What TV Can Teach Us About the White Working Class
Even in a nation obsessed with representation in the media and politics, the white working class has often gone forgotten. Their economic decline, cultural decay, and frustration with the political system went unnoticed until it helped swing the 2016 presidential election. Yet even as cable news hosts and politicians were completely blindsided, narrative television did a decent job of showing this group’s suffering—even when it wasn’t portrayed accurately.
The white working class has been looked down upon since the earliest days of narrative television. As early as the mid-1950s, TV shows such as The Honeymooners and The Flintstones depicted working-class men as agents of chaos who got themselves into scrapes that their wives or middle-class bosses had to fix. Characters like Ralph Kramden were loud, overweight, and scheming to get ahead, while fathers and husbands on shows that depicted middle-class families—such as I Love Lucy, Father Knows Best, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and Bewitched—were sensible figures who brought stability to their families.
When All in the Family premiered in 1971, the character of Archie Bunker received similar treatment. He was a loud-mouthed bigot who often looked like he was taking his wife for granted and couldn’t understand his countercultural daughter, Gloria, or Mike, his hippie son-in-law.
Yet while Archie wasn’t always portrayed in a positive light, his political incorrectness made him an anti-hero and he was able to lead a respectable lifestyle in a single-income family. Like most men of his time, he was a homeowner who enjoyed strong civic institutions and a union that protected his job.
Read the full article at The American Conservative