Oh, Archie. You’re such a narcissist, Archie!
It didn’t strike me when I first started watching All in the Family years ago that what made it so entertaining was, of course, Archie Bunker’s narcissism. But scratch any good drama and you’ll usually find a narcissist at the bottom, creating the drama.
What triggered my “narc dar” was an episode where Archie was attempting to force Edith, Gloria and Meathe…I mean, Mike, to lie so he could work a little con and score some ill-gotten gains (at the expense of Edith’s beloved heirloom) to be invested in a new color TV set. “In what unique ways,” I asked myself, “does Archie’s narcissism evidence itself?” Four ways sprang to mind.
Archie the Self-Centered Husband
You can’t help loving Edith Bunker. She gave the Bunker family and the show its heart and warmth. Edith was ever loving, ever happy, ever faithful, ever submissive, ever codependent, ever servant-hearted, ever stupid. In other words, the perfect wife for a narcissist.
If you’ve ever wondered why Archie chose a woman whose stupidity constantly annoys him, that’s why. He knew he could always con her into going along with his shady plans and tortured logic. He knew he could always impress, or rather buffalo, brainwash and bamboozle, Edith with his semi-logical patter and gloat in his “superior” intelligence by making snide comments at her expense. He married the woman who would constantly give him narcissistic supply simply by being her loving, simple self.
Most importantly, he knew he could treat dear Edith shamefully and she’d always stay, grateful for the merest glimpse, whiff or morsel of love and affection. Edith is the “ever fixed mark” that Archie revolves around and depends on to do everything for him.
Lately it’s struck me that Edith hardly has anything she wants. Archie has his beer, his cigars, his jaunts to Kelsey’s Bar, his lodge, his bowling and his television. What does Edith have? Anything special!? Her clothes and jewelry were dowdy. Archie even demanded she return a secondhand mink cape her cousin gave her as a “thank you” gift. He even begrudged Edith her volunteering at the local nursing home, wanting her to stay home and dance attendance on him and him alone. Could anything be lower or more selfish than that!? Well, yes. It could!
He lowers himself still further by forbidding Edith to send for Cousin Maude to come and help when Edith was worn ragged nursing the family and then fell ill herself. Why? Because Maude saw right through him and wasn’t afraid to say so. She wasn’t intimidated by Archie’s temper and bluster.
Narcissists of either gender may begrudge or simply not encourage their spouse to have anything special – hobbies, friends, outings, anything extra beyond the barebones of human existence. The degree of selfishness varies, but it’s always there to some degree and it’s been weighing on my mind lately.
One wife-of-a-narcissist in my acquaintance has very bad knees and finds getting in and out of the bathtub painful. Even if she had good knees, she dislikes sitting in soapy water. So, for years, she’s bathed by squatting in their bathtub, pouring buckets of water over herself. Why oh why did her narcissistic husband never get a showerhead professional installed for her? How selfish! He has everything he needs for health and wellness, but she doesn’t even have a shower.
That’s part and parcel of the narcissistic spouse. They have those little special things they need and want while their spouse has pppffft. Food, clothes and shelter. Maybe medical and dental care. Not much more. In time, the spouse learns to be chintzy with themselves. To say “no” to their dreams, interests and hobbies. It’s a sterile existence, devoid of those little “hedonistic” delights that make life so sweet.
Archie the Jealous Father
For a long time, I’ve been searching for stories where a father becomes angrily jealous when his daughter marries. They’re few and far between. Duh! There it was on All in the Family.
Archie just can’t stand the romantic love Mike has for Gloria and their freedom to express it openly. Maybe it goes beyond Archie’s prudish hang-ups about PDAs and anything remotely about sex. Maybe it has something to do with him being a narcissistic father.
Narcissistic fathers just can’t stand to see another man have their daughter. To see him treating her well, making her happy, expressing affection. It rankles. Narcissistic fathers of daughters behave more like jilted ex-lovers than true fathers. They’ll do anything they can to prevent it from slut-shaming their girl to trying to break up the relationship. One wonder if it’s some kind of warped, “If I can’t have her then no one can have her” semi-incestuous thinking. It’s one of the things I find most unforgivable.
Archie the Uninformed
Within his four gloomy, brown Living Room walls, Archie holds court as the reigning genius. A walking, talking Encyclopedia Britannica. God-like in his wisdom and knowledge about, well, everything! There’s nothing he doesn’t know about and he’ll gladly wax eloquent about fill-in-the-blank to his captive audience. (Of course, he doesn’t know diddly-shit about most things!)
But if you go outside of those four walls and begin rubbing shoulders with other people, suddenly you realize Archie’s not a genius. He’s an idiot. That was the mistake Michael Stivic made. He had Archie pegged almost from the moment they met. He was also much better educated and informed than Archie and let him know. Mike didn’t believe in hiding his light under a bushel … Kablooey!
When I escaped narcissism, I encountered something like this. As long as you stay in the sphere of the pontificating narcissist, they bamboozle you into thinking they’re so smart. But go outside and you realize, hmmmmph! No! They’re not so smart at all. In fact, things have gotten pretty narrow, brainwashed and warped in the isolation of their little sphere. There’s a Great Big World out there teeming with such richness!
Now, we all have areas of ignorance and blind spots. Mine is having the hand/eye coordination of a toddler. (No offense to toddlers.) But narcissists refuse to acknowledge where they have gaps in knowledge or skill. Here’s a great example: I once knew a narcissist who, when installing a new bathroom vanity, very carefully measured, marked and spread glue on the wall, hoping that when he pushed the vanity against the wall, the glue would be in the right place. “Why didn’t you just put the glue on the back of the vanity instead,” someone queried. There was an awkward silence.
That same narcissist once mounted a heavy bolt on one side of the spinning disk in his handheld grass trimmer and then loudly wondered why it had such a horrible shake when he turned it on. Face-palm. He was also the one who refused to ask where any item was located in Fleet Farm. Hours would pass as he searched the aisles, growing ever more furious, dragging his hot, tired and footsore family uphill and down dale seeking an elusive item. It was narcissistic “I don’t need directions” taken to ridiculous extremes.
After escaping narcissism, I learned so much. My narrow world blossomed, bloomed and is still unfurling its splendor. I ask lots of questions. Learn about new things. Happily skip down every rabbit trail. It was surprisingly and rather wickedly delightful to discover that my narcissists were not a wikipedia. In fact, in a lot of ways, they were missing the boat.
Archie the Hypocrite
With all of Archie’s Bible-spouting, I just assumed he was a very religious man who regularly attended church. No! Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, he hasn’t darkened the door of Reverend Fletcher’s (“It’s Reverend Felcher, Archie.” “Whatever.”) church in twenty-five years. The Bible may sit prominently on top of the Bunker’s television set, but that’s all it does. Just sit, collecting dust. But that doesn’t stop Archie from spouting his warped version of it at every opportunity.
The topic of religious narcissists has been on my mind again lately. They’re going to Heaven; those who didn’t fall to their knees when proselytized aren’t. It was as simple as that. But I wonder…I dare to wonder.
Like Bunker’s Bible, my narcissists’s Bible was always prominently displayed on the breakfast table. I just assumed by its presence that devout study occurrred before I woke up each day. But now, I dare to wonder. I wonder about the Archie-like ego that claimed to have conquered difficult bits of the Bible, like Revelations and Predestination, poo-poohing those who struggled.I wonder about the Archie-like go that contradicted Scripture and threatened to rip part of my Bible out. I wonder about so-called Christians that act more like Archie Bunker than Christ.
Archie Bunker’s narcissism doesn’t stop me from enjoying All in the Family. It allows me to laugh at all narcissists. If Archie was a nice, normal guy, there’d be now show. Whatever else you may say about narcissists, they make for great, timeless television!