After Mark gets in trouble for two Halloween costumes in a row, Darlene takes a stand against the school's claims of cultural appropriation.
Halloween has been a storied "Roseanne" tradition for decades, and "The Conners" proudly picked up that torch with some very fun and creative costumes, even as the show explored political correctness and its impact on the holiday.
For a family as tight on money as the Conners, it's remarkable the costumes they're able to come up with. This year, we're giving particular kudos to Beck (Lecy Goranson) for her brilliant Sharknad- O'Connor costume. It was a real thinker!
More problematic, apparently, were Mark's (Ames McNamara) costume choices. First, his "Fortnite" costume was deemed inappropriate by school standards because it's from a violent video game. But it was the problems found in his second costume that took things to the kind of cultural place "Roseanne" liked to simmer in.
Mark hand-crafted a very accurate Frida Kahlo costume, but was turned away at the door of the school's carnival. It turns out that dressing like the famed artist falls under the category of cultural appropriation, as Frida was Mexican and Mark is not. As such, according to the school's principal, he has not earned the right to dress as her.
Just in case viewers weren't picking up on the fact that this scene is about building a discussion about the P.C. culture that is beginning to dominate more and more of the nation, they upped the ante by having a student arrive dressed as a bunch of grapes.
The principal asked her if it was in any way related to migrant workers. And that's the rub. He was looking for a reason to be offended by a bunch of grapes. Or perhaps more accurately, he was looking for a reason someone might be offended by a bunch of grapes.
Schools and other public institution are in a tricky spot in the modern era, as it seems everything is going to offend someone. Trying to appease every possible taste or sensitivity is both an impossible task and indicative that political correctness may be going too far.
Is it culturally insensitive to dress as Frida? Certainly Mark had no intentions of being insensitive as he is a huge fan of her work. The costume is in no way mocking Frida or her Mexican culture, nor is he representing any gross stereotypes. But does intent matter? If someone finds it offensive, does that make it offensive?
Or is it possible that as a culture we can reach a consensus on what might be considered inappropriate, like a true democracy. If the majority of people find a Hitler costume offensive -- and they do! -- then we can safely say that a Hitler costume might be inappropriate. Just as we can definitively say that blackface is offensive.
But if one person is offended by a bunch of grapes, maybe that one can be on them. We can't all take responsibility for their sensitivity to grape costumes, even if they do come from a family of migrant workers who picked grapes for a living, nor should we. Should we then ban the Fruit-of-the-Loom mascots?
Some people are made uncomfortable by police officers for very legitimate reasons, but no one is looking to ban that costume. If you dig deep enough, absolutely everything is offensive to someone, so P.C. culture should then say that everything should be banned and everything is inappropriate and offensive and we might as well ban Halloween. Actually, there are plenty of people who think Halloween is offensive, so there's that, too.
Darlene (Sara Gilbert) stood up for her son's costume against the stringent standards of the principal, but it did no good. Mark wasn't allowed to enter the carnival, and so they both admitted defeat and were able to trumpet victory. They stood up for themselves. They spoke their mind and let their voices be heard, even though they knew it might not make a difference.
But that's the beauty of freedom of expression. Darlene's tirade by itself made no difference at all for Mark or herself. But imagine if more and more parents stood up to that principal and said that these rules were ridiculous and should be relaxed. At some point, he might buckle to their collective pressure and enact more common-sense costume guidelines.
A single voice in the wind may not be heard, but a chorus crying out cannot be ignored.
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