From the moment she showed up on their doorstep on the last episode of "Roseanne," we knew something was going to have to be done with Beverly (Estelle Parsons). The mother of Roseanne (Roseanne Barr) and Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) was difficult when she only dropped by to insult her daughters, the idea of living with her was terrifying.
After a week off, the show dove right into the topic of what to do about Beverly. She got kicked out of the nursing home for sleeping with the male patients -- and giving them STDs -- and the moments she temporarily wound up at Becky's (Lecy Goranson), she was at it again with guest star Christopher Lloyd. Beverly is an opinionated, difficult woman, but she is also the girls' mom, and so they have a responsibility to her, whether they like it or not.
On the other side of the episode, Darlene (Sara Gilbert) and Dan (John Goodman) continue to butt heads over how to raise Darlene's son Mark (Ames McNamara). Darlene wants to give him ultimate freedom to explore who he is and how he wants to express himself, but Dan knows that when he's all done growing up he's going to have to go out into the real world and live in it, so it's best to be prepared for what that world is like.
OLDER PARENTS CAN BE A CHALLENGE
Nobody said growing old was easy, and if we think it's going to be hard on us, imagine how it is on our loved ones who have to put up with us and ultimately take care of us. Beverly was never that great to her daughters to begin with. And this season, she just showed up on Roseanne's doorstep and essentially moved in ... and started complaining.
"Well I didn't sleep a wink with all the noise in this house and that lumpy old bed you've got me sleeping on, but I grew up in the Depression, so I'm not a complainer. Although, this is worse."
It wasn't just general complaining, either. Beverly has deep-seated issues with both of her daughters, and likewise for them. "You're calling me bossy?" Roseanne challenged Beverly. Bev: "Oh sweetheart, I'm not bossy. You just have an adolescent need to challenge." Then there's this exchange between Beverly and Jackie.
"It's not a hobby dear, it's a symptom. All I'm saying is if you ever want a man to take you seriously, you need to stop doing things like that," Beverly told Jackie, criticizing her village-making hobby.
Jackie: "I have no problem getting men, mother."
"The trick is keeping them, dear. Look how you arranged your furniture. You have a single chair in front of the TV that screams I don't want anybody else here."
"And yet some people just don't seem to get the message."
And yet, none of the three women are necessarily wrong about the others. Roseanne is bossy, Jackie is constantly seeking validation, and Beverly is more than a little narcissistic.
No matter what we think of our parents, though, unless they were or are simply awful to us, we have a responsibility to help them in their twilight years. After all, they took care of us when we weren't able to fend for ourselves. We owe them, whether we like it or not. In this case, the girls clearly don't like it, but what is the alternative?
"You better take her," Roseanne told Jackie, clearly at a breaking point from living with Beverly.
"No, not a chance. Possession is 9/10 of the law."
"It's not the law when you don't want the thing that you possess. She's only here because she came here first after the home kicked her out."
"I hear and respect your argument, but I believe I can make an equally strong case. I hate her."
"I'm older so I hated her first."
SELF-EXPRESSION ISN'T ALWAYS APPROPRIATE
The other main plot of the episode dealt with Mark choosing self expression over following instructions. Only these weren't social rules -- like his choice of clothing -- but rather specific expectations for a job Dan was hired to do.
And once again, it was Dan who was presented like the grump lashing out at Mark's creativity, but he's not. Where Darlene is faltering, Dan is trying to prepare Mark for the real world. When he agreed to help Dan build a birdhouse for a client, there were clear expectations. Instead, Mark came down with a colorful modern art piece that only vaguely resembled a traditional birdhouse. When Dan told him it was no good, Darlene stood up for her son.
"Dad, come on. I try to encourage him when he thinks outside the box. That birdhouse was amazingly creative."
"It was creative. But this was a job. I make up songs in the shower. They're real creative. But if I show up to work naked and singing, they don't pay me. They call the heat."
"Would you stop thinking of Mark as some guy on an assembly line. He's different. He's got more potential than that."
"Meddling mothers. This is why kids can't get work in factories anymore."
The trophy generation, the snowflake generation, they've been slammed and insulted by everyone at this stage, so why not have "Roseanne" pile on? But this was a more nuanced approach to a real issue. No one wants to believe that their children aren't special, and they each are in their own way. It's that parents are deciding certain vocations are beneath their special little snowflakes, when they may not be.
Some people are totally fulfilled in factories, garages, and a whole variety of other blue-collar workers, but some parents struggle to see the value in these professions. That's why skilled laborers are becoming rare, but not every person is built for the college experience. Instead of pre-defining what is good enough for your kids, how about letting them lead the way.
CHOOSING YOUR BATTLES
"When I was playing football in high school, state championship, coach gives me one job. Stop the running back. But I got creative and went for the quarterback. Running back scampers by me 50 yards for the winning touchdown. I didn't follow directions and that's why I'm not a pro today," Dan told Darlene as a way to try and explain why Mark "expressing himself" with the birdhouse project wasn't an appropriate use of that self-expressions.
"I thought beer and a bad back is why you're not a pro today. And by the way, didn't you punch your coach?"
"It's a simple story. Why do you have to pick it apart."
The message applies to both storylines in this episode. For Darlene, it was about realizing that allowing Mark to express his creativity even when there are clearly specified expectations may not always be in his best interest.
"The world has a way of kind of forcing you to be like everybody else. The trick is to find the balance between playing by the rules and breaking them," Darlene told Mark.
"So it's okay if I--"
"Unless they're my rules. Don't test me."
It's an important lesson more people could stand to embrace. There's nothing wrong with choosing your battles, and knowing when and how to follow the rules as needed. There is a sense of order to civilized society, and it doesn't work if everyone is their own precious snowflake. We wouldn't even be able to navigate the roads if we couldn't all at least agree to follow those rules.
It was the same for Roseanne and Jackie with Beverly. They finally realized that no matter their personal feelings, and the added responsibility it brings into their lives, they have to bite the bullet and make sure Beverly is taken care of. Sure, it was probably a dramatic gesture, but Beverly threatening to throw herself out of a window is what it took for Jackie to realize this.
"Why did you stop me?" Beverly asked her.
"Because my life would be better without you, but it would be so much better if it was better with you."
"Well, I guess that's up to you."
"Well you're right. I guess it is. I just keep asking you for something that you can't give me and I'm gonna have to work on that if you're gonna live with me."
And that was the lesson of the episode for Jackie and Roseanne. Their mother may not be the most loving and affectionate person, but she's their mother. And if they think they can mold her into something else at 90 years old, they're delusional. We take our aging parents as they are and we love them, just as they loved us through every temper tantrum and act of defiance. It may not have been the perfect ending for either daughter, but Beverly moving in with Jackie and the two of them just working through it as best they can is about as realistic as it gets. It's not perfect, but it's life.
VALIDATION THROUGH SCREENS
As usual, the latest episode also touched on another issue in our society, and this time it was our over-reliance and faith in our phones and social media for validation and understanding.
"I win. Hold on, I want to take a picture for my Instagram. 27 cents," teenaged Harris (Emma Kenney) crowed after winning a round of cards.
"Hey put that phone down. You're missing the magic of the moment here," Roseanne chastised her.
We put all of our faith and sense of self-worth into these devices that we forget to be present in any given moment. Or the moment doesn't have value or meaning to us unless our followers have "liked" it. That's part of how "fake news" came to so easily dominate the last election cycle, but it's more than just that. Sandra Bernhard's Nancy revealed she'd gotten involved in online dating.
"I'm texting with this really hot chick that I met on a dating app. We're 100 percent personality match. Well, we fight a lot, but I believe the science."
Rather than believe the reality staring her in the face about their compatibility, Nancy is choosing to believe a computer program and an algorithm. We let our phones tell us if we matter (by how many followers we have and how many likes our posts get) and if we're in love, even if it doesn't seem so great to us. Letting machines do our thinking and validating for us is a slippery road to go down, but we are sliding down it like it's on a mountainside.