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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' lead character, Archie Bunker, who frequently called him "Meathead". Michael was the husband of Archie's daughter Gloria (played by Sally Struthers). Rob Reiner played the role of Michael Stivic throughout the series.
The character of Michael Stivic is an Americanized version of the British original: Till 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 and is presented as possibly a Democrat who is sympathetic to the Students for a Democratic Society movement (SDS), which is hinted by his occasional use of SDS ally and Yippie leader Abbie Hoffman's guerrilla theatre antics.
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"), while focusing his efforts on earning a college degree in sociology. 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 afterwards (on rare occasions later in the series, however, he would go for a clean shaven look) 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. In season 2, episode 5, "Flashback: Mike Meets Archie" (mentioned above), which first aired October 16, 1971, Mike and Gloria celebrate their first wedding anniversary. 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 revealed 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 conservative 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. Along with other issues, such as Michael's frequent decision to sit in Archie's coveted chair and huge appetite for food purchased by Archie's working-class income, their huge ideological differences greatly contributed to the conflict between the two characters. Michael is a determined agnostic-though he would at times identify himself as an atheist in order to rile up Archie, who assumed he was in complete disbelief of God-, in contrast to his mother-in-law's quiet Christian church attendance and his non-practicing but nonetheless staunchly Christian father-in-law. He also is a dedicated humanitarian who wishes to help change the world: originally, Michael wanted to become a social worker, but his career aspirations shifted towards teaching as the series progressed. When the neighboring Jefferson family moves out of the neighborhood, the family patriarch George allows Michael to rent his old house so Michael and Gloria can have a home of their own. George, however, is still the house's legal owner. Although being next door still results in frequent visits, the tension between Michael and Archie eases as they now live under different roofs.
Despite his frequent conflicts with his father-in-law, Mike enjoys a warm relationship with his mother-in-law, Edith, whom he calls "Ma". Edith frequently intervenes to try to defuse tensions between her husband and son-in-law, though she also occasionally takes Mike to task for initiating unnecessary arguments with Archie, and, in 1973 episode "Games Bunkers Play", offers insight to Mike into Archie's attitude toward him, suggesting that Archie had to drop out of high school to help support his family during the Depression, and that he resents the fact that Mike had the chance to attend college and advance his education.
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. It is revealed in the season eight episode Gloria and Mike Meet that in 1969, Michael's dedication to humanitarianism was galvanized in order to weaken support for newly elected President Richard Nixon and that he was probably a member of the SDS's newly formed Worker Student Alliance that sought to encourage university students to find ways to fix problems within the working class.
Though supportive of human rights, Michael would at times display male chauvinism as well; examples showed when he did not want his appendix removed by a female doctor and was a sore loser when playing a board game called Group Therapy with his family and neighbors. Though he differed with Archie over the potential successes women and racial minorities could achieve, Michael also believed that neither could socially evolve without good education from people like him; such an example showed when he falsely characterized a blue-collar handyman's African American assistant as a minstrel show stereotype who donned the same "happy-go-lucky" attire as his boss in the season 3 episode Everybody Tells the Truth (Archie's version is just as stereotyped—the assistant is a member of the Black Power movement and his boss is a mafia thug). He was also determined to ensure that Gloria shared his beliefs.
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. In the first season, Lionel surprises Michael by announcing that he and his family are moving into the house next door to the Bunkers. However, the characters rarely see or refer to each other after the Jeffersons leave All in the Family to join the spin-off The Jeffersons, George Jefferson, however, would later make a guest appearance at his old residence when the Stivics start preparing for their move to California and meet with him to give notice that they will no longer be staying in his house. 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) visit Michael and Gloria, exposing the fact that the couple have secretly separated due to troubles in their marriage, including an infidelity Gloria had with one of his college faculty colleagues. 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 Michael having lost his job after he and Gloria participated in a nude protest of a proposed nuclear power plant and got arrested. 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 in a California commune with one of his students (which suggests he had found a new teaching job) -- whom Gloria described as "the homecoming queen, a girl named Muffy" -- and was in the process of going through a bitter divorce. At the beginning of the series (September 1982), it has been 63 days since Michael walked out on Gloria; Michael calls to invite Gloria to the commune, but things deteriorate quickly when he claims Gloria is incapable holding a job, or of supporting herself and Joey. By the end of the series (spring 1983), the divorce is final.
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.
- Vincent Terrace (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010, 2d ed. McFarland & Company. p. 240. ISBN 9780786464777. Retrieved February 17, 2014.
- Real Time with Bill Maher (January 18, 2012). "Real Time With Bill Maher: Overtime - Episode #233". Retrieved October 5, 2017 – via YouTube.
- Davis, Ivor. "5 minutes with Rob Reiner", Manila Times, 2003. Archived March 11, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
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