"Roseanne" is no stranger to controversy, and the show has never shied away from tough subjects, either. The revival jumped right into the great political turmoil of our era with its premiere, followed by a deep dive into gender identity. This latest episode pulled back the curtain to examine modern parenting techniques, while touching on a few other issues along the way.
We got a glimpse of this in action with how Darlene (Sara Gilbert) handled her gender fluid son Mark in the second episode last week. She was supportive of his exploration with little to no discussion about it with him, and barely chastised him for bringing a knife to school. She quoted books she'd read on how to deal with his issues to her barely literate parents, suggesting that she was trying very hard to be a "thoughtful" and "good" parent, as it's defined by modern standards.
Her approach was put to the test this week when it came to her rebellious teen daughter Harris (Emma Kenney), and it forced the audience to really take a look at the possible effectiveness of trying to approach your children as equals. Darlene even let Harris call her by her first name.
The episode came at the issue from several different angles, and as it usually goes with "Roseanne," it didn't offer any clear answers as to which approach was better. Roseanne (Roseanne Barr) shoving Harris' head into the sink and soaking her with the sprayer certainly looked satisfying, but was it an effective parenting technique?
As Roseanne Barr has pointed out in interviews about the show's approach to politics and other tough topics, the show is hoping to start a civil conversation and encourage people to talk out their differences, even if they don't necessarily come to an agreement.
When pushed by Roseanne to step up and discipline Harris for leaving her clothes in the washing machine, Darlene buckled and said, "This is crazy. I'll move the clothes into the dryer." She was choosing her battles with a challenging child, and laundry wasn't one she felt particularly passionate about, but both Roseanne and Dan (John Goodman) didn't understand this at all.
"You shouldn't be doing your kids' chores," Dan told her. "And when did you turn into such a pushover. What happened to you're being the Darlene that we knew and loved and, quite frankly, feared a little bit."
"You know what? You guys already raised your kids," Darlene shot back. "Be free. Run. Now would be a great time to finally learn how to use your phones."
"There's the old, nasty Darlene," Roseanne said, grabbing her by her shoulders. "Now quick, before you lose it go up there and aim it at your kid."
"You want me to yell at her for doing laundry? Are you worried she's going to do the windows next? Cut her some slack, okay."
"Kids don't need slack, they need boundaries," Roseanne responded. "The happiest kids are raised in cages. And it keeps the meat tender."
WHO'S IN CHARGE?
Becky (Lecy Goranson) couldn't believe that Darlene was going to wait for Harris to finish her shower in order to address the laundry issue with her. "You're gonna wait for your kid? Mom used to yell at us in the shower," she recalled. "It was like that scene out of 'Psycho!' Take out the trash! Ree-ree-ree!
When Harris announced later that she was hanging out with some new friends at the mall, Darlene had a chance to step up and be assertive, but she again caved.
"You know what, Harris. This isn't really about trust but it's kind of my job to know who you're hanging out with, so I would really like to meet them."
"Oh my God! You dragged me away from my friends in Chicago and now you're gonna scare off everybody I meet at this hick town. Who's gonna shoot beer cans with me behind the Dairy Queen."
"Alright, fine. Just be home by 10 and here's five bucks."
"Oh so she pushed you around a little but you gave her five bucks," Roseanne marveled. "That'll show her."
"You had the perfect chance to check out your daughter's friends and you let her play you like a chump," Dan told Darlene.
"This is gonna come as a shock to you people, but I actually trust my kids," she responded.
"Here's why you can't trust your kids. 'Cause they're stupid," Roseanne countered. "That's why we don't give them cars or booze."
"Roseanne" offered some balance while presenting how Darlene was choosing to parent Harris by having Roseanne and Dan offer near-constant commentary about the differences in how the generations are handling child-rearing. When Darlene told them that times had changed and a lot of what the older generations did was wrong or even illegal now, Roseanne was ready. "It's against the law because your generation made everything PC," she said. "Instead of spanking them, you tell them to go over there and think about what they did wrong. You know what they're thinking? I can't believe this loser isn't spanking me."
Roseanne then showed us a little of that old-school technique by taking on Harris and the excessive laundry usage directly. Her most recent offense was putting Roseanne's clean clothes on top of the dirty washer rather than drying them.
"Here's an idea. Why not put my stuff in the dryer first?" Roseanne asked.
"Why? It's your stuff?" Harris countered as only a teenager can.
"Get your stuff out of the dryer. Now."
"I'm having a muffin. I'll do it in a minute."
"Those are for breakfast."
"But I'm hungry now."
"Well you're a woman in America, get used to it."
"What is your problem?"
"My problem is you're acting like you own the place and we don't even own the place."As Harris continued to defy her, Roseanne didn't even think about caving and giving her five dollars. Instead, Harris found herself face first in the sink with the sprayer hosing her down while Roseanne held her down.
CLASSISM REARS ITS HEAD
Darlene moved her kids from Chicago to Lanford and the difference from one of the biggest cities in the nation to this small Midwestern town perfectly sets up an exploration of classism at work in America. Harris, being a typical self-centered and egotistical teenager, has been looking down her nose at Roseanne and Dan since she got here. She simply sees herself as superior to them because of their small-town ways and lack of sophistication.
"You better start showing some gratitude instead of acting like an entitled little bitch," Roseanne yelled at Harris.
"You know what? I don't need to get yelled at by some stupid old hillbilly."
After Darlene interrupted Harris' impromptu sink shower, Roseanne told her, "Your hellspawn threw all my clean clothes on top of the dirty washing machine and then she called me a stupid hillbilly."
"I was being nice. She's a crazy, stupid hillbilly."
If you make me stay, then I'm gonna hate you," Harris told Darlene later, revealing that she was selling clothes to save money to move back to Chicago and live with an aunt there.
"Well then that's how it's gonna be," Darlene told her. "You know I'm not a huge fan of yours right now, either. But we are in this together, okay? We came here because our family needed support. And you know what? No matter what you think of those crazy, old, stupid hillbillies, they will get in a pickup truck and they will pull you out of any well that you fall into."
This is a real divide in our nation, with politics largely aligning with various social and economic classes, and with everything so divisive, there's a growing divide and hatred going on between the classes. Like Harris, everyone could use a little reality check to see that there is the potential for goodness in everyone, no matter their circumstances.