Bunker holding his grandson, Joey Stivic, 1975
|First appearance||"Meet the Bunkers"
(All in the Family)
|Last appearance||"I'm Torn Here"
(Archie Bunker's Place)
|Created by||Norman Lear|
|Portrayed by||Carroll O'Connor|
Archibald "Archie" Bunker is a fictional character from the 1970s American television sitcom All in the Family and its spin-off Archie Bunker's Place, played to acclaim by Carroll O'Connor. Bunker, a principal character of the series, is a veteran of World War II, reactionary conservative, blue-collar worker and family man. Described as a "lovable bigot", he was first seen by the American public when All in the Family premiered on January 12, 1971, where he was depicted as the head of a family. In 1979, the show was retooled and renamed Archie Bunker's Place, finally going off the air in 1983. Bunker lived at the fictional address of 704 Hauser Street in the borough of Queens in New York City.
All in the Family got many of its laughs by playing on Archie's bigotry, although the dynamic tension between Archie and liberal Mike provided an ongoing political and social sounding board for a variety of topics. Archie appears in all but seven episodes of the series (three were missed because of a contractual dispute between Carroll O'Connor and Norman Lear in Season 5).
In 1999 TV Guide ranked him number 5 on its 50 Greatest TV Characters of All Time list. In 2005, Archie Bunker was listed as number 1 on Bravo's 100 Greatest TV Characters, defeating runners-up such as Ralph Kramden, Lucy Ricardo, Fonzie, and Homer Simpson. Archie's armchair is in the permanent collection of the National Museum of American History.
Famous for his gruff, bigoted persona—blacks, Hispanics, "Commies", hippies, gays, Jews, Catholics, "women's libbers", and Polish-Americans are frequent targets of his barbs. Rather than being motivated by malice, he is portrayed as hardworking, a loving father and husband, as well as a basically decent man whose views are merely a product of the era and working-class environment in which he has been raised. Nevertheless, Archie is bad-tempered and frequently tells his long-suffering, scatter-brained wife Edith to "stifle yourself" and "dummy up." Series creator Norman Lear admitted that this is how his father treated Lear's mother.
As the series progressed, Archie mellows somewhat, albeit often out of necessity. In one episode, he expresses revulsion for a Ku Klux Klan-like organization which he accidentally joins. On another occasion, when asked to speak at the funeral of his friend, Stretch Cunningham, Archie—surprised to learn that his friend was Jewish—overcomes his initial discomfort and delivers a moving eulogy, closing with a heartfelt "Shalom". Most crucially, in 1978, the character became the guardian of Edith's stepcousin Floyd's nine-year-old daughter, Stephanie (Danielle Brisebois), as well as comes to accept her Jewish faith, even buying her a Star of David pendant.
Archie was also known for his frequent malapropisms and spoonerisms. For example, he refers to Edith's gynecologist as a "groinacologist" and to Catholic priests who go around sprinkling "incest" (incense) on their congregation. By the show's second season, these had become dubbed "Bunkerisms", "Archie Bunkerisms" or simply "Archie-isms".
Bunker's own ethnicity is never explicitly stated, other than the fact that he is a WASP. (Archie's character voice was created by a mix of accents Carroll O'Connor heard while studying acting in New York City.) Archie mocks the British and refers to England as a "fag country". He also refers to Germans as "Krauts", the Irish as "Micks", the Japanese as "Japs", the Italians as "Dagos", the Chinese as "Chinks", Polish people as "Polacks," Hispanics or Latinos as "Spics," and Jewish people as "Hebes." He often uses the words "colored", "jungle bunnies" or "spade" in reference to African-Americans.
Archie often misquotes the Bible. He is Protestant, though the specific denomination is never stated. He takes pride in being religious, although he rarely attends church services and constantly mispronounces the name of his minister, Reverend Felcher, as "Reverend Fletcher". (When Edith inevitably corrects him, he dismisses the error with "Whatever".)
When first introduced on All in the Family in 1971, Archie is the head of a family consisting of his wife Edith (Jean Stapleton), his adult daughter Gloria (Sally Struthers) and his liberal son-in-law, college student Michael "Mike" Stivic (Rob Reiner), with whom Archie disagrees on virtually everything: he frequently characterizes Mike as a "dumb Polack" and usually addresses him as "Meathead" because, in Archie's words, he is "dead from the neck up". During the show's first five seasons, Mike and Gloria are living with Archie and Edith, so that Mike could put himself through college. Upon Mike's graduation, they move into their own home, though it turns out to be next door, allowing Archie and Mike to interact nearly as much as they had when they were living in the same house.
Archie was born on May 20, 1924 to parents David and Sarah. Information on his siblings is inconsistent, as three are mentioned and Archie is seen talking on the phone to his younger brother Fred in "Cousin Oscar" (as well as Fred's daughter Debbie Marie), but during season 6 episode "Archie Finds a Friend", he states that he is an only child. Two later episodes (one during season 8 and another during season 9) feature Fred (played by Richard McKenzie) and it is now suggested that Fred is Archie's only sibling. Another of Fred's daughters, Linda, visited during the third season (she briefly dated the Bunkers' neighbor Lionel in "Lionel Steps Out").
Two of Archie's cousins are depicted: Oscar, who dies off-camera in the Bunker house during a visit and another cousin Bertha (played by Peggy Rea, who appears in the same episode), apparently a somewhat distant cousin, as Archie does not recognize her.
Archie celebrates his 50th birthday in a 1974 episode and the character is last seen on the final episode of Archie Bunker's Place, on April 4, 1983. He is a Taurus. In Season 5 during a three-episode stretch where Archie's whereabouts are unknown, it is revealed that he graduated from Flushing High School and lettered in baseball.
While locked in the storeroom of Archie's Place with Mike in the episode "Two's a Crowd", a drunk Archie confides that as a child, his family was desperately poor and that he was teased in school because he wore one shoe on one foot and a boot on the other, with kids nicknaming him "Shoe-Booty". In the same episode, Mike learns that Archie was mentally and physically abused by his father, who was the source of his bigoted views. Yet Archie then goes on to vehemently defend his father, who he claims loved him and taught him "right from wrong." The only clue to his father's occupation is a railroad watch that Archie receives from his formerly long-estranged brother, Alfred, or "Fred", who later appeared in two AitF episodes, "Archie's Brother" and "The Return of Archie's Brother," and the Archie Bunker's Place episode "Father Christmas."
Fred and Archie, as it is learned when Fred visits Archie in the "Archie's Brother" episode, had not seen each other in the 29 years since Archie and Edith's wedding, although they apparently had communicated over the years via phone (two early episodes -- "Cousin Oscar" and "Lionel Steps Out" -- depict phone conversations between Archie and Fred), their long estrangement fueled because of a petty argument, apparently out of a sibling rivalry of sorts going back to their childhood: Fred visits Archie for support because he is about to go into the hospital for a major operation and the two apparently seem to patch things up between them. However, in Fred's return trip to visit Archie and Edith, he arrives with a beautiful 18-year-old wife named Katherine. This leads to a heated discussion, which erupts into argument between Archie and Fred over May–September romances and places another strain on the relationship between Archie and Fred, who storms angrily out of the Bunker home with his teen bride. Archie and Fred apparently are estranged for the next three-plus years and putting a further strain on the relationship was the 1981 arrival of Fred's 18-year-old daughter, Barbara ("Billie") Denise Miller, who is also upset over her father's marriage to someone less than three years older than she is (although Billie herself begins dating someone 15 years her senior: by this time, the show was known as Archie Bunker's Place). Fred visits again for Christmas in 1982, finally revealing to everyone why he left his first wife and found love with Katherine.
Archie is a World War II veteran who had been based in Foggia, Italy for twenty-two months. During a visit with a doctor it is stated that he had an undistinguished military record for his non-combat ground role in the Air Corps, later called the Army Air Forces, which at the time was a branch of the United States Army. Archie often insisted that he was a member of the Air Corps. He received the Good Conduct Medal and in the episode "Archie's Civil Rights" it is disclosed he also received the Purple Heart for being hit in his buttocks by shrapnel.
He married Edith Bunker 22 years before the first season. Later recollections of their mid-1940s courtship do not result in a consistent timeline. On the flashback episode showing Mike and Gloria's wedding, Archie indicates to Mike that his courtship of Edith lasted two years and hints that their relationship was not consummated until a month after their wedding night. Edith elsewhere recollects that Archie fell asleep on their wedding night and blurts out that their sex life has not been very active in recent years. On another occasion, Edith reveals Archie's history of gambling addiction, which caused problems in the early years of their marriage. Archie also reveals that when Edith was in labor with Gloria, he took her to Bayside Hospital on the Q5 bus because "the subway don't run to Bayside."
According to Edith, Archie's resentment of Mike stemmed primarily from the fact that Mike was attending college, while Archie had been forced to drop out of high school during the Great Depression to help support his family. Archie does not take advantage of the GI Bill to further his education, although he does attend night school to earn a high school diploma in 1973. Archie is also revealed to have been an outstanding baseball player in his youth: his dream was to pitch for the New York Yankees. He had to give up this dream when he left high school to enter the workforce. His uncle got him a job on a loading dock after World War II and by the 1970s he was a foreman.
A Protestant, Archie seldom attends church, despite professing strong Christian views. The original pilot mentions that in the 22 years Archie and Edith were married, Archie had only attended church seven times (including their wedding day) and that Archie had walked out of the sermon the most recent time, disgusted with the preacher's message (which he perceived as leftist). Archie's religiosity often translates into knee-jerk opposition to atheism or agnosticism (which Mike and Gloria variously espoused), Catholicism, and, until late in the series, Judaism.
Archie is a Republican and an outspoken supporter of Richard Nixon, as well as an early (1976) supporter of Ronald Reagan, correctly predicting his election in 1980. During the Vietnam War, he dismisses peace protesters as unpatriotic and has little good to say about the Civil Rights Movement. Despite having an adversarial relationship with his black neighbors, the Jeffersons, he forms an unlikely friendship with their son Lionel, who performs various odd jobs for the Bunkers and tolerates Archie's patronizing racial views.
The later spinoff series 704 Hauser features a new, black family moving into Bunker's old home. The series is set in 1994, but does not indicate whether Bunker, who would be 70 by this time, is still alive. His now-adult grandson, Joey Stivic, appears briefly in the first episode of the series and references his grandfather, but doesn't state whether he's still alive at this point.
Such was the name recognition and societal influence of the Bunker character that by 1972 commentators were discussing the "Archie Bunker vote" (i.e., the voting bloc comprising urban, white, working-class men) in that year's presidential election: in the same year, there was a parody election campaign, complete with T-shirts, campaign buttons, and bumper stickers, advocating "Archie Bunker for President." The character's imprint on American culture is such that Archie Bunker's name was still being used in the media in 2008, to describe a certain group of voters who voted in that year's U.S. presidential election.
Norman Lear originally intended that Bunker be strongly disliked by audiences. Lear was shocked when Bunker quietly became a beloved figure to much of middle America. Lear thought that Bunker's opinions on race, sex, marriage, and religion were so wrong as to represent a parody of right wing bigotry. Sammy Davis, Jr., who was both black and Jewish, genuinely liked the character. He felt that Bunker's bigotry was based on his rough, working-class life experiences and that Bunker was honest and forthright in his opinions, showing an openness to changing his views if an individual treated him right. Davis in fact appeared in an episode of All in the Family.
- All in the Family
- Archie Bunker's Place
- Alf Garnett
- Edith Bunker
- Eric Cartman
- Homer Simpson
- Kenny Powers
- List of All in the Family episodes
- Peter Griffin
- Stan Smith
- TV Guide to TV. Barnes and Noble. 2004. p. 651. ISBN 0-7607-5634-1.
- "The 100 Greatest TV Characters". Bravo. Archived from the original on October 15, 2007. Retrieved January 14, 2012.
- TV's 50 Funniest Phrases, NBC, May 26, 2009.
- "Archie and the KKK," Parts I and II
- Episode 197
- Rosa, A. F.; Eschholz, P. A. (1972). "Bunkerisms: Archie's Suppository Remarks in All in the Family". The Journal of Popular Culture (2): 271. doi:10.1111/j.0022-3840.1972.0602_271.x.
- "Till Death Us Do Part". comedy.co.uk. Retrieved September 12, 2013.
- In episode 106, Archie and the Quiz, there is a direct reference to the fact that Archie was born in 1924.
- stated in season one, episode one, "Meet the Bunkers"
- Last original airing of Archie Bunker's Place
- "Archie and the FBI"
- Video on YouTube[dead link]
- Yahoo!News at the Wayback Machine (archived March 9, 2008)
- The Archie Bunker strategy? | Philadelphia Daily News | 13 March 2008[dead link]
- Archie Bunker information at tvland.com
- The Bunkers' chairs at the National Museum of American History