June 10, 2008

Archie Bunker on Indians

In the March 10, 1973, episode of All in the Family titled "Archie Learns His Lesson," Archie is studying to earn his high-school diploma. Edith quizzes him on the test questions while Mike listens from across the room.EDITH:  Who said the treatment of the American Indian was a national disgrace?

ARCHIE:  Treatment of the American Indian, national disgrace. Uhh.

ARCHIE:  Well, uh, Geronimo?

EDITH:  Nooo.

ARCHIE:  C’mon, it had to be some Indian that said that. Who?

EDITH:  President Kennedy.

ARCHIE:  Aw, that’s a lie. Kennedy never said that.

ARCHIE:  Oh, maybe he said it, but he didn’t mean it. He maybe said it when he was running for office, trying to get the Indian vote, which he never got anyhow.

MIKE:  How do you know?

ARCHIE:  Because, Meathead, the Indians don’t vote.

MIKE:  Archie, the Indians were given the vote in 1924.

ARCHIE:  I ain’t talking about that. I’m saying that they don’t use their vote like a fella told me. They sell all their horses for booze and then they can’t ride into town.

MIKE:  That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!

ARCHIE:  That ain’t stupid. That’s the truth. That’s what the Indians do to us after all we done for them.

MIKE:  All we’ve done for them?! Arch, let me tell you something about this country and the American Indians and all we’ve done for them. We lied to them, we cheated them, and then we drove them off their land without paying for it.

ARCHIE:  Hold it!

MIKE:  That’s right!

ARCHIE:  What’re you talking about, their land? They never had no land. They couldn’t read or write.

ARCHIE:  How could Sitting Bull sign a lease?

ARCHIE:  All the Indians ever do is ride around scalping wagon trains.

MIKE:  Archie, what would you do if someone cheated you out of your land?

ARCHIE:  Well, I wouldn’t scalp the guy. I’d hire myself a lawyer.

MIKE:  I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it! I’m in here with this lunacy! Help me!

ARCHIE:  What’re you yelling about? I ain’t talking about the Polacks, I’m talking about the Indians.

Comment:  Archie pretty well summed up what most Americans believed at the time. Many Americans still believe such things.

For more on the subject, see TV Shows Featuring Indians.


writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
All of such lines were avoided in writerfella's teleplay, "Chief In The Night," except where Archie almost tells SkyHorse, that if he doesn't like it here, he should go back where he came from...
All Best
Russ Bates

Rob said...

I knew you'd mention your unproduced teleplay right off. It was as predictable as the sunrise. ;-)

Why would you avoid lines such as these? This is a great exchange. It's totally in character and revealing.

All in the Family was all about contrasting Archie's stereotypical beliefs with reality. There's little point in writing a scene with an Indian if it doesn't convey Archie's ignorance. If you didn't think Archie would utter lines such as these, you didn't know his character.

Joël Cuerrier said...

What amuse me too is that the typical "liberal hippie" answer tend to be just as delusional as Archie.

I think the political correctness grown out of this side, with all the effects we know. Michael is a prototype of the "politically correct" mentality of the 80's and forward.

Joël Cuerrier said...

The funny thing is, while Archie is a caricature of the reactionnary. Michael have become a caricature of the politically correct left, who's always outraged at everything that doesn't fit their narrow world view. It's bigotry against bigotry in a way. They are both wrong in their own way.

Unknown said...

Putting aside the characters the issues they discuss were and still are real. The USA government set out to exterminate the native population any way they could. Starvation, reservations , assimilation schools , forced sterilization, arrests for practicing native ways ...so while you can poke fun at the characters the real history isn't funny . Maybe political correctness is just treating all people as equals ...a concept very scary for the entitled who are afraid that they will lose their status above minorities.