At the Black and White party last week, I briefly mentioned Roseanne to David Wraith, as part of a conversation about Sandra Bernhardt. Wraith noted that he never really got into Roseanne. While I’m certain there are thousands of people out there like Wraith, I’m just as certain that there are thousands of people out there like me: watching Roseanne is like watching old home movies. If you’re ever asking yourself “I wonder what Johnny Murdoc’s childhood and home life were like,” watch Roseanne. The parallels—and you can ask anyone who knows me and my family—are uncanny. The only quirk is that I have only one sibling—an older sister—instead of the two older sisters that DJ had, but I’m confident in saying that my sister and I find parts of ourselves in all three of the Conner children.
I’ve always known that Roseanne was ahead of it’s time in dealing with complex issues like sex, abortion and gay rights but I still drop my jaw while watching the show sometimes. Not from shock, but from the sheer nuance and sympathy the show treated such issues with. My partner and I own all nine seasons on DVD, but I’ve been rewatching them whenever I’m home by myself and just today I came across an astounding scene.
To give you a bit of a setup: Roseanne’s mother, Bev, has come to stay with Dan and Roseanne after she took a fall in her nursing home that left her with a hairline fracture in her hip. At first she tries to blame Dan for failing to put slip-resistant treads in her shower, but the truth comes out halfway through the episode when Roseanne discovers that Bev didn’t fall in the shower, she fell while trying to have sex with Jake, a fellow nursing home resident. “I don’t have the balance I used to,” Jake tells Roseanne as he apologizes—unknowingly revealing the truth behind Bev’s fall.
Bev is incredibly embarrassed by what happened and how everyone in the nursing home is gossiping about her, and fearing that Bev will never leave, Roseanne realizes she needs to have a talk with her mother:
Our media and culture need more conversations like this one. So do our lives.