Sally Struthers: Gloria was the only character ''allowed to grow and change''
The actress reflects on her character's evolution.
All in the Family might be one of history's most analyzed pieces of media. Because of the ways it reflected society, the show has been endlessly written about. The show and its characters provide a roadmap to coexistence with people we disagree with. That, paired with how genuinely funny and touching the show is, made it a frequent subject of close examination.
When All in the Family is studied, it's usually Carroll O'Connor's Archie Bunker that's most closely scrutinized. This makes sense. He's likable and wrongheaded, and Archie reminds us of people we have to live with, despite our differences. Understanding Archie is understanding ourselves and each other. If you believe that people don't ever really change, then Archie Bunker is the character most telling about human nature. He might learn a lesson here or there, but his outlook is reset by the start of the next episode.
Meanwhile, at the actual heart of the show, there was a genuine character arc, one where a person evolved right in front of our eyes.
Gloria Stivic is the emotional center of All in the Family. It's her soul that hangs in the balance, as Archie and Edith already know who they are. Will her values fall in line with those of her hippie husband, or will she revert to the conservative views she grew up with? Or, is she bound to be Edith?
In 1977, Sally Struthers, who played Gloria in both All in the Family and her spinoff, Gloria, reflected on the character's shifting perspective. She spoke with The Toronto Star in-depth about her career and focused specifically on where Gloria started, and where she went.
"As Gloria, I've been the only one who has been allowed to grow and change. Gloria's gone from a naive girl to a worldly woman. And the same thing has happened to me in real life."
A pessimistic view of life would place humanity in line with Archie's refusal to change. However, the truth is that people are capable of change. The road toward a better future begins with believing that we're all more like Gloria than we are like Archie. Change is scary, but so is a future where everyone is stuck in their ways.