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Edith Bunker
ArchieEdith
Edith Bunker with Archie.

Gender

Female

Age

50 in 1977

Date of Birth

October, 1927

Date of Death

September, 1980

Nationality

American

Residence

Queens, New York

Occupation

housewife; elder-care caretaker

Edith "Dingbat" Baines Bunker is a fictional 1970s sitcom mom on All in the Family (and occasionally Archie Bunker's Place), played by Jean Stapleton. She was the wife of Archie Bunker, mother of Gloria Bunker-Stivic, mother-in-law of Michael "Meathead" Stivic, and, after 1975, grandmother of Joey Stivic. Her cousin was Maude Findlay (Beatrice Arthur) who was Archie's nemesis.[1]

Character backgroundEdit

Edith Bunker was a native of New York City. Her character was portrayed as ditzy but a saint. Her accent changed somewhat between the first and second season. In the earliest episodes, she was the "put-upon wife," often bemoaning (though softly) her husband's behavior or comments. By the second season, she became the character more familiar to viewers: kind, utterly non-judgmental, and fully dedicated to her husband. Also, in the first season, she pronounced her husband's name as "Ahchie" or even "Archie." By the second season, her husband became "Awwchie."

Edith was the voice of reason and rock of understanding, often contributing a unique perspective to a topic. She was decidedly less bigoted than Archie (e.g., she was good friends with her black neighbor Louise Jefferson, while Archie was always at odds with her and husband George, and she acknowledged that she'd voted for President Jimmy Carter in one of the later episodes). But even though her opinions sometimes sharply differed from Archie's, she was intensely loyal to her husband, often stuck up for him and stood by him in his times of need. Edith was hardly the sharpest member of the family and could be a tad slow on the uptake, but she was certainly the happiest and wisest character on the show. For example, in the episode "Cousin Liz" (in which the Bunkers learn that her recently deceased cousin Liz was actually a lesbian with a life-partner, Veronica), Edith is at first a little shocked at the revelation, but quickly throws her arms around Veronica and warmly accepts her as Liz's "true next-of-kin", giving her the tea-set Liz's spouse would have legally inherited. Edith was extremely popular because she was easily the sweetest character on the show, unconditionally loving everyone she knew and also managing to keep high spirits even when she faced tragedy.

In sharp contrast, in a very memorable episode in the show's second season, Edith uncharacteristically snaps at Archie, repeatedly telling him (as he frequently did to her) to "stifle". After a visit to the doctor Gloria explains to Archie that he needs to be sensitive to the fact that Edith is going through menopause. Later on in the episode, a frustrated Archie yells at Edith "When I had the hernia I didn't make you wear the truss. Now if you're gonna have a change of life, you gotta do it right now. I'm gonna give you 30 seconds!"

When All in the Family premiered in 1971, Edith was a housewife. In 1974, to help bring in extra money to the Bunker household, Edith got a part-time job as a caretaker at the Sunshine Home. She later was a partner in Archie's business, Archie's Place, the tavern he purchased in 1977. Edith loses her job at the Sunshine Home in 1979 (for breaking a policy by allowing a terminally ill woman to die and failing to inform the staff), but in an early episode of Archie Bunker's Place, she is able to find a similar caretaker's job at another nursing home.

Edith was most known for her shrill voice (her trademark "Oh, Aaaaaaaaaah-chie!" became very popular among viewers) and her flighty demeanor. The latter character trait caused Archie to call her "dingbat".[2] However, Archie truly loved his wife and wanted what was best for both of them. Frequently, he would consult with her whenever something bothered him (such as the episode, "Archie and the KKK," where a distressed Archie asks Edith for advice on how to prevent a cross burning).

More than once, Edith sharply chastised Archie for casting judgment against other people, particularly when he mentions God. Two notable examples came in the episodes "Cousin Liz" (Archie went on a diatribe about how God hates homosexuals) and "California, Here We Are" (where, upon learning that Gloria's near affair had almost destroyed the Stivics' marriage, berates the "Little Goil" and says that the matter is "God's business"). In both instances, Edith warned Archie to back off and says that God should be left to deal with those matters and the people involved. She also became close friends with a transgendered person/drag performer known as Beverly LaSalle (Lori Shannon) who came into their lives when Archie saved her life when she required CPR, remaining friends with her, despite Archie's discomfort. Edith later had a crisis of faith after Beverly's death protecting Mike from a mugger.

Edith also serves as the voice of reason for Mike and on several occasions corrects him when, as she says, "He's been acting all stuck up." She explains to Mike why Archie yells at him. Explaining Archie doesn't hate Mike but merely is jealous of Mike's many opportunities in life.

Edith also on many occasions corrects Gloria serving to help her understand her feminist views, while correct, do not mean other view points are necessarily any less valid.

Edith is described by Archie's father as being "too smart" for him and Edith appears to have average book intelligence, she is very wise about the way life and every day existence works.

Edith's deathEdit

Archie was intensely protective of her and became upset at even the thought of losing her (a point driven home in the episode "Too Good Edith," the final episode of All in the Family, in which Edith becomes seriously ill while frantically helping Archie cook Irish dinners for a St. Patrick's Day celebration at the bar).

Archie's worst nightmare came true in 1980, on the re-titled All in the Family continuation series Archie Bunker's Place, when Edith died (off-camera) of a stroke.

Jean Stapleton had wished to leave her role (in interviews, Stapleton has stated the role of Edith had reached its potential). Her appearances on the prior season sharply declined. The 1980–1981 season premiere of Archie Bunker's Place acknowledged Edith's death (which had occurred a month before), and focused on Archie's denial and later grieving over Edith's death. The memorable episode ends with Archie alone in the bedroom in which he finds one of Edith's slippers, at which time he mourns her passing.

The following is part of the transcript from the episode on Edith's death: Template:Quote It was only with great reluctance that producer Norman Lear killed off his beloved character. When Jean Stapleton reminded him that Edith was a fictional character, Lear responded "I don't see it that way."

Jean Stapleton appeared as a presenter on an Emmy Awards Telecast (after the episode of "Edith's Death" aired) and said to the viewing audience: "See! I'm still here!"

Cultural impact Edit

Edith and Archie's chairs have been noted as famous pieces of history by their inclusion in the National Museum of American History.[3]

References Edit

  1. Encyclopedia of Television entry on All in the Family[1]
  2. This is an allusion to an early 20th Century comic strip, The Dingbat Family, by cartoonist George Herriman.
  3. The NMAH, The Bunker's Chairs.

External linksEdit

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