Married With Children has made many best-of lists when it comes to the greatest television series of all time.
The politically incorrect sitcom was on the verge of cancellation when an angry viewer demanded the show be cancelled for its bawdiness.
That didn’t happen. In fact, it had the opposite effect. The anger drew attention to it, and when viewers saw the show, they, for the most part, laughed. Hard. Eleven years and 263 episodes later, the results spoke for themselves.
But comedy changes over time, and with comedians like Chris Rock, Larry the Cable Guy, and Jerry Seinfeld refusing to play college campuses because of how easily offended everyone seems to be, there no longer seems to be a place for the type of humor that Married With Children espoused.
In fact, series star Ed O’Neill has gone in the opposite direction with his career, playing series patriarch Jay Pritchett in the PC comedy Modern Family.
The show is not alone in the types of “safe” comedy it portrays. Blackish, The Goldbergs, Fresh Off the Boat, and The Real O’Neals are just a few of the other examples.
With that type of landscape, it was only a matter of time before Married With Children came under the gaze of a “modern viewer,” who might not see eye-to-eye with the series’ crass tone. That happened on a recent IMDb thread when user dionnelee1 posed the question, “Did Al rape Peggy?”
— Sitcom Superstars (@SitcomStars) December 3, 2016
“The episode when the Bundys had a picnic and Peg had to cook and Al was super horny for some reason,” the user began. “She obviously didn’t want it but he forced her to do it several times throughout the day. Does anyone know what I’m talking about and how do you feel about it?”
Before going further, some subtext. The Married With Children episode the user is referring to is the first episode of Season 4, entitled “Hot Off the Grill.”
The plot centers on Al’s Labor Day celebration. He wants a cookout with his family. The next door neighbors — Steve and Marcy — join them, though the death of Marcy’s beloved aunt has her down in the dumps.
A subplot is that the normally downtrodden Bundy has some spring back in his step from the energizing holiday, and he takes it out on a normally eager Peggy by having sex with her so much that she gets worn down to the point of tears.
Analysts of “rape culture” would find Al’s behavior problematic. After all, if he leaves Peggy to her own devices, sex would not be on the table for this particular day of their married lives.
Clark University would specifically define Al’s actions as rape because he uses “emotional manipulation to persuade someone to something they may not want to do — like being sexual or performing sexual acts,” the website reads.
An example, in the university’s words, would be saying, “If you love me you would have sex with me.” If the coerced then agrees to have consensual sex as a result of this statement, their partner has raped them.
But according to other commenters, what the “Al rapes Peggy” argument overlooks is the context of Married With Children. Out of 263 episodes, it is argued, in-thread, that this is one of a handful of episodes where Al actually has visible sexual feelings for his wife. In the other 262, Peg wants to tear off his clothes (and sometimes does).
In fact, there are a number of episodes — example, in the Season 2 two-parter “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” — where Peggy inarguably has her way with Al.
In most episodes, she constantly prods and needles him into sex against his will, and he usually does it because Married With Children, in all its mean-spiritedness, “had a surprising sweetness in its understanding of human relationships,” one commenter writes.
Another said the show understood that even though the physical aspects of a committed relationship can grow tiresome and mechanical over time — “even though the people closest to a person can drive them up the proverbial wall” — at the end of the day, love makes you want to be there for them as you know they will be for you.
Peggy didn’t feel like having sex in that one particular episode, the second commenter argues. Al didn’t want to have sex in the other 262.
But most of the time, both gave in because at the end of the day, they wanted each other so much their passions overcame the malaise of domesticity.
— Ricky Fontaine (@DeposterChild) December 3, 2016
But what do you think, readers?
Does the original IMDb poster have a point? Did Al rape Peggy in Married With Children? Sound off in the comments section below.
[Featured Image by Fox]