Why Married With Children Would Be Taboo Today

Married ... with Children produced one of America's most popular acerbic-tongued sitcom families ever. While contemporaries like Full House, Family Matters, and Step By Step preached family values and politeness, the Bundy brood made bitter light of the less delicate moments in middle-class life, where sharp sass bled from the walls during even the nicest moments of their relationships (of which there were few).

The show was certainly controversial in its own time, but it'd probably draw even more ire from today's audiences, for a whole different set of reasons.

The show's unabashed sexism

Al was never the greatest role model, but today, he comes off as an unabashed, unapolgetic sexist in many of his phrases and actions throughout the series, up to and including his foundation of a men's rights activist group called NO MA'AM: National Organization of Men Against Amazonian Masterhood. We all know how beloved men's rights people are today.

While most of his neanderthalism is presented as such in the show, and gives his feminist foes plenty of room to own him in any battle of wits, there were some aspects of his misogyny that might be hard to overlook now. For example, in Season 4's "Desperately Seeking Miss October," he says, "What was I thinking when I said 'I do?' I'd already had sex with her; I didn't need that again." Another quote that probably wouldn't pass modern decency muster is when he said, "Women should have three breasts: two in front and one in the back for dancing." We'd add a few more sexist Al quotes, but we do have to stop somewhere, or else this slide would be 950,000 words long.

Threats of domestic violence played for laughs

Domestic violence has never been a laughing matter, and Married ... with Children was occasionally (fine, often) guilty of normalizing physical violence. Where the Bundys really pushed buttons was with conversational passive aggression, remarks that might be considered verbal assault or threats of harm between. Consider the meme-friendly exchange in Season 5's "Al .... with Kelly" when Peg comes home and asks Al if he missed her, at which point he replies, "with every bullet so far." For some today, that might come off as a tacit threat that crosses the line of acceptable TV banter and humor grabs.

Same goes for a scene from Season 2's Christmas-themed episode "You Better Watch Out," when Al reacts to their nil shopping budget with the line, "family, before you go, would you get old Daddy's shotgun and stand close together?" Similar lightness was made about the subject of suicide and, considering the known statistics surrounding gun deaths in domestic situations, and people taking their own lives out of financial or familial desperation, these jokes might not be considered very funny moments of conversation under today's entertainment ethic.

The fat-shaming

One of Al's other favorite things to do on the show was to hurl insults at people he considered to be overweight (usually women who weighed more than a buck-o-one). Some of his zingers were hits with the couch crowd (after all, this was the era when everyone kept a snappy "Yo Mama" joke at the ready) but might not land quite as well in today's more size-sensitive society.

As with most of Al's major personality problems, Married went pretty meta with the subject of his fat-shaming habits, by having all of Al's verbal victims confront him at his shoe store in a Season 11 episode titled "Crimes Against Obesity." But, Al being Al, he merely used the platform to dig out a few more gems along the way, like, "Sorry ma'am but unlike your mouth we occasionally close," and "I'd say it behind your back, but my car's only got half a tank of gas." It's hard to say a character got their comeuppance when we're too busy laughing at the rapier wit they're hilariously slinging just before getting comeupped.

The hypocritical slut-shaming

The constant use of the word "slut" in Married might be cause for cringe as well. It's most frequently said by Bud in reference to Kelly's social activities, and it's not a word that slides very easily with the modern crowd, who has mostly deciphered the double standards and damaging etymology associated with the term. In other words, it's become offensive to the point of restriction, like certain other no-no nouns that have become unacceptable parlance over time.

Even beyond the actual word itself, Bud's constant slut-shaming of Kelly could easily be pointed to as an example of double standards when it comes to women and men having bunches of sex. After all, Al and Bud are constantly picturing themselves in sexual scenarios with all sorts of gorgeous ladies, all without repercussion, but their constant picking on Kelly (whose dumb blonde status is another potential point of groan-induction) for her many, many, many partners is classic slut-shaming, hypocritical as can be, and might not be tolerated anymore.

Jokes about how terrible periods are

Period humor is inherently tricky to pull off, and how Married did it might not work in a modern lens, when conversations about reproductive health and rights have been at such a forefront of cultural and political conversations. So, the episode where Al would rather brave a hungry wild animal encounter than deal with his menstruating wife, daughter, and next-door probably wouldn't fly right now.

The Season 3 episode, titled "The Camping Show" (which certainly beats the original title, "A Period Piece") followed the Bundys on a family camping trip. This trip included an unexpected guest in the form of Aunt Flo, who was visiting Peg, Kelly, and their tag-along neighbor Marcy all at one time. The episode had heavy problems from the start, with Fox execs having to delay its airing date for some dialogue changes (the line, "I think PMS really stands for Pommel Men's Scrotums" was booted outright). So this episode was even controversial then — today, it'd be even more groan-inducing, since the overall premise is that these grown men were so afraid of a natural cycle, they'd rather tangle with a grizzly than the women in their lives. Yuck.

That one episode about sex tapes being recorded without the "stars" knowing about it

There was one would-be Season 3 episode of Married that was crazy enough that, even during its prime, it was banned until the show reached syndication years later. The episode, called "I'll See You in Court," involved the unwitting production of several homegrown sex tapes between the Bundys and their neighbors, after they stay in a motel whose employee secretly recorded their bedroom activities.

Considering how high-profile cases involving unpermitted nude recordings have been lately (hi, Hulk Hogan!), this episode might be viewed as more of a cautionary tale than a worthwhile laugh grab. It's seemingly for the best that this installment never made it to air — if this all happened in today's world, though, good luck even seeing it in syndication.

The show's overall, degrading message

Let's not forget Married's portrayal of Peg as a do-nothing man-trap who got pregnant so she wouldn't have to work again. It's not just that Al regards her that way, either — she says as much herself. In Season 4's "Peggy Turns 300," she has a trashy version of "the talk" with her daughter Kelly, telling her, "Once you do it though, you'll never have to do it again and there will come a time when your husband comes home smelling like beer and wanting some loving, you'll follow that fat butt up the stairs because you'll know that no matter how disgusting the next five minutes may be, it's still better than work."

There are multiple reasons why this exchange is completely messed up. The scene, if aired for the first time today, might be seen as completely mischaracterizing the duty of women to consummate their relationships at men's demands, for starters. Then, there's how the line suggests women should aspire to becoming mere sexual objects, rather than productive members of the work force. What's more, it paints an unhealthy picture of marital sex as devoid of mutual satisfaction or interest. This storyline (and many others like it) would get eaten alive nowadays, even if it was meant to be mere humor.