Jean Stapleton partially based Edith off of a ''beloved dingbat'' in her family

Stapleton was able to pull from her family tree to find inspiration for Edith Bunker.

We've all got a dingbat in our family, and if you don't think you do, I've got bad news: You're the dingbat. 

In Jean Stapleton's case, the dingbat she knew and loved was an aunt in her family that lent itself to a very important character on television.

In an interview with The Republic, Stapleton revealed that while much of her creation of the character of Edith Bunker was organic, there were aspects of her personality that were shared with her aunt. Stapleton stated, "The character of Edith isn't completely modeled after anyone. But there are many facets of a very dear aunt - a beloved dingbat." Of her aunt, Stapleton said, "She would have loved the show."

Again, the rest of Edith Bunker is all Jean Stapleton. In an interview with The Commercial Appeal, she explained, "That's what character acting is all about. I became involved in the character and project the image I've summed up in my mind. That dictates Edith's vocal quality, appearance, walk, expressions — everything."

While All in the Family is a comedy and much of its material finds its laughter in its most outrageous moments, Stapleton felt that the show depicted a level of realism that would actually serve to be educational to its viewers. She said, "His [Archie's] bigotry is not lovable, it's laughable. But Archie is lovable...By laughing at bigotry, we're not exonerating it, we're focusing on it."

Such an education would be imparted to viewers like Stapleton's two children. The actor stated, "Boy, will they know an Archie when they meet one."

So acutely aware of the show's pursuits, Stapleton confessed in an interview with The Sunday News that All in the Family was a collaborative effort between the actors and writers, and the lines between them often became blurred. She said, "We're a team. The writers are willing to yield. They bend to us, realizing we've been at it so long."

By united forces and putting their heads together, the entire cast and crew of All in the Family was able to take charge under one common goal, which Stapleton gracefully explained during her interview with The Commercial Appeal. She said, "We don't try to preach, or change people or stop bigotry. Our purpose is to be humorous, and we hope that comedy's the best way to get a subtle message across."

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9 Comments

BradBeall 4 months ago
I still can't bring myself to watch this show any more. Yes, I've seen most episodes, and most of those more than once. What Irks me about this show is that Archie - faulted as he may be - is simply trying to live his life, in his own home, the only way he knows how. He's constantly being harassed and berated by a guy who not only "stole" his daughter, but won't even find a place of his own to live. And to top it off, this same guy eats food provided by Archie's labor, and enjoys every other benefit that comes from living in a decent home, from the grace of a man he constantly irritates. If I was Archie, I'd toss the bum out into the street, leaving his daughter with the option to join him...
Avie 4 months ago
"His [Archie's] bigotry is not lovable, it's laughable. But Archie is lovable...By laughing at bigotry, we're not exonerating it, we're focusing on it."

What Stapleton could have said, but duidn't, is that Archie, and all the Archies he represent, are tragic figures because their bigotry isn't dictated by sunspots or the unchangable tides; they could be better people than they are, but will not put in the minimal effort it takes to see beyond their own needs and fears and appreciate what it's like to be someone else who's simply different by dint of skin color, or language or ethic background or sex.
JKMallaber Avie 4 months ago
Toward the end, change could be seen, thanks to Stephanie, the little Jewish girl who came to live with them. In one episode, he gave her a star of David pendant, and if I recall correctly, had some sweet words for her that came from the heart. A little child shall lead them . . .
justjeff 5 months ago
Trivia time:

In the printing industry, the term "dingbat" refers to a small, ornamental piece of work that was placed strategically into a print job to either separate paragraphs or call attention to certain text.

Technically, the emojis we use on this thread, if done in print [especially letterpress], would be dingbat pieces...
🏆👀😘🙏🎙💖✌🌨🌍🚩🍔🌶☘🌭🎨🐍🎈✨🎥🎬🎗🎞🌟
CouchPotato19 justjeff 4 months ago
Hey! You taught us something interesting! Thanks!
justjeff CouchPotato19 4 months ago
You're more than welcome!
Andybandit 5 months ago
Edith is my favorite character on AITF.
Claramae Andybandit 4 months ago
I love all the characters. They all come together to make it the show that it became. You just one of my all-time favorites. It's sad to think about Archie and Edith no longer with us but the first episodes were filmed when my parents were still alive. It was at a simpler time before our country became so out of control and hate filled. Archie Bunker with roll over in his grave at the changes since All in the Family! I think only then would he realize that what he was focused on would be so very trivial In today's topsy-turvy world. Carol O'Connor was one of my favorite actors I also loved him in the heat of the night but nothing like All in the Family. I never could watch any of the episodes after Edith died. I don't think anyone ever aires those anymore. When things for sure and maybe I'm biased nothing in today's society can touch the characters or the show All in the Family. Thanks to MeTV for showing the great shows of the past for baby boomers all over the country. We are definitely the last of a dying breed.
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