Ed O’Neill has just reached retirement age. For those who never watched Married…with Children, his character Al Bundy blew the top off the “perfect” sitcom dad. Al was a miserable, washed-up high school fullback who couldn’t make ends meet selling shoes. His life sucked.
George Jetson gave Jane his wallet, but Al had to pay off Peg, both his kids and the dog. If Dick Van Dyke’s biggest problem was tripping over the ottoman, imagine how he’d have felt if his wife kicked him out of a bunk bed and through the floor. And did The King of Queens ever get broke enough to hold up a sign saying “SHOOT ME $12“? Al was basically the Trix Rabbit of sitcom dads—no matter what his scheme, you knew he’d lose in the end.
But what makes Al great are those few moments when he makes a stand. He becomes a neighborhood hero when he starts NO MA’AM (National Organization of Men Against Amazonian Masterhood). He leads a revolution to the streets when the city puts a tax on beer. He stands up for himself and men everywhere.
In the best speech of his life, Al tells off a bitchy old librarian who calls him a loser: “I’ll never play football like I thought I would, I’ll never know the touch of a beautiful woman, and I’ll never again know the joy of driving without a bag on my head. But I’m not a loser. ‘Cause despite it all, me and every other guy who’ll never be what he wanted to be, are still out there, being what we don’t wanna be, forty hours a week, for life. And the fact that I haven’t put a gun to my mouth, you pudding of a woman, makes me a winner!”
There may never be another TV character this frank. His simple existence makes a great point. Being a man is difficult, and getting by can be even more difficult. Keeping on and pushing forward makes us winners, even if we’re losers.
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