Roseanne, Dreams, and Un-cool Gay Men

If my sister and I have anything in common, it’s our love of Roseanne.  We have spent countless summer nights in my mom’s basement enjoying the understated wonder of mid-90’s television gold.  Fortunately for us, you can always find an episode of Roseanne somewhere on the vast expanse of digital cable.  Given its convenience, wry sensibilities, and spot-on social commentary; how can anyone not like this show?

Apparently, people don’t like this show.  Usually, the complaint I hear deals with the ninth, and final, season.  This is the season in which they win the lottery, Dan has an affair, Jackie gets married to a prince, DJ gets a girlfriend, and Darlene has a miracle baby.  I’ll concede that this season really sucks.

Roseanne always operated in the world of believability.  It’s what made the show unique and extraordinary.  It brought the kitchen sink sitcom into our homes and hearts.  I’d argue that Roseanne neither marginalized nor glorified the working-class housewife.  Rather, the show made her real.  Roseanne was certainly no June Cleaver.  As others have said, her hair was never perfectly done and dinner was rarely waiting for Dan to get home; nevertheless, she wore the badge of wife with pride—and without sacrificing her own sense of self (who can forget the amazing dream episode?)

The show lost this throughout the 9th season.  (It’s probably also important to note that Roseanne lost a ton of creative control of the show during this season.)  It was truly a shame.  That is, until the final moment of the last episode.

I cry uncontrollably whenever I last the final episode of Roseanne.  The last 10 minutes of the episode has to be among the most well written I’ve ever experienced.  Yes, it is essentially an “it was all a dream” cop-out, but it’s beautiful nonetheless.  Roseanne exposes us not only to the true depth of the character but also the transformative and libratory power of creative story-telling.  How appropriate that the final message to the audience is from T. E. Lawrence:  “All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did.”  Roseanne fully re-captures the spirit of the series in these final moments.  She returns to her commentary on society, parenting, womanhood, and life.  She pushes a strong pro-woman agenda.  Not necessarily a political one, but an agenda of fulfillment, pride, and self-actualization.

As we, the audience, say goodbye to the characters, we finally see them for who they really are:  us.  In the re-writing of the characters in her life, Roseanne allows us to become part of the fantasy and to ultimately escape it.  Season nine is simultaneously a dream and a nightmare.  Roseanne loses herself when she learns of Dan’s affair—she locks herself in her bedroom, refusing to talk to most anyone.  We lose ourselves from time to time too.  I’ve lost myself.  In her monologue, Roseanne charges us to find ourselves again.  We might be a nerd who is simply “an artist who listens to the beat of a different drummer,” or we could be the deeply spiritual and strong woman fighting for equality, we could even be an un-cool gay man who belongs to the Elks Club.  We are who we are, and no amount of fantasy will change that.

In the final season of Roseanne, the normally instrumental theme was updated with lyrics.  While cheesy, they do capture the spirit of what Roseanne was ultimately all about—being okay.

If what doesn't kill us is making us stronger,
We're gonna last longer
Than that greatest wall in China
Or that rabbit with the drum

If there's one thing that I've learned
While waiting for my turn,
It's that in each life some rain falls
But you also get some sun

And we'll make out better than okay
Hear what I say
Hey, any day


  1. This is awesome, I really want to watch Rosanne now! Please keep writing.

  2. I don't think I saw that many Roseanne episodes when they were knew, but I've seen many re-runs. Good show, nonetheless.

  3. the last season made me feel sick. First of all, Dan would NEVER have cheated on Rosie. They were too in love, also Jackie and the Prince???!! NO. Just ridiculous. Darlene and her baby? Absurd. Everyone knows that Darlene should have been a lesbian. All of that being said, even the last season beats most cable programs.

  4. I totally agree, and not to mention the emotion scaring Dan has from his own father's adulterous ways.

  5. I had until recently forgot how Roseanne ended. But your take on the ending makes it much more bearable. Although it doesn't stop it from being incredibly depressing.

    But at the very least Roseanne will always have a better ending than Seinfeld.

  6. Bring on the post on The Golden Girls, please.