In 1987, television welcomed its latest nuclear family that would be the current generations’ answer to the anti-Cleavers in Married…With Children. Married couple Al and Peg, along with their kids Kelly and Bud Bundy were not the typical sitcom family who would end each episode with a life lesson. Instead, the lesson was usually that you didn’t want to be a Bundy. Throughout its 11 seasons, Married…With Children was never short on controversy and crudeness, but that didn’t mean viewers were totally left without some higher meaning. Like, maybe Peg Bundy was actually a feminist icon?
I grew up watching Married…With Children at an age some people would probably deem too young. Thankfully, my parents didn’t. We watched the show as a family, with my brother and I understanding that Married…With Children was a comedy and not a model of an aspirational family. We knew it was okay to talk about funny moments around the dinner table, as long as no one outside our immediate family was also seated there. No quoting the Bundys in front of your grandparents was a serious rule in our home.
My favourite character was Peg, played brilliantly by Katey Sagal, the housewife who didn’t do much of anything and made apologies for even less. It was the Bundy’s neighbour and Peg’s best friend Marcy D’arcy who was the outspoken feminist of the show, but I feel like Peg didn’t get her due for also being a feminist, bon bons and all.
SHE OWNED HER SEXUALITY
It’s only a few years since TV shows have finally started showing women embracing their sexuality and being the aggressor in relationships, whether hetero or homosexual in nature. The running joke on Married…With Children was that Peg was always in the mood for sex while her husband Al saw it as a chore, thus flipping the script on the usual sitcom trope. Peg was vocal about her desires and her sex drive, something that wasn’t often shown on TV in the late 1980s and 90s. Best of all, she didn’t make apologies for her feelings or speak negatively about herself when she was rebuffed by her husband, instead getting her self-esteem from herself.
SHE DRESSED FOR HERSELF
Speaking of self-esteem, Al often made it clear that coming home to Peg wasn’t a akin to sunshine after a stormy day spent under the rain cloud of being a women’s shoe salesman. Still, Peg dressed how she wanted, including teasing her red hair and wearing full make-up, knowing that the only person she was really pleasing was herself. Isn’t that exactly who we should be dressing for?
SHE DIDN’T LIVE UP TO AN IDEAL
Peg Bundy was a stay at home mom who didn’t cook, barely cleaned, and was definitely not a member of the PTA. She bucked the tradition that housewives must strive for perfection to be considered a ‘good’ mother and wife. Sure, cutting up some veggies for her kids would have probably gone a long way, but that wasn’t the Bundy method.
SHE HAD HER OWN OPINIONS
Peg didn’t work outside the home, but that didn’t stop her from treating her husband as an equal partner in their marriage. She had opinions, she had ideas, she had a voice. She also had a penchant for stealing Al’s wallet and going on shopping sprees. I’m not saying Peg Bundy was Gloria Steinem, but she had some admirable qualities.
SHE TREATED HER CHILDREN EQUALLY
While Al spent just about every episode beating up the latest guy his teenage daughter Kelly brought home, Peg never tried to stifle her daughters sexuality. She had the same rules for both her daughter and son and the same ambivalence about their social lives. Hey, I didn’t say she was a great mom.