Saturday, June 1, 2013

R.I.P. Jean Stapleton aka Edith Bunker from All in the Family

At the ripe age of 90, Jean Stapleton, better know to most of the world as Edith Bunker, passed away today at her home in New York.

I honestly thought for some reason that she had past away before Carol O'Conner did in 2001 but low and behold the girl was still kicking up until Friday when she passed peacefully from natural causes.

I know there are some who dislike the show that made her famous, All In The Family, for its bigoted views of the main character Archie, but I think what people tend to forget is that it was a racist show it was a show about the ignorance behind racism that was very real and still thriving in America during the decade it ran on prime time. 
Even more respectful about the premise of the show was that Archie's family was opposed to his bigot views and tried to educate him on the struggle for equal rights and respect for all our fellow man. What I think made the show as lovable as it could be was the soft touch that Jean's character Edith gracefully displayed by showing a child like innocence to the hate and prejudice that so many like her husband had boiling inside.
I also learned that even though she had a few supporting roles in films and Television in the 60's and early 70's, her career didn't really start until she was about 50 years old when Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin had struggled to get the fledgling television series up and running when they cast her as the role of the wife of America's most loved bigot, which the series became a reality after Lear and Yorkin sold the series to CBS where after a few hit and misses in ratings, Edith Bunker became a more important character then originally intended.

Norman Lear and the producers of the series did a fantastic job of using the show to help delve inside the minds of both bigots and non bigots to shed light on why each side had their own points of view and how the 70's were a time to squash those feelings of separation and to start coming together as a unified country of unified people.
Jean was able to play that "dim-witted moron" character to the hills with that stark Queens accent and million dollar smile, making it impossible not to love her! Makes you wish more of us could be and think like her, the world would be such a better place. In fact she did such a fabulous job at portraying America's beloved dim whit that the show earned four consecutive Emmy's for best comedy series and Jean winning three Emmy's for herself as well.

And how fitting is it to hear this bittersweet news  after just watching the wonderfully directed Gus Van Sant film Milk that depicted the brief but bright shooting star that was the first openly gay San Francisco Board Supervisor Harvey Milk.  Even more ironic is that of which the time frame of his struggle to be elected into office nearly mirrored the same years All in the Family originally aired. Ladies and gentlemen this is when Television had a purpose and meaning to its existence.

If you haven't watched an episode of the show in a while, definitely take the time to check out a few, preferably from the second to fifth seasons when the show was at its height of power. It will give you a righteous laugh over Archie's crazy faces and flooding pants but will also help you remember the turbulent times us as Americans fought through and how far the human raced has advanced from the the outcry of obtaining civil rights for all that began in the 60's.

In honor Mrs. Jean Stapleton, I leave you with these partying words:

Boy the way Glen Miller played
Songs that made the hit parade.
Guys like us we had it made,
Those were the days.
And you knew who you were then,
Girls were girls and men were men,
Mister we could use a man
Like Herbert Hoover again.
Didn't need no welfare stake,
Everybody pulled his weight.
Gee our old LaSalle ran great.
Those were the days.

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