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Mike "Meathead" Stivic (Rob Reiner, top) with rest of Bunkers, Archie (Carroll O'Connor, bottom). Edith (Jean Stapleton, left), and Gloria (Sally Struthers, right) in cast photo
|First appearance||"Meet the Bunkers"
(All in the Family)
|Last appearance||"Thanksgiving Reunion:Part 2"
(Archie Bunker's Place)
|Created by||Norman Lear
Based on Mike Rawlins, a character created by Johnny Speight
|Portrayed by||Rob Reiner|
|Occupation||College student, then professor (1975-)|
|Family||Edith Bunker (mother in-law) 1971-1980, her death
Archie Bunker (father in-law) 1971-1982 (?)
Casimir "Cas" Stivic (uncle)
Alexsander "Alex" Stivic (uncle)
|Spouse(s)||Gloria Bunker Stivic (1971-1982)(?)|
|Children||Joey Stivic (son)|
Michael Casimir "Mike" Stivic is a fictional character on the long-running American television sitcom of the 1970s, All in the Family. He was the live-in son-in-law of the series's lead character, Archie Bunker, who frequently called him "Meathead". Michael was the husband of Archie's daughter Gloria (played by Sally Struthers). Rob Reiner (son of comedian Carl Reiner) played the role of Michael Stivic throughout the series.
The character of Michael Stivic, an Aquarius, is an Americanized version of the British original: Til Death Us Do Part's Mike Rawlins, the Trotskyist "Randy Scouse Git" who arouses the passionate ire of his arch-conservative father-in-law Alf Garnett. For the American version of this character, the Trotskyist angle was drastically softened; Michael Stivic is a social liberal and a leftist, but not an adherent of any form of communism.
Michael Stivic is a Polish-American from Chicago. He was orphaned at a young age, with his parents having been killed in a car crash. He was raised by his uncle Casimir Stivic, an ex-Marine lieutenant turned florist, who calls him "Mickey" with great affection. He also has an uncle Alex.
When All in the Family begins, Michael is married to Gloria, and shares a bedroom with her in the home of her parents, whom he addresses as "Ma" and "Archie" (or "Arch"). His first meeting with Archie (seen in a flashback) shows him as a bearded hippie with a tie-dyed shirt. His wardrobe throughout most of the series is much more subdued; most often he wears a denim shirt, jeans, and boots. He shaves his beard for his wedding with Gloria, but keeps his mustache and wears his hair well below the collar. (As Reiner was losing his hair very rapidly early on in the series, he began wearing a toupee when playing his character.) The exact year of the Stivics' marriage is somewhat ambiguous. A 1972 episode centers on Mike and Gloria's second wedding anniversary; meaning they would have been married in 1970 while the 1978 episode The Stivics Go West it is revaled that Mike and Gloria are coming upon the ninth anniversary meaning they would have been married in 1969.
Exacerbating the conflicts between college student Michael and his father-in-law Archie Bunker, is the fact that in the early years of the television series, these two characters live under the same roof. This proximity means that the tensions between these seemingly diametrically opposed people result in endless arguments over the simplest of topics, even the proper order in which to put on socks and shoes. Michael's status as a not-entirely-welcome guest in Archie's home, and his appetite for food purchased by Archie's working-class income, contribute to the conflict between the characters. Michael is a determined agnostic-sometimes even identifying himself as an atheist-, in contrast to his mother-in-law's quiet Christian church attendance and his non-practicing but nonetheless staunchly Christian father-in-law. When one of Archie's neighbors sells his house, it is purchased by Michael to give Gloria a house of their own. Although being next door still results in frequent visits, the tension between Michael and Archie eases as they now live under different roofs.
Michael is presented as a representative of the counterculture of the 1960s (reflecting current events during the period in which the show was broadcast). There is no suggestion, however of the drug use or "free love" of that subculture, and Michael is a dedicated academic. Though supportive of human rights, Michael would occasionally display a sexist side as well; an example of this showed when he did not want his appendix removed by a female doctor.
Although taken by surprise, Michael is excited to learn that Gloria is pregnant in 1971, though the pregnancy ends in a miscarriage. Gloria becomes pregnant again in 1975 and their baby Joseph "Joey" Stivic is born in December of that year.
During early episodes, Michael's best friend is Lionel Jefferson, though the characters rarely see or refer to each other after Lionel leaves All in the Family to join the spin-off The Jeffersons. Another of Michael's close friends, Al Bender (played by Billy Crystal), marries Gloria's best friend Trudy Tannen in a 1976 episode.
Mike accepts a faculty position at UCSB, and he and Gloria move to Santa Barbara, California at the end of the 1977-78 season (at which time, Reiner and Struthers ceased to be regulars on the show). They appear in a Christmas episode during the 1978-79 season, in which Archie and Edith (and Edith's niece Stephanie) impulsively visit Michael and Gloria, exposing the fact that the couple have secretly separated due to troubles in their marriage, including her infidelity. Though they seemingly resolve their differences during this episode, a Thanksgiving visit by Mike and Gloria to the Bunkers' house during the 1979-80 season of Archie Bunker's Place shows that the Stivics' marriage is still troubled, exacerbated by the fact that Michael has lost his job (after he and Gloria participated in a nude protest of a proposed nuclear power plant). This is the last appearance of the character.
Michael Stivic does not appear in the 1982 spin-off series Gloria, which starred Sally Struthers. Initially, Reiner had been asked to participate in the series, resurrecting his Michael Stivic character, but he declined. It is explained (on the show) that Michael had left his wife and young son Joey (then played by Christian Jacobs) to live on a California commune with a flower child.
Archie routinely refers to Michael by the derogatory nickname "Meathead", from the first time they meet, as seen in flashback in the second season episode "Mike Meets Archie". In Archie's own words, it means "dead from the neck up". Rob Reiner has said that "I could win the Nobel Prize and they'd write 'Meathead wins the Nobel Prize'."
A later episode of All in the Family reveals that Archie Bunker himself was referred to as "Meathead" in his youth.
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