Follow TV Tropes


Headscratchers / Married... with Children

Go To

     Marcy's Regression 
  • Marcy. Seriously, what the hell? At the begining of the series, she starts out as a polite, well mannered, if naive next door neighbor who would try to help out the Bundy's by giving them calm, logical solutions, but somehow she transforms into this mean, Rich Bitch, Know-Nothing Know-It-All whose sole mission in life seems to be destroying Al and everything he tries to achieve. What happened? An extreme case of Character Derailment?
    • You could argue that she (like the show itself) went off the rails with the departure of her husband Steve.
      • It's funnier that way; or at least the writers thought that.
    • Likely, the stress of being neighbors with the Bundys finally got to her.
      • And she was always materialistic; she and Steve were supposed to be parodies of driven yuppies.
    • Marcy was shown to have signs of mental instability as early as the 3rd episode and several anecdotes from her past show that she always had some underlying mental instability.
    • I think Marcy has a (maybe subconscious) crush on Al (who consciously loathes her). There is way too much anger to be caused by ordinary annoyance.
      • Just look at the way she behaves around him when she's drunk. In one episode she jumps into his arms and kisses him (to which a disgusted Al replies that she "beaked" him) and in another she wore a Christmas Dress with a head ornament that left a piece of mistletoe dangling in front of her face, which she teased Al about.
    • Al has been a thorn in her side from the very first episode. From chicken jokes to getting her demoted (repeatedly) to blowing up her house, you have to admit Al deserves it.
      • Well that's the thing, Peggy and the kids were no saints either and she was part of the causes of a lot of trouble for her, yet she's still her friend, and though she doesn't like them she doesn't hate Kelly and Bud, who also make fun of her a lot, so what is with the desire to actively ruin everything slightly good that happens to Al, she knows he's life is crappy enough and it's not like she hasn't help her at times or anything.
      • More likely it had to do with Al's outrageously politically incorrect views. Keep in mind that Marcy was in some respects a Straw Feminist as well as upholding traditional "family values", which of course Al (to say nothing of the creators) hate. Bud's a lecherous pervert, but he's never expressed the same opinions on feminism or family values as Al, which may be why Marcy doesn't loathe him the same way she does his father. Bud's occasional hitting on Marcy and not making any chicken jokes probably helps too.
    • I don't think it was a subconscious crush, so much as subconscious recognition that he was the breadwinner for his family and, despite her feminism, she did owe some respect to what he provided his family [Insert favorite line from Peg, Kelly or Bud here.] She found herself in the same place, once Steve lost his job and basically went nuts, and wound up getting drunk with Al at a bar, complaining about gender-non-specific spouses in general. The two of them could relate to each other in very few ways, but when they found common ground, it was based on mutual respect. This became less of an issue when she married Jefferson and the show became one of the greatest live-action cartoons ever made.
    • Marcy didn't really regress, just more of her more negative traits came to the surface. Marcy was always this misandrist and hypocritical person, as could be seen in the first episodes. Like when she said that she and Steve agreed to not watch sports like football because they barbaric. No, she thought sports were barbaric and Steve just went along with it. The same with smut, and porn. Yet and still, she has a lot of sexual kinks and fantasies. So she's always been shown to be against typical "man" stuff. And from her perspective, Al is THE most typical, lowest common denominator man there is.
  • On a different Marcy note, what's a Straw Feminist - one who uses very liberationist rhetoric - being a staunch Republican?
    • The Republican Party was not nearly so conservative on those issues as it was to become. Most mainstream Republicans supported the Equal Rights Amendment (that failed) for example.
    • Both Republicans and Democrats were on average more moderate in the 80s and 90s, with differences more in topics like taxation and social welfare, than social issues. You could find that it was hard to tell a moderate Republican from a moderate Democrat back then.
    • Republicans tend to be more opposed to pornography, something Marcy is against. Republicans also have many times promised (but not succeeded) to put more stringent restrictions on access to porn, in spite of how this could violate freedom of speech and the First Amendment.
    • Marcy is known not to sympathize with poor people such as the Bundys. She even said it herself that she won't help the Bundys because she's a Republican.
    • About a plurality to majority of white American women vote Republican, look up the statistics online.
    • Marcy started out as a 80s yuppie (young upwardly-mobile professional) who made a contrast to the working-class Bundy family. As the show became more cartoonish, she turned into a caricature of the yuppie, taking every means to look progressive and better than the Bundys, but being more than willing to demean them to make herself seem better.
  • Is there a in-universe reason why Marcy didn't just move away from the Bundys? Being a neighbor of that family must be hell, and if Steve could leave them then so could she.
    • A couple of jokes imply that Marcy's property value is in the tank due to living next to the Bundys. She probably can't sell her property without taking a massive loss. When Steve left, he didn't take the mortgage with him.

     Peg is hot 
  • Why didn't Al find his incredibly attractive wife, attractive? He acted like he was married to a gorilla.
    • Because she's a sponge who contributes nothing. There's more to attraction than physical beauty.
      • And what do the array of hot, mute 20-years olds, that he's always ogling have to contribute, I wonder?
      • A fresh start, for one thing; The fact of the matter is that if Al was married to anyone besides Peggy the quality of his life would improve just by default. And you assume these 20 year olds will leach off of him just as bad as Peg does, because.......?
      • No it wouldn't. He'd still be just as miserable with one of the mute hot chicks as with Peg; he's already proven to not have the keenest eye when it comes to women. Al doesn't pick women based on whether they're decent people, he picks them based on how hot they are, which is why he ended up with Peg in the first place. Besides, the more fundamental reason why he ogles hot women (other than the obvious reasons, in addition to the quote below) is because they're not Peg.
    • "A girl is a girl all her life, but a woman is only sexy until she becomes your wife."
    • While I don't have a problem with Al's failure to recognize his wife's attractiveness (because he was the type who'd lose interest in any woman over the course of a marriage), it was hard for me to believe that other men didn't recognize it. At one point, someone asked Al and Jefferson why they'd go to the "nudie bar" when they could see their wives topless for free, and both men replied, "Have you seen his wife?!?!" Jefferson must have been blind.
      • Indeed, in one later episode, Peggy dons a veil and becomes the favorite stripper of all the NO MA'AM guys... including Al, who is horrified when he learns the truth.
      • In the episode where Peggy ends up on a billboard, other men blatantly show their appreciation for her. Similarly, the dancers at Troy's seem to enjoy giving her special attention (maybe because she's a big tipper, or maybe...)
    • "Incredibly attractive wife" has good parts and bad parts. "Incredibly attractive" is the good part, "wife" is the bad part.
    • Peg is physically attractive (since Katey Sagal is) but her dress sense and personality are horrific. It's enough to put him off her regardless of what she looks like.
      • I always thought it was because while Al may love Peggy, he really can only get aroused through his fetish, which seems to be a woman doing some sort of manual labor. I seem to recall seeing Peg do chores was the only thing that stimulated him. It may not be just about looks, but he might actually NEED his fetish in order to perform.
      • I figured it was mainly the fact that it was Peg doing manual labor that turned him on.
    • Word of God comes into play here. The cast themselves said that the point was the boredom that settles into the sex life, that it becomes like chore. They even add it a case like that it wouldn't matter who you're married to: a nebbish man at a lingerie store apathetically tells his incredibly hot wife that it doesn't really matter to him which negligee she chooses - they're married. Now, if it was on that hot redhead (Peg) over there...
    • Because Peggy is one of the main reasons his life turned to shit. She made him break his leg and lose his football scholarship, he had to keep working at the shoe store to support her when they got married, she's buried him in debt with her frivolous spending, and she's done everything from ruin his chance at owning his own business to rat him out to the cops about his parking tickets to get him in trouble with the IRS. After everything she's put him through, the strange thing isn't that he doesn't want to have sex with her, but that he hasn't acted on his comments about shooting her.
  • The point is that it doesn't matter who was his wife. Eventually he would lose sexual interest in her. If he married one of those 20 year old today, he'd be tired of her in a few year because she's now his wife. The reason he was attracted to Peg when she disguised herself as a stripper was that the stripper wasn't his wife ( as far as he knew). This means that Al actually does finds Peg physically attractive, the problem being that she's his wife.

     The Bundy family income 
  • How can Al afford the house by just working as a shoe salesman at the mall? I know the Bundys are remembered for being the example of "white trash" and not the happy TV families you usually saw in the late 80's and early 90's. But they live in a relatively nice suburban house. Grant it, by the end of the show's run it was really dated, but in 1987 a lot of houses still had that 70's interior. I'm mostly talking about how he could afford it in the beginning of the series, when Kelly and Bud were still kids, and the only job Peg had was working at a clock store for a week. I don't know what sales people made in the late 80's, but it couldn't have been that much to afford a house that's easily in the $200,000 zone today.
    • Al's property isn't worth nearly as much as it looks. In one episode, Officer Dan mistakes the Bundy residence for a crack house, while in another he mentions that people think it's abandoned. It's filthy and poorly maintained, with Al's substandard wiring jobs creating an obvious fire hazard, it's been repeatedly damaged by everything from gas main explosions to rocket launchers to Peg's mother to Al's various DIY Disasters, the driveway is made up out of ground-up womens' shoes, and it's implied in several episodes to be in a bad neighborhood. Not to mention that the land itself is probably contaminated, as a survey done in one episode reveals that the First Nations people who lived in the area initially used the Bundy property as a landfill where they threw their rotting moccasins. It was probably the only property Al could afford. A more pertinent question would be why a wealthier couple like Steve and Marcy would buy a house in a crappy neighborhood like the Bundys' when they probably could have afforded something better.
    • Maybe they have the cheapest house in a decent neighborhood? And they "moved in" before the series began; I imagine housing cost less when Al signed the paperwork.
    • Given that Al never makes any comments about a mortgage payment, perhaps he inherited the house from a relative. The poor condition of the house could be a combination of the family's inability to perform basic house-maintaining tasks and their poverty.
      • Oh, Al makes mortgage payments. One of the bills in the episode where he sings the "We're Broke" song is his mortgage payment. In another episode he mentions that it shouldn't be too hard to get a sixth mortgage on the house, and in the classic episode 976-SHOE he ends up owing $100,000 to two banks, which he arranges to pay off by extending his mortgage to the year 2157. After that, he'll be able to retire.
      • They didn't inherit the house, Peggy mentioned that they bought the house in one episode. All the other houses in their price range was on fire.
    • And they aren't too fair-dealing either. In one episode they got horrified at the thought of living off only Al's wage.
    • You're saying houses cost $200,000 today, but this show took place in the 1980s. Houses cost around $70,000 to $80,000 in the 1980s (without taking into inflation). Maybe it might not have been very easy to buy a house as a shoe salesman at that time either, but it was still much easier to at least make a down payment. Also, today in America young people (Millennials, Generation Z, afterwards) are seeing their wages stagnated (failed to grow in relation to rising prices) and have more student loans to pay off and lower credit scores than their parents or grandparents. There was far more economic inequality in the 2010s decade than there was in the 1980s.
  • If Al is so poor, how could he afford the No Ma'am shirts?
    • It says right in the name that it's an organization. Everyone pitched in.
    • Maybe Jefferson stole money from Marcy and funded the shirts with that.
  • How did the Bundys not starve to death?
    • Tangwiches, toaster shakin's and the occasional pizza, of course! Peggy wasn't much of a cook, but they're frequently seen eating a little bit. Kelly and Bud could probably take advantage of school lunch programs, or stealing. Bud was often characterized as an adept thief and Kelly had lots of boyfriends who probably gave her money and bought her meals. Al probably raided the dumpsters at the mall and he's shown stealing condiments. And Peggy is shown to eat (bon-bons, anyway). A better question is not how they don't starve to death, but how it is they're not all losing their hair and suffering from the diseases (scurvy and rickets, for starters) caused by malnutrition.
    • Because they're very creative with how they get food, and what they're willing to eat. A few episodes imply that they steal food from their neighbors, especially the D'arcys; Al has also stolen the lunches of Griff and at least one other mall employee; they eat food meant for animals (Al, Bud and Kelly have all eaten Buck's dog food, and Al also eats out of Marcy's bird feeder), they eat things not normally considered food (like any mice and other vermin unlucky enough to make its way into the Bundy house, Kelly is seen cooking "boot soup" for herself and Bud, and Al eats a sandwich made with toothpaste), and Peggy spends money for food on herself, but not on any other member of the family.
    • The Bundys' health issue would most likely be an overweight form of malnutrition, as they seem to have a diet mostly based on junk food that severely lacks in proper nourishment while being high in fat and sugar. In the Jim Jupiter episode, Al compares his family to the "mighty cockroach" that can subsist on eating garbage, while the healthy and fit Jupiter died after eating like them for a few days.
    • In my background, I've known people who eat a lot like the Bundy's do. Frankly, that they're not all 400lbs and hardly able to move is astonishing, because that's what their diet would do (and has done) to someone living off of it. You weigh a ton but you're actually starving to death. Not a pleasant existence.
    • Al even lampshaded this in an episode attributing it to one of the many curses on the Bundy family. God ensures that they'll never eat, but they'll somehow never starve either.

     Why Didn't Al Buy the Food Himself? 
  • We are shown many times that Peg uses the money that Al gives her to buy food on herself. So why does Al still trust her with any money? Why doesn't Al just go to the store and buy the food himself? He always seems to have beer in the frig, and I doubt Peg went all the way to the store just to buy him beer, meaning that Al probably stopped somewhere himself to buy it. Why not just buy food while he's there?
    • I imagine some of the trips would be, "here's some money, now get out of my hair."
    • For all we know, Al stole the beer. He, Bud and Kelly have all been showing stealing food from other people. When he did buy it, he probably went to a liquor store rather than a grocery store that also sold booze. Not to mention that, as a traditionalist guy, Al probably thought grocery shopping was a woman's job, and didn't think he should do it himself.
    • As for why Al still trusts Peg with money, he probably doesn't. Instead, Peg steals the money, often by picking Al's pocket, smashing Kelly's piggy bank, etc.

     Peggy's Spending Habits 
  • We are constantly shown that Peggy takes the money Al makes and spend on herself extravagantly. But how? How can she afford all of this spending that's WELL out of Al's pay range like $500 dresses, and a skywriter for her birthday or a $2000 interior design class and all the other things she buys?
    • Lots and lots and lots of credit card debt. It's a real problem for many Americans, so it's only natural that Peggy would take it Up to Eleven. The episode "976-SHOE" opens with Officer Dan confiscating Peggy's credit card, while a later-season episode features Al trying to hold a "Bundy Financial Crisis Summit Meeting" with the "Bundy Big Box O' Bills". This is why Al threatens to put Bud and Kelly "in the will" as punishment, since they'll inherit all the debts he's built up.

     Are The Bundy's Really As Poor As They Portray Themselves? 
  • I mean yeah, they're poorer then their neighbors the Rhodes/D'arcy's, but all things considered they seem to be doing pretty ok. They have at least, a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house with a 2 car garage and a full basement. And the house is fully furnished with a lot of accents and decorations like mirrors, pictures, plants and a small grandfather clock. And although Al complains about money, even with Peggy's spending habits, all the bills always seem to get paid and everyone always has clothes and shoes. And Al always seems to be able to pay for whatever damages that happen to him, the car or the house.
    • Because they're so far in debt Bud and Kelly's grandkids will still be paying it off. The Bundy curse ensures that the family will continue to suffer for it without going to jail. Remember when Al's shoe hotline failed, and he ended up owing $100,000 to two banks? They extended his mortgage to the year 2157 to pay for it. After that, he'll be able to retire.
    • The Bundys probably also buy the cheapest things possible, often from second-hand pawnshops, when they just don't outright steal them. When the TV blows out in "Kelly Knows Something", Al yells at Peggy for her advising him to buy a second-hand TV for ten bucks, only for it to break 20 years later.

     Tap Dancing Is For Geeks? 
  • In Season 3's "Can't Dance, Don't Ask Me", Kelly treats being forced to join the tap-dance class as a Fate Worse than Death, gets bullied by her former friends and pitied by her family. Tap dancing is portrayed as something only the most desperate losers would do. In my experience growing up, it was usually the popular girls who did tap and ballet classes, not the unpopular outcasts. Not to mention that Christina Applegate is an accomplished tap dancer in real life and I somehow doubt she was an unpopular geek in school. Is this episode just an anomaly, or did things drastically change between the late '80s and the mid-to-late '90s when I went to junior/senior high?

     Marcy Loves Sex But Hates Men? 
  • For someone who seems to love sex so much and has a...variety of kinks and a more then healthy sexual apatite, Marcy sure seems to hate men in general. Marcy seems like she would be happier paying gigolos versus actually being married and with a man.
    • Marcy doesn't hate men so much as she wants to dominate and boss them around. If there's one thing Steve and Jefferson had in common, it's that they were both Henpecked Husbands. (Insert your own chicken joke here.) This is one of the areas where she and Al are Not So Different. While he wants men to be the dominant gender, she wants women to be dominant. Not to mention that Jefferson basically was a glorified gigolo, to the point that Marcy outright called him a Trophy Husband. One of the Running Gags was how Marcy would always want Jefferson to get a job, but then force him to quit whenever he actually got one, since he always got attention from other women.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: