For those who grew up in the 90’s, you might be familiar with Married…with Children: a popular TV sitcom chronicling the life of Al Bundy, a women’s shoe salesman, and his dysfunctional family.
Some may rightly argue that the show was wildly misogynistic (and believe me, it was) with no positive female characters. There was the ditzy blonde daughter, the over-zealous feminist neighbor and the lazy, materialistic wife along with a parade of busty bit players meant to be oogled and tempting to the main character “Al Bundy”.
For me, I enjoyed Katey Sagal’s character, Peggy Bundy, and while many would think the character did not portray wives in a positive light, I think she is much more powerful than viewers think.
Let’s face facts. Yes, Peggy Bundy is lazy and self-indulgent. She hates to cook or clean, neglects her children and would rather buy new clothes than wash them. She doesn’t even consider getting a job. She watches daytime talk shows all day while on her beloved couch eating bon-bons and spends all of what little money Al has on stuff she sees on the Home Shopping Network. Unlike the main character, Al, she enjoys having marital sex. She is completely dependent on Al for income, food and sex, even though she often jokes about his endurance.
But, to me, she is deeper than that.
Despite her lot in the storyline, she is a wonderful foil to Al’s misogynistic attitudes, often taking delight in having him realize his need for her. She is dismissive of Al’s behavior and stands up to his insults with hilarious wit. She is uncompromising in her personality, however unappealing to Al, and is wonderfully subversive; teaching her own children that you don’t have to listen and act according to societal pressures. She is also an appealing alternative, in many cases, to her best friend Marcy’s more militant feminism. Oftentimes, they work together in foiling Al’s stunts to be superior.
Peggy Bundy is, ironically, an ultimate model of both age-old wife stereotypes and feminist aims. Would she be just as happy being a spoiled wife as she would be bringing apocalypse to the male-oriented society she lives in? I think both.