Last weekend, my grandson DJ, came over to spend the afternoon. After a while he asked if I had any funny DVD of TV programs to watch. I told him I had the whole series of “All in the Family” on DVD but I did not think he would find it interesting since although it was a hugely successful program over 40 years ago, it would be a bit dated for a teenager. Surprisingly he seemed to enjoy it but more relevant to this posting was his shock at the things that were said routinely during the program especially by Archie Bunker that today would be deemed politically incorrect and would cause a huge controversy. It just goes on to show how much things have changed today as compared to a few decades ago.
“All in the Family” was based on a British program, “Till Death do us Part” which was one of my favorite programs when I lived in the UK in the sixties. In that program, Alf Garnett played the part of a bigot who made the most irrational arguments. He made a ground-breaking move when he used the world “bloody” on TV – a word that was viewed as an obscenity at the time.
In the case of “All in the Family”, Archie Bunker played by Carroll O’Connor was also a bigot who said the most outrageous things but in an almost endearing way – it was his absurdity that neutralized the bigotry he displayed. O’Connor in real life was actually very liberal in his views though one would never suspect this based on the convincing job that he did on the program as a bigot. Bunker had a not too bright wife who he routinely treated rudely and called her a “ding-bat”. He had a daughter who was a hippy and a son-in-law whose views were completely liberal – Bunker referred to him as a “meat-head”. Despite all of his bigotry, he was quite endearing since his bigotry was not venomous and was usually quite ridiculous especially in terms of some of his pronouncements.
He routinely referred to his son-in-law as a “Pollock”, made racist comments against blacks, against women, referred to gays as “faggots” or “fruitcakes”, promoted stereo-types about Jews, etc. He used racial slurs without the slightest hesitation or inhibition and said the most inappropriate things without realizing it. Here is an example of Archie Bunker in action where he is called to give a eulogy for his friend, Stretch Cunningham, but does not realize that he was Jewish until he arrived at the wake. It is hilarious!
The sad thing is that a program like “All in the Family” would never be allowed to air in today’s politically correct atmosphere because there would be a huge outcry against the type of humor that was part of that sit-com.
On the other hand, there have been some changes for the positive: I read recently that until the airing of “The Brady Bunch” it was considered too risque for a husband and wife to be shown sharing a bed on TV! It probably explains why in “The Dick Van Dyke” show, which aired in the fifties, one saw Rob and Laura always occupying separate beds in the same bedroom!! In “Modern Family” one sees openly gay couples living together – the same show also shows an inter-racial couple which would have been frowned on not so long ago.
Some examples of political correctness having gone haywire:
In some schools you can’t call the board a “blackboard”.
Any reference to Christmas in public nowadays is taboo due to the assumption that people of all other religions are offended by it.
The term “brainstorming” is now considered offensive in some schools because it may offend epileptics.
The European Parliament introduced proposals to outlaw titles stating marital status such as ‘Miss’ and ‘Mrs’ so as not to cause offence. It also meant that ‘Madame’ and ‘Mademoiselle’, ‘Frau’ and ‘Fraulein’ and ‘Senora’ and ‘Senorita’ would be banned.
Throughout several US councils and organisations, any terms using the word ‘man’ as a prefix or suffix have been ruled as not being politically correct. ‘Manhole’ is now referred to as a ‘utility’ or ‘maintenance’ hole.
In 2007, Santa Clauses in Sydney, Australia, were banned from saying ‘Ho Ho Ho’. Their employer, the recruitment firm Westaff (that supplies hundreds of Santas across Australia), allegedly told all trainees that ‘ho ho ho’ could frighten children, and be derogatory to women – because ‘Ho Ho Ho’ is too close to the American (not Australian) slang for prostitute.
The BBC has dropped the use of the terms Before Christ (BC) and Anno Domini (AD) on one of their programs and decided that the terms ‘Before Common Era’ / ‘Common Era’ are more appropriate – never mind, that the timing is still based on the purported birth of Christ!
The book “Tom Sawyer” given to school age kids in public school by Mark Twain will be rewritten to remove any reference to the word “nigger”. That is a good example of PC going too far, because it is a masterpiece and present day people are second guessing the author and changing the meaning of his work to appease those who find it ‘wrong’.
Los Angeles County has barred IT contractors from using the terms “Master/Slave” on their computer equipment in order to preserve cultural sensitivity.
So it is apparent that political correctness has left its mark on other countries besides the US!!