Fox’s debut primetime show Married With Children remains one of the best ’80s sitcoms that expanded well into the ’90s. The show centered around Al Bundy’s miserable life and his wacky unappreciative family. The show was considered a refreshing addition to a slew of sitcoms that otherwise portrayed family life as nothing but perfect. The Bundy family was problematic then, and it remains even more so on a re-watch.
There are countless of tropes and jokes that aged like milk on Married With Children, so much so that many believe the show would never survive a day if it aired today. But even though it can be highly offensive, Married With Children still manages to make people laugh today. After all, Al and his Oprah-obsessed wife Peggy make for a pretty hilarious fictional couple.
10 Aged Poorly: Fat-Shaming
One of the first things that spring to mind about Married With Children is the fact that today, Al Bundy would never get away with all the fat-shaming. It’s not just Al’s insensitive insults that are problematic, it’s the fact that the show itself also made fun of overweight people.
It’s one thing to portray the main character as fat-phobic; there are many characters in contemporary TV shows who are biased as well. The problematic thing about Married With Children is that it was intrinsically fat-shaming. For example, they had two overweight women get stuck in the doorway.
9 Still Relatable: The Struggles Of A Working Class Family
Married With Children was a reactionary TV show: most families from the best 1980s sitcoms were wholesome, lovable, and idyllic. In response, Fox created a family that had a fair share of their struggles. Today, people can’t imagine supporting a middle class family on a salary of one shoe salesman, but they can still relate to the working-class America that is portrayed in the show. It is still very much alive, but rarely talked about.
Al Bundy is perpetually broke, he dislikes his family and his family dislikes him back, and no one really cares about him. In an era where the vast majority of sitcoms portrays (young) adults with financially unrealistic story arcs, Married With Children keeps it real.
8 Aged Poorly: A Total Lack Of Parenting
Al and Peggy are by no means exemplary partners and they also make for horrible parents. One of the things that aged poorly about Peggy is how she showed up as a mother. She made for a pretty bad role model: she never encouraged her daughter Kelly to do better in school or tried to truly get to know any of her children.
When 25 year-old Kelly came to Peggy when she was in distress and wanted to talk about something, Peggy asked her whether she got her period. This woman had no idea whatsoever about who her own children were.
7 Still Relatable: It’s Somewhat Realistic
They might not like it, but a lot of people today are unfortunately just as misogynistic, racist, and overall ignorant as the Bundy family. The 21st century sitcoms, too, are still casually racist and viewers still find such jokes relatable and funny: How I Met Your Mother was offensive towards Asians and the guys from The Big Bang Theory are all unapologetically sexist, but it’s normalized since they are portrayed as harmless and “adorkable.”
Those who watch Married With Children today might find certain jokes crude, but there’s no doubt they will understand the punchlines behind them just fine.
6 Aged Poorly: Slut-Shaming
Bud Bundy is the smartest member of the Bundy family, but since he is also bullied, he is also very frustrated. He takes his frustrations out on his sister Kelly, slut-shaming her every chance he gets; he got a lot of them, too. Kelly brought a different young man home almost every week, and none of them were exactly impressive boyfriend material.
What’s the most frustrating about Bud’s slut-shaming is that what he looks down on Kelly for, he looks for in his ideal partner. He is a massive hypocrite, which makes matters even worse. Similarly, Al always fantasizes about sex with other women, but he shames his wife for having a high libido.
5 Still Relatable: Crass One-Liners
Al Bundy really doesn’t have much going for him, but he definitely came up with some witty one-liners and he didn’t spare anybody with them, not even his wife. When Peggy asked him whether he missed her, he replied “With every bullet so far.”
Fans might not agree with the show’s notion that every marriage is by default miserable, but they have to give it to Al: he really knew how to think on his feet when it comes to crass observations.
4 Aged Poorly: Objectification Of Women
The live audience literally lost it every time Christina Applegate’s character showed up, especially when she wore tight-fitting clothes and leather outfits. The fact that the actress was just a teenager at a time certainly didn’t age well.
Women were often reduced to their appearances in the show. Al made fun of Marcy’s lack of femininity, while he was literally drooling every time a conventionally attractive woman came by. The show often prolonged shots of women’s cleavages and had them bend over.
3 Still Relatable: The Trials And Tribulations Of Teenagers
Fans might not agree with Kelly’s validation-seeking behavior or Bud’s sleazy attempts to get women to notice him, but they’d be naïve to think that today’s youth is any different. It’s just the way they go about it that has changed so much in the last thirty years.
Kelly was a popular mean girl, but she struggled with grades. Bud, on the other hand, was a straight-A student and he made for an easy target for bullies.
2 Aged Poorly: Al’s Hatred Of His Wife
Married With Children is often referred to as the “Love and Marriage” show since Sinatra’s famous song was used as the original intro theme. The bleak reality of a marriage was one of the most prominent themes of the show, and one of the hardest ones to watch from today’s point of view.
Al hated his wife: he recoiled every time she touched him and he hated how she spent his money. Their marriage was highly dysfunctional and it certainly didn’t age well. A modern viewers might think to themselves: “Just get a divorce already!”
1 Still Relatable: There Are No Taboos
Married With Children‘s appeal lies in the fact that it is uncensored, rude, and shocking. There are many shows that enjoy their success for similar reasons, such as South Park or Family Guy. There are many fans who appreciate just how little this monumental show cared about being mindful of taboos.
While S&M outfits are completely normalized today, it was considered quite a (refreshing) shock when Peggy first donned her dominatrix attire and whipped her dusty couch.