archie, would you like another cup of coafeeee?”. She seems to miss all the insults he sends her way, or just waves her hand and panders to his nastiness.

Yet as I find myself sucked into hating him, I also find myself somehow respecting her.

In the last episode we watched, their daughter Gloria had PMS and said some horrible things to both her parents. When accused of being a doormat by her daughter, Edith spoke up and said that “No” actually she was winning over Archie by going in the kitchen to have a cup of tea, when he was being nasty. She stayed there long enough that he forgot what he was being horrid about and she gained the upper hand by doing this.

I do believe that was exemplary in some ways. She walked away from conflict, quieted herself and waited out the storm. My only struggle with that resolution is that she must spend most of her life in the kitchen with her tea, because Archie is always nasty. He just constantly berates and puts others down, especially her.

The overriding virtue of Edith’s life seems to be that she never thinks about herself. She is constantly attending to the needs and feelings of others. Her motivating force seems to be to please. She always manages to turn a situation around from a conflict to “Let’s go eat everybody”, or “Gloria, I remember when you…” and shares a sweet memory (which always gets rolling eyes from Archie).

Lots to consider here.

Edith is wise. She is compassionate and has the grace to see past Archie's failings into his heart.
These attributes are what has given her the right of speaking up in her family when the situation calls for a response. As she did at the end of this episode after a big fight broke out between all members of her family. She eventually positioned herself between Gloria and Mike (her husband), and screamed "STOP", until they did. She then directed them all (including Archie) to sit down and then gave them firm and loving instruction, which they received and the issue was resolved.

Are there drawbacks to being a people pleaser? Would a good psychotherapist have a heyday with Edith’s personality? I’m sure. But none of that is delved into in the sitcom. She is presented as the balanced one. And despite the fact that something in my flesh rises up at the idea, and wants to identify her apparent lack of intelligence, and how she looks like an idiot trotting around after Archie like a little fairy godmother always trying to make things right, the writers seem to have hit on something. She is peaceful and a peacemaker, other centered and willing.

In a culture which teaches women to be the force behind their own destiny, that it’s all about personal choice and about ME, she flies in the face of everything women profess to hold dear.
Yet somehow, she holds a softness and peace that many women are missing today.

Perhaps God does have something to say through Edith Bunker?

(Note: My husband is nothing like Archie Bunker, but sometimes wishes that his wife was more like Edith).


Belinda said...

Oh, you brave woman, you!

How refreshing to be challenged to see the sweetness in Edith as underlying strength, and something to be admired.

Thank you for a nostalgic look back at a family we all feel like we knew personally.

And very well written, too! :)

Susan said...

You've got me thinking this morning. That's quite a feat for this night owl. :o)

Yes, walking away from a situation wherein you've been attacked might seem like retreat - weakness. But in fact, like Edith, it takes great strength not to be pulled into the foray - to walk away. In the kitchen she is guarding her heart (very important!) and waiting for the "right response" to come. (At least that's what I need to do! I never seem to be able to come up with it on my own.)

In my family, it's more likely to be Ron going to the kitchen for a cup of tea..

Looking forward to Part 2!