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Good-bye, Edith

Good-bye, Edith

Jean Stapleton died today.

A very accomplished actress, Jean always will be remembered for her role as Edith Bunker on All In The Family.

For those of us of, um, a certain generation, the impact of that show cannot be overstated.

Update: Dan Riehl corrects my grammar:


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Alex Bensky | June 1, 2013 at 6:58 pm

It affected me, too, Professor, but perhaps not the way it affected a lot of people.

Archie is clearly intended as a type. I don’t know many working class men who abuse their wives and disrespect them the way Archie often did. I think it’s a Hollywood idea of what working class people are like.

But also–Meathead is eating off Archie’s table, living under Archie’s roof, shtupping Archie’s daughter…and all he can do, instead of showing a little gratitude, is tell Archie how stupid and bigoted he is. You get the feeling that if it weren’t for Gloria Archie would, and should, grab him by his collar and toss him out on the street.

Given the time of the show and the character’s age, Archie was probably in World War II or Korea, and most likely as a grunt. But cut him some slack? Nah, let’s laugh at him.

    jdkchem in reply to Alex Bensky. | June 1, 2013 at 11:00 pm

    WWII, Purple Heart via shrapnel where turd nugget’s brain is located. It comes up often in the series.

    What I find wonderfully ironic is how Archie is correct on a number of issues. Some of us with parents and grandparents of the same age as Archie Bunker know he was most definitely not a bigot. If people bothered to watch and listen carefully they would discover he cares about the people around him, regardless of the color of their skin.

Juba Doobai! | June 1, 2013 at 7:02 pm

RIP, Edith. May God’s perpetual light shine on you and may He grant you rest.

Jan Stapleton acted a fine role as a genuinely sweet woman who was cleverer than we think. She had values, and she kept home and hearth together.

DINORightMarie | June 1, 2013 at 7:08 pm

That show was the first of its kind, intending to transform our culture and make the white, blue collar male into a stereotypical bigot.

Norman Lear had a plan. And it worked.

    Doug Wright in reply to DINORightMarie. | June 1, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    Nah, Lear just had his Hollyweird biases and developed a script around them!

    jdkchem in reply to DINORightMarie. | June 1, 2013 at 11:02 pm

    Right up until he adopted Janet Jackson.

    Estragon in reply to DINORightMarie. | June 2, 2013 at 2:41 am


    Lear stole the idea – in some detail – from a British sitcom. The Archie and Edith characters were supposed to be despised as buffoons, the way their corresponding characters in the Brit series were.

    But something misfired in the translation. America loved Archie and Edith. They agreed with Archie’s reflexive patriotism, even when colored with ignorance or prejudice, and adored Jean Stapleton’s portrayal of Edith of the good-hearted submissive wife whose declarations of common sense always seems to be epiphanies.

    And Rob Reiner’s “Meathead” was not a hero to anyone but wannabe hippies.

    The cultural decline was aided and abetted by Hollywood, and Lear tried hard with AITF and Maude, but the real collapse came later on.

    Freddie Sykes in reply to DINORightMarie. | June 2, 2013 at 8:44 am

    Norman Lear had a plan but it did not work because more people ended up agreeing with Archie rather than Meathead. Unfortunately, he more than made up for it in the show’s spin-offs.

Godspeed, Miss Stapleton, you were one of the good ones. A good and long life of accomplishment in the arts – so much more that the narrow view that most have of her portrayal of Edith.

I read Miss Stapleton’s obit just now at the NYT. It seems that they cannot discern between the fictional Edith Bunker and the very real Jean Stapleton.

Not that we should be surprised.

I’ll keep that abomination of an obituary in my memory banks for the day the NYT ceases publication.

One of Jean Stapleton’s breakthrough Broadway roles came in “Damn Yankees,” where she first brought life to the song, “Ya Gotta Have Heart.”

A class act, a great actress who was nothing like the Edith character but was able to bring out the humanity in a role totally outside her own experience and make her a beloved American icon of the times.

Actually the impact of the show was frequently overstated. 2 viewings or so and you got the gist of the gimmick. The rest was just repetition. The character of Edith was pathetic, she was a dunce and a doormat.

I worked in the theater (in a non-acting, support role) in the DC area many years ago. It seems all of the actors knew Ms. Stapleton and spoke of her fondly, as she spent a lot of her spare time working with them, helping them to improve their craft.

About the only negative thing any of them said of her was, “Don’t call her Edith.”

Good night, Ms. Stapleton, and may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!

Somewhere just past the Pearly Gates you hear Archie, “Took you long enough Dingbat, now get me a beer!” :<)

RIP Jean Stapleton