Okay. Maybe not for you, but it totally does for me. It always has and likely always will.
But there’s one thing, nay, one person, who has helped me pull through to this point so far. And that person, that man, is Al Bundy.
When I began watching Married… with Children, I quickly grew an attachment to the television sitcom, and as unhealthy as it was to become attached to a show about a dysfunctional family just trying to make it through life, lovingly insulting and betraying each other along the way, it was a show that made me feel like life may suck, but it can still be kind of funny while sucking.
The anti-politically correct nature of Married… with Children is part of what drew me into it. It was like someone was saying the things I wanted to say but didn’t because I knew someone would be offended and beat the hell out of me. So the show became an outlet that helped me to learn to not take shit so seriously. I mean, being suicidal, I could’ve easily been offended by the occasional way Al Bundy would joke about taking his own life.
Being depressed, alone, and dateless, I could’ve easily been offended by the myriad ways Al’s depressed, alone, and dateless son, Bud, was poked fun at by the rest of the family for being that way. Instead, the show helped me to laugh at all the things wrong with me and begin to accept them and maybe see them as not so wrong.
I mean, a “normal” person would likely watch Married… with Children and see a couple, Al and Peg Bundy, who parent their kids, Bud and Kelly, in such a way that could be labeled as some of the worst neglectful parenting ever. But as much as Bud and Kelly were pretty much forced to learn how to provide for themselves at the earliest of ages, what I never heard Al and Peg say to their kids is that they were wrong or that something was wrong with them or that they were wrong for being themselves. No, the Bundy parents accepted their kids exactly the way they were, in their failures – of which there were many – and in their successes – of which there were few.
And that really rubbed off on me, the idea that maybe there isn’t something wrong with me, maybe I’m just me, and maybe this is just my life in whatever shape it’s taking.
Throughout its ten seasons on the air (yes, I know the show ran for eleven seasons, but I don’t count the eleventh season since the show lost its magic after its last co-creator had left after the tenth season), Married… with Children did many things for me. It showed me that there’s humor to be found in even a sucky life. It introduced me to wonderful and useful pieces of advice such as, “If you’re gonna lose, lose big.” It showed me that there’s nothing wrong with me as long as I accept me for who I am and simply not give a shit if anyone else does.
Probably most importantly, though, every episode actively demonstrated that no matter how bad my life was, Al Bundy’s was always at least a little bit worse. And if Al Bundy, a lowly, women’s shoe salesman, could get through each day of the hell that he called his life, then maybe so could I.
From the entire ten seasons that I, to this day, still watch again and again, there’s one scene in particular that sticks out in my mind. It took place in the first episode of the third season, an episode titled “He Thought He Could,” in which Al finds an old library book that he never returned and now owes a huge fine on. As he finally returns the book, he’s confronted by the librarian who’s hated him since he was a little boy. When she sees how his life has turned out and gloats about how she was right that he’d grow up to be, “a total and complete loser,” Al responds in a way that speaks to me on every level:
“So you think I’m a loser? Just because I have a stinking job that I hate, a family that doesn’t respect me, a whole city that curses the day I was born? Well, that may mean ‘loser’ to you, but let me tell you something. Every morning when I wake up, I know it’s not going to get any better until I go back to sleep again. So I get up, have my watered down Tang and still frozen Pop-Tart, get in my car with no upholstery, no gas, and six more payments, to fight traffic just for the privilege of putting cheap shoes on the cloven hooves of people like you. 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 will never be what he wanted to be are still out there being what we don’t want to be 40 hours a week for life. And the fact that I haven’t put a gun in my mouth, you pudding of a woman, makes me a winner!”
Thanks, Al. You reek of wisdom… and something else; I can’t quite put my finger on it. 🙂