April 2, 2014


THE GREAT DIVIDE : Norman Lear, Archie Bunker, and the rise of the bad fan. (EMILY NUSSBAUM, APRIL 7, 2014, The New Yorker)

[A]s Saul Austerlitz explains in his smart new book, "Sitcom: A History in 24 Episodes from 'I Love Lucy' to 'Community,' " Lear's most successful character managed to defy his creator, with a "Frankenstein"-like audacity. "A funny thing happened on the way to TV immortality: audiences liked Archie," Austerlitz writes. "Not in an ironic way, not in a so-racist-he's-funny way; Archie was TV royalty because fans saw him as one of their own." [...]

To critics, the show wasn't the real problem: its audience was. In 1974, the social psychologists Neil Vidmar and Milton Rokeach offered some evidence for this argument in a study published in the Journal of Communication, using two samples, one of teen-agers, the other of adults. Subjects, whether bigoted or not, found the show funny, but most bigoted viewers didn't perceive the program as satirical. They identified with Archie's perspective, saw him as winning arguments, and, "perhaps most disturbing, saw nothing wrong with Archie's use of racial and ethnic slurs." Lear's series seemed to be even more appealing to those who shared Archie's frustrations with the culture around him, a "silent majority" who got off on hearing taboo thoughts said aloud.

Irony is what you call it when you're friends are all liberal and you're saying what you mean.

Posted by at April 2, 2014 2:43 PM

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