Something amazing is happening on television. Networks are bringing back shows we watched when we were younger. I Love Lucy has been off and on the networks but I am now seeing shows like Three's Company, Barney Miller, M*A*S*H and All in the Family. These are shows that pushed the envelope in terms of sexual roles, societal expectations and race relations. People really thought this way? Apparently so. And worse.
When I watched them as a wide-eyed teenager, I never noticed the ground-breaking precedents they were setting. I was simply entertained and yes, occasionally pleased to see women sticking up for themselves, sarcasm rather than violence coming from a mistreated African American or Archie Bunker getting his come uppence from Edith, his milk-toast wife.
It's funny to think that there are scenes from thirty-some years ago that can still tickle the funny bone but more odd is that we can recall moments that shaped who we became in adulthood. These shows had that power.
I am reminded of an All in the Family episode where Archie takes offence at the way in which Meathead (Michael) puts on his socks and shoes. Michael slips on one sock while Archie is talking and then he reaches for a shoe. Archie is pulled up short when Michael then reaches for the second sock. Archie grabs the sock from his hand and after a minor argument asks a simple question.
"Don't you know the whole world puts on a sock and a sock and a shoe and a shoe?"
Perhaps this questions illustrates the whole theme of that show and many of its kind. Characters blatantly flout the established world order, they actively go against the norm. This behaviour defined the sixties and seventies. It created a world where young people saw everything as possible and nothing as restricted.
Unlike their parents, who saw everything as having a single purpose. A place for everything and everything in its place. Replace the word 'everything' with 'everyone' and you've got the closed-minded, policy-following, conservative older generation. Archie was conservative, Michael was liberal. Archie was unreceptive to change, Michael changed everything in Archie's world.
We humans don't like change but we've settled down a bit and don't parade around with signs asking for integrated water fountains or the right to vote. We've identified an equality quotient and we're working hard to spread it across all cultures. Those who don't agree are in the minority. At least, we hope.
So the next time you are putting on socks and shoes, try doing it differently. A sock and a shoe and a sock and a shoe rather than a sock and a sock and a shoe and a shoe. See if you can break your own little mold.
It's good these shows are coming back. It reminds us of just how far we've come. Or perhaps, it infers how much further we have yet to go.