On April 12, our class watched the television show Roseanne. The sitcom Roseanne aired on ABC from 1988 to 1997. This particular episode was a clip show based off of Roseanne and Jackie’s visit to a fortuneteller. The fortuneteller shows them their future; I’ve arranged the scenes by flashback sections. Roseanne, the lead female character, portrays feminist ideas such as “a female-dominated household, a female lead whose likability did not rely on her appearance, relationships between female characters that were cooperative rather than competitive, and females openly expressing themselves without negative consequences.”
Roseanne has strong connections to Lorelai from the Gilmore Girls due to her attitude and parenting style. I’m also excited to see the similarities in parenting styles between Roseanne and Nancy Botwin from Weeds. The opening scene shows Roseanne’s husband, Dan, complaining about the dirty dishes and the messy house. Roseanne immediately retorts, “You think poof the laundry is folded and poof dinner is on the table?! Oh, honey but, you just fixed dinner three years ago!” This scene set the tone for the entire episode; Roseanne is a strong and independent woman who won’t tolerate any complaints or criticism from her husband. In general, Roseanne clearly rejects the Donna Reed stereotype of the perfect wife and more closely relates to Lorelai. Similar to the Gilmore Girls, Roseanne and her family are shown eating delivery pizza and takeout Chinese food instead of a formal “home cooked” meal.
Soon after, Roseanne and Dan are shown drinking beer at the dinner table and while at the bar. A stranger walks into the bar and calls Roseanne fat. Roseanne informs Dan that “it’s okay just this once” and he punches the stranger in the face. This scene shows that Roseanne is fairly liberal, drinks alcohol, and goes to bars comparable to Lorelai enjoying a cold beer with her male friend, Luke.
Jackie, Roseanne’s sister, is very open about her sexuality and personal freedom. While she is on a date with a man he asks her a few personal questions about her past relationships:
Man: “How many serious relationships have you been in?”
Jackie: “Just a few.”
Man: “Good, it’s not that I mind if you’ve slept with a lot of guys.”
Jackie: “Oh!! Well, slept with…that’s not what you asked me! Don’t worry, it’s not that many! I’d say three a year.”
Man: “Since you were 18?”
Jackie: “Um, sure we’ll go with that. Three a year for 20 years is 60…I didn’t know all of them.”
This humorous conversation between Jackie and her boyfriend illustrates Jackie’s self-sufficiency from men. Jackie proves that although she has slept with a lot of men, she still remains in control and she’s not a “tramp.” In Donna Reed’s era, a woman who slept with numerous men would not have been well-respected and basically considered a prostitute. In the next scene, Jackie is shown telling her mother she is pregnant. Jackie does not sugarcoat the unexpected news.
Jackie: “Mom, I’m pregnant. I went out with a guy I hardly knew and we had sex for hours and now I’m pregnant. And we’re not getting married.” Later on in the episode, Jackie is shown talking to Roseanne and says, “you would never let a man tell you what to do.” Both women are very independent and do not allow men to control their lives in any form.
In the following scene, Roseanne’s daughter Becky asks for birth control. Becky utters, “Uh, I was thinking you know…um, that just in case we decide to…that it’s time for me to get some birth control.” Both Roseanne and Jackie are in complete shock. The fact that Becky even references contraceptives demonstrates that she has been exposed to sex education and lives in a fairly liberal household that would allow her to talk about sex openly. Also, this shows that Darlene is not intending to wait to have sex until marriage like the “ideal housewife” would have done.
Next, “the sitcom mom welcome wagon” is shown cleaning Roseanne’s kitchen. The “perfect housewives” are quite disappointed with Roseanne’s unladylike behavior. “You see Roseanne, we’ve all worked very hard to promote the image of motherhood and if what we’ve heard about your show is true, we’re about as mad as H-E double hockey sticks! Oh, excuse my French!,” said the housewife. The housewives prove their totally submissive behavior and 1950s housewife state of mind when they say, “I’m glad I don’t stay up past 9:00pm, we moved on up to get away from people like you, and you’re supposed to teach you children valuable lessons.” Roseanne responds by saying, “We did have this one episode that the network just loved! It was about reefer.” Roseanne, Dan, and Jackie are all shown in the bathroom after smoking pot. Roseanne drinks, smokes illegal substances, and uses inappropriate language; she is the complete opposite of the perfect domestic housewife. The housewives are in complete shock and state “that’s the wrong image for a t.v. mom!”
Roseanne: “In my house, I yell at the kids and Dan just sits there and looks pretty.”
Housewife: “You mean you’re the boss in your own family?! They named the show after you, the wife?…I didn’t know they could do that!”
Roseanne: “The important thing is, on my show I’m the boss and father knows squat!”
This is a direct slam to the 1950s television show Father Knows Best. Clearly, Roseanne is a strong independent woman and does not need the guidance of her husband to make decisions, unlike the females on Father Knows Best that follow whatever a man tells them to do. Roseanne goes completely against the standard housewife role again when she is shown at a bar kissing a female.
The Roseanne show depicts its era and lifestyle as extremely different from the Donna Reed Show or other 1950s shows. Roseanne is shown as having an unplanned pregnancy, eating takeout food, being the boss of the family, being self-sufficient, having a lesbian kiss, and drinking alcohol. In addition, Jackie is shown as sleeping with numerous men, being independent, and becoming pregnant out-of-wedlock. As a mother, Roseanne has clearly passed on her liberal mindset to her children, especially Becky. Becky shows a similar way of thinking when she asks her mother for birth control and openly discusses teenage sex. Overall, the women in the television show Roseanne are strong and independent and, compared to the Donna Reed housewives, do not seek men’s approval before doing anything.