Wednesday, June 5, 2013

In Appreciation: Jean Stapleton and Edith Bunker

We live in an interesting time - though I imagine that could be said for any point in time. I was born in the early 70s, yet I remember quite a bit about that decade. People would label me as an "80s child," but I identify more with the previous decade...though I wore my share of jelly bracelets and scrunchies. Anyway, there's so much I recall, and networks like Nick at Nite and AntennaTV serve to jar the memory about now-classic television.

Jean Stapleton died this week. She is perhaps best known for playing Edith Bunker on All in the Family for nearly a decade. Edith was perhaps the kindest, gentlest person on the planet, a woman who always saw the good in people and things. Lately, as people debate whether or not same-sex couples should have the right to marry and enjoy the same benefits as heterosexual couples, they pull a few quotes from Golden Girls episodes from the early 90s. It's nice to think that there were forward-thinking people back in the day, but I say let's not forget Edith Bunker's compassion for all people - especially those who didn't fit a certain mold.

In the episode "Cousin Liz," Edith attends a memorial for a relative and meets the deceased's roommate. She discovers the roommate was more than a friend when the question of a family heirloom arises, one the roommate wishes to keep because it's the last remaining tie to the woman she loved. Edith's compassion for a woman she never knew, a woman in mourning, is truly inspiring.

Then, there are Edith's moments with Beverly LaSalle. Typically during this time, trans people were played up for laughs. Yet, Edith's kindness shines through - she treats all people the same, nicely. To paraphrase her reasoning, God loves us all. (just a warning - this ep isn't easy to watch)

RIP, Jean. You gave life to Edith, a woman who didn't judge. We need more Ediths.

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