Character overview Edit
Michael Stivic was a supporting character in All in the Family, a long running American television sitcom of the 1970s. He was the fictional live-in son-in-law of the series's lead role, the bigoted and undereducated Archie Bunker, and husband of Archie's daughter Gloria. Actor and later director Rob Reiner played the role of Michael Stivic throughout the series.
The character of Michael Stivic is an Americanized version of the British original: Til Death Us Do Part's Mike, the Trotskyist "randy Scouse git" who aroused the passionate ire of his arch-conservative father-in-law Alf Garnett. For the American version of this character, the Trotskyist angle was drastically softened. Michael Stivic's first meeting with Archie (seen in a flashback) showed him to be a bearded hippie with a tie-dyed shirt. However, his wardrobe throughout most of the series was much more subdued; most often he wore a denim shirt, jeans, and boots. He shaved his beard for his wedding with Gloria, but kept his mustache and wore his hair well below the collar. (As Reiner was losing his hair very rapidly early on in the series, he began wearing a toupee when playing his character.) Michael was seen as a representative of the counterculture of the 1960s (reflecting what were then current events during the period in which the show was broadcast), though unlike his hippie friends, he was a dedicated academic.
Michael Stivic was a Polish-American from Chicago (despite Rob Reiner's New York accent, which made him refer to "Archie" as Awch rather than Arch). He was orphaned at a young age, but the viewer does not find out how.
Exacerbating the conflicts between the graduate student Michael and his father-in-law Archie Bunker, was the fact that for much of the television series, these two characters live under the same roof. This proximity means that the tensions between these seemingly diametrically opposed people result in endless arguments over the simplest of topics.
As the character developed, however, it becomes clear that he and Archie are not entirely dissimilar. Just as Archie Bunker is a satire of arch-conservative attitudes, within the context of the show Michael's character is a critique of the limits of liberalism, especially in the sex-based hierarchy of marriage. Michael's treatment of his wife Gloria (played by Sally Struthers) is repeatedly called to account for his sense of superiority over her. This means that as much as the conflicts between Archie and Michael represent conflicts between "modern" liberalism and "old-fashioned" conservatism, the conflicts between the Stivics also serve to illuminate the close similarities between the liberal patriarch, Michael, and the conservative patriarch, Archie. All these themes were carried over from Till Death Us Do Part.
In the episode titled Everybody Tells the Truth, Archie and Michael are shown to be alike in that both of them are not above twisting the truth to suit their own racial stereotypes. He also had two uncles named Alex and Casimir.
Michael Stivic did not appear in the 1982 spin-off series Gloria, which starred Struthers. It was explained that Michael had left his wife and young son Joey (played by Christian Jacobs on Gloria) to live on a commune with a flower child in California.
Harrison Ford was offered the role but decided to turn it down.
Archie routinely refers to Michael as "Meathead", from the first time they ever meet, as seen in flashback in the second season episode "Mike Meets Archie." In Archie's own words, it means "dead from the neck up." Rob Reiner has said that "I could win the Nobel Prize and they’d write 'Meathead wins the Nobel Prize.' " 
An episode of All in the Family reveals that the young Archie Bunker himself was referred to as "Meathead".