Married With Children is one of those comedies that could only have emerged at a very specific moment in time. In this case, this was the early 1990s, when the new Fox network was trying to establish its own brand identity.
Centering on the character of Al, played by Ed O’Neill, the series was known for pushing the envelope in terms of what was acceptable fare for network television. Al himself was, in many ways, the distillation of all that was wrong with American masculinity. As such, there are quite a few aspects of his character that would definitely never see the light of day if the series were made today.
10 NO MA’AM
Fans of the series will recall that Al and his fellow male friends were outraged when their bowling alley was taken over by women. In response, they formed NO MA’AM, a vehemently anti-feminist organization.
Of course, the whole affair was played for laughs, but there’s still something more than a little menacing about this group that seems to be the distillation of all sorts of grievance politics that, seen from the light of 2020, seems very retrograde indeed.
9 Fat Shaming
One of the central aspects of Al’s personality is his loathing of fatness. This proves to be quite a problem for him since he sees many of the women that come into the shoe store as too large for his personal tastes. This is, of course, a problem in and of itself, but it’s made worse by the fact that he’s open in his contempt for them.
Perhaps this wouldn’t be quite so bad if the series encouraged the audience to see Al as repulsive in his fat-shaming, but far too often it seems to laugh along with him.
8 Insulting Marcy’s Femininity
If Al has a nemesis in the show, it’s his neighbor Marcy, who seems to take an especial sort of delight in tormenting him in every way possible. Unfortunately, Al proves to be just as good at poking fun at her. In particular, he takes aim at her femininity (or lack thereof).
Again, these moments are played for laughs, but the borderline homophobia that Al uses in his ripostes with Marcy is something that would definitely not make it into the network television of today.
7 His General Anti-Feminist And Anti-Woman Stance
Throughout the series, Al makes no secret of the fact that he has intense antipathy toward feminism and, frankly, toward women in general. Basically, he seems to see them as either objects for him to ogle with impunity or as impediments to what he wants to get out of life (this is particularly true of his wife, Peg).
Again, it’s not just that he has these opinions that are the problem, it’s the fact that the series all too often doesn’t give the viewer as much chance to distance themselves from him as one might expect.
6 His Objectification Of Women
Though Al seems to despise women, for the most part, that doesn’t stop him from finding them attractive, providing that they adhere to his very specific idea of what constitutes female beauty.
The moments when he leers at women are truly some of the most distressing in the show, in part because he seems to show absolutely no compunction about making women the object of his gaze, no matter how absolutely gross he appears while doing so.
5 How Often He Threatened Physical Violence Against Peg
It’s really quite strange that Al has such profound antipathy toward his wife Peg, considering that she is, by most standards, a very attractive woman. This doesn’t really stop Al from treating her with the utmost disrespect including, on several occasions, threatening her with violence.
Again, it’s presented in a fairly lighthearted (albeit, unacceptable) way but, considering how common domestic violence is, it doesn’t seem like such a laughing matter (and, frankly, wasn’t at the time that the series was made).
4 How He Treats Peg And His Kids, In General
The Bundys are, in many ways, one of the most dysfunctional families to have ever appeared on network television. In large part, this is because Al seems to see them as a millstone hanging around his neck, impediments to all of the things that he’d hoped to be able to achieve in his life.
As a result, he treats all of them (except, at times, his children) with all of the contempt that comes from his years of resentment at the way that his life turned out.
3 The Hand In The Pants
Every sitcom character has some sort of mannerism that sets them apart and that makes them the character that they are. In Al’s case, this is sitting on the couch with his hand down his pants.
It is, of course, a lewd and suggestive sort of action, and one of the things that most people remember most about the show. However, it’s also one of those things that viewers today would find too lewd and offensive to be shown on the screen.
2 His Constant Complaints About How His Life Turned Out Not Being His Fault
It’s immediately clear to the viewer that Al isn’t exactly leading his best life. He doesn’t have a lot of money, he has a job that is miserable, and he doesn’t seem to have very many good friends.
Rather than taking any accountability for his own mistakes and choices that led him to this place in his life, Al spends most of his time blaming everyone else, particularly his wife and children. It’s hardly the sort of thing that would make him appealing to a contemporary audience.
1 Encouraging Bud To Grow Up To Be Just Like Him
Though, for the most part, Al seems to strongly dislike his family, he does have moments of tenderness toward his children. In particular, he seems to want his son Bud to grow up to be like him.
While this would be a laudable sentiment for a different sort of character, to see a man like Al trying to replicate his own mistakes in the next generation is something that would definitely not sit well with viewers today.