Red Forman

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Reginald Albert "Red" Forman[1] is a fictional character on the Fox sitcom That '70s Show, portrayed by Kurtwood Smith.

On occasion, Red serves as an antagonist.

Biography and personality

Red is the perpetually disgruntled, ill-tempered father of Eric and Laurie Forman and Kitty Forman's husband. He is seemingly insensitive to other people, but admits frequently in the series that this is to maintain his self-identity of being a "man". In some episodes, his tough exterior crumbles when he encounters other people's needs and he eventually makes decisions that show an ethical regard for doing what is right.

His relationship with his son Eric is complex. Although he often references Eric's faults mercilessly, both father and son have a connection on an unspoken level. The two have a clash of wits in most episodes with Eric teasing his father, or "poking the bear". Despite Red's frequent threats of physical violence, Red never makes good on these threats throughout the series and Eric views them in a humorous light, even impersonating his father making his characteristic threats. On other occasions father and son unite to collude in a scheme or plot, share a joke, or even face the displeasure of Kitty together. Many episodes show the respect between the two characters, with Red even admitting on one occasion that his love for Eric does not need to be articulated, it is "just a given". Despite Red's firm stance with his son, he protects Eric when the situation calls for it, for example, in one episode when Bob accuses Eric of being a poor influence on his daughter, Red gives him a cold send-off.

Red finds his neighbors, Bob and Midge Pinciotti, perplexing and vexatious. He dislikes spending time in their company, although frequently compelled to do so by his wife, Kitty. In particular, his views of Bob range from annoyance to occasional contempt. Despite this antagonistic attitude, several episodes portray Red as a good neighbour who will come to the assistance of Bob when absolutely needed.

He shows very strict discipline to those with lesser authority than himself (especially the teenagers), from which he seems to take joy. In his youth, Red served in the U.S. Navy (in the 2000 episode, "Jackie Bags Hyde", he is shown wearing the winter-blue uniform of a Chief Petty Officer for Veterans Day) and often brings up memories of his service in Korea. Red was a boatswain's mate in the Navy during WWII and Korea. Since he served on a destroyer but saw land combat in Guadalcanal and Korea it would appear that he served as a Seabee, an assault boat pilot, or in EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal). He might have also served on board a submarine, as evidenced in Season 8 Episode 6 (Long Away). He is wearing Submarine Warfare (Dolphins) on his garrison cap during the Veterans reunion.

It was shown in one episode that he has completely forgotten about his wife Kitty's birthday, which deeply upsets her, but he cheers her up by taking her square-dancing, an activity that she greatly enjoys. Red loves to drink beer and consume many foods that are capable of endangering his health, having suffered from a heart attack on one occasion. Red is also a die-hard fan of the Green Bay Packers, even threatening to kick out a gay couple in one episode, simply because they were Minnesota Vikings fans. He is also a fan of the Milwaukee Bucks and the Milwaukee Brewers.

Health problems

Red's health has been the subject of humor on occasion. In the third and sixth seasons, he is briefly put on a diet that requires him to cut out red meat among other foods that he generally likes and, in stereotypical sitcom fashion, he is forced to eat "healthy" food that is good for him but that he finds unappealing. On both occasions, he defied the diet by eating "real food" behind Kitty's back. When faced with mush, he comments "This isn't food - this is what food eats!" When faced with his diet in the sixth season, after his heart attack upon learning Laurie had married Fez (he has a problem with foreigners, a possible result of his time spent in the military), he throws the list of what he can't have away, explaining to Kitty that if he had known what he would be asked to give up, "I would have walked straight into that bright light and never looked back!"

At one point, shortly after finding out that Eric and Donna were moving to Madison, Red went fishing to calm down, and comes back with the surprising news that he is proud of Eric for his initiative in moving away and becoming engaged, and even more so for his standing up to Red by insisting on marrying Donna despite Red's disapproval. A surprised Kitty and an overjoyed Eric listen while Red agrees to pay for both the wedding and Eric's college fund. He also shakes Eric's hand, proudly telling his son that he is now a man and he has his blessing. After his heart attack, which prompts Eric to stay home, Red's attitude towards Eric does a complete reversal, and Red goes back to calling his son "dumbass," presumably due to his disappointment in Eric's failure to live up to his expectations yet again, although he told Eric that he was proud of him for deciding to stay and help the family instead of leaving for college. This reversal could be due to Eric leaving Donna at the altar and subsequently spending a year doing nothing, or the producers' use of a "Reset Button" to get the status quo back.

Political leanings

For the first few seasons of the series' run, Red is established as a blue collar conservative. He made a joke at Nixon's expense in the first season after Eric streaked through the crowd while wearing a Nixon Mask and, in a pivotal moment, expressed disdain for Gerald Ford (when allowed to ask President Ford a question he said "Hey 'Gerry', here's my question: 'How the hell could you pardon Nixon?'") in front of the entire town. However, without precedent, later seasons portrayed him to be a staunch Republican, who became angry when Eric made an anti-Nixon joke in the fifth season, which Eric tried to cover by replying "Nixon was framed and Kennedy was a commie." It is likely that, like many Republican voters in the 70s, Red was disappointed in Nixon and Ford, but afterwards leaned back to supporting the Republican Party. In addition, many Nixon supporters felt that pardoning Nixon was akin to admitting he was guilty.

Red feels strongly about the founding principles of the American government, owing to his service in the Navy as a Boatswain's Mate. He also tries to live up to what are generally considered American "family values": hard work, devotion to his family, and being faithful to his wife. He is disgusted by swinger sex clubs (which he considers immoral) and political corruption (on hearing that Jackie's wealthy father may be able to bribe his way out of jail, an appalled Red mutters "I'm so glad I took a piece of shrapnel to make that possible.")

Red also dislikes foreigners, which is the main reason he doesn't see eye-to-eye with Fez. One episode (Hunting) saw him taking offense at Fez's remark of "Not everything in the Constitution makes sense". However, Red's bigotry stems not from racism but nationalism; he dislikes anyone and anything not from America. In fact out of everyone in his family he was the most comfortable and casual when Hyde's biological father William Barnett (an African-American) came to his house. He once described Canada and France as "lesser countries," and was upset to find that his daughter Laurie's room had posters of "foreign cars" on her bedroom walls after Hyde moved into it, and generally refers to the rest of the world as "Not America." Along with Canada and France, Red also dislikes Germany, Japan and Great Britain, though not explicitly stated, Italy (for their role in World War II) and, especially, North Korea as he fought there. He also seems bitter about America not winning the Vietnam War, claiming "We didn't lose the war, it was a tie." In one episode while Hyde was stating a conspiracy theory about the government putting tracking devices in their brains, Red patriotically replied "Without our government, you’d be stuck in Siberia now, sucking the juice from a rotten commie potato. Let me tell you something. If the U.S. Government decides to stick a tracking device up your ass, you say, 'Thank You!, and God Bless America! '" Insulting communists is a favorite pastime with Red such as when he calls Eric "the laziest non-communist I ever met." However, when he sells his muffler shop so he can retire he says he does not care if the store is converted to a "communist recreation center."

Relationship with the teenagers

Though deep down, Red genuinely does care about Eric's friends, he doesn't like them frequently hanging out in his home. One of his favorite phrases to describe Eric and his friends is "dumbass". He also threatens the teens that he will put his "foot in your ass". In the finale he claims that he once put his foot in someone's ass in Iwo Jima, but his refusal to further elaborate on the experience implies that it was not something he's proud of. His antagonism towards the teenagers is mainly because Red prefers peace and quiet, believing that since he has worked hard and raised his children, he deserves time to himself and with Kitty. With regards to his neighbors, Bob and Midge Pinciotti, it is indicated that Red used to enjoy their friendship before they started to get involved "into every fad there is". Even though he feels that Bob is a "good neighbor and a good friend", he gets easily annoyed in Bob's presence.

He is a tough, no-nonsense father and tends to favor his daughter Laurie (Lisa Robin Kelly & Christina Moore) and foster son Hyde (Danny Masterson) over his son Eric (Topher Grace), whom he considers soft, skinny, twitchy, and wimpy. He always sees Laurie as "a giant apple" instead of the mean-spirited, promiscuous person she truly is, but becomes wiser to her in the second season after finding out she lied to him about moving in with a friend when she was really living with a young man. In one episode Kitty asks Red why he is so tough on Eric, only to have Red respond "The same reason my old man was so tough on me," indicating that he went through a similar childhood to Eric's. Though Red often puts his own son down because he wants him to "be a man like himself," it cannot be denied that Eric is merely a younger version of his father in the sense that both have a very dry sense of humor and tend to be the sanest persons in their respective circles of friends. On a couple of occasions in season one, Red showed Eric affection. When the two returned from a wrestling match, they wrestled for a bit before Red gave Eric a hug. Later on, when Red's mother died, Red called Eric over for a hug with him and Kitty in a family moment. In the final episode of season seven, as Eric was leaving for Africa, Red had a real heart-to-heart talk with Eric, in which he admitted he loved him and that he would miss him, culminating in a hug between father and son. In the Season 8 premiere, Kitty tried to get Red to say something nice for Eric on the tape recorder. Red consistently refused and appeared to revel in Eric being gone. However, when Kitty questioned his feelings on the matter, Red admitted that he honestly missed Eric. (Unbeknownst to Red, though, Kitty secretly recorded him saying this.) Red also seems to respect his son's resistance as shown when he told Eric he respected him for staying with Donna despite Red's efforts.

Most of the time, Red treats Eric's friend Hyde (Danny Masterson), who moved in with the Formans' at the end of the first season, better than he treats his own son; perhaps this is because Red thinks Hyde is a better example of what a real young man should be, despite Hyde's anti-authority attitude. Red also shows appreciation to Hyde for his mechanical skills, evident from when he opened his own muffler store. Hyde quickly assembled muffler displays, while Eric was putting up decorations. Also, Red often more readily has heart-to-hearts with Hyde than with Eric. When Hyde was arrested for possession of marijuana (which had actually belonged to Jackie), he wanted to throw Hyde out, but soon had a change of heart and let him stay after learning the truth. However, this doesn't stop Red from giving Hyde an extremely long scolding. Hyde assumed the Forman's would want him to move out on his eighteenth birthday because all of Hyde's relatives had to move out of their places when they were eighteen. Red told Hyde that he needed to stay at the Forman's house so he would not end up like his relatives (who were either dead, in jail, or "pumping gas"). Much of this comes from Hyde's troubled background and Red's view that Hyde just needs some direction in life.

On the other hand, a few instances have shown that Red still cares about Eric, and it is clear that Red's being hard on him is Red's way of trying to toughen Eric up to prepare him for the real world (he once stated that, as Eric's father, it was his job to make Eric a man, "which he's not"). Red once told Eric, "I love you," but he was drugged after a visit to the dentist. After Eric later said it back and some awkwardness ensued, Red said that you should only say that when you're drunk, dying, or in trouble – "Otherwise, it's just a given."

Like Kitty, Red is often forced to act as a parental figure for Eric's friends Kelso (Ashton Kutcher), Fez (Wilmer Valderrama), Jackie (Mila Kunis), Hyde (Danny Masterson), and Donna (Laura Prepon) - albeit reluctantly. He usually only helps out at Kitty's insistence or simply to get the teens out of his house. Red actually likes Donna, mostly because he thinks that if Eric has a son with her he will be good at sports and both freely and cheerily admits she is too good for his own son, and also that if Eric and Donna get married Eric will leave the house. Red has a low opinion of Kelso and Fez, calling Kelso a "Kettle-Head" and referring to Fez as the "Foreign Kid," and sometimes by the generic names of "Haji," "Sabu," "Ali Baba," "Tutankhamun," or "Anwar." However, he has bonded with them both a few times throughout the series, such as when he cooperated with Kelso to change the Pong electronic game so they can make the paddles smaller, thus making the game more fun. Red also bonded with Fez when he gave Fez advice that it is not a good idea to mix women and alcohol together. Early on, Red stated that Jackie is his favorite out of all of Eric's friends. He says unlike the others, she is "not useless" because she perfectly held a flashlight for him while he worked on his car, while Eric was incapable of this simple task. Jackie has hugged Red on a few occasions, at least half of which he returned.

In the final season, Red takes a liking to Hyde's new friend and co-worker, Randy Pearson (Josh Meyers). Red respects Randy simply because he's the polar opposite of Eric: masculine, crafty, and not at all obsessed with Star Wars (though in one episode, it is shown that Randy is indeed a fan). Unlike Kitty, Red had no problem with him starting a relationship with Donna.


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