Roseanne’s mom on roseanne

Beverly Loraine “Bev” Harris is a fictional character in the Roseanne sitcom, the mother of Roseanne Conner and Jackie Harris. The part of Beverly is played by veteran actress Estelle Parsons.

About BeverlyEdit

Born in 1929, she is the daughter of Nana Mary, mother of Roseanne Conner and Jackie Harris, and grandmother of their children. Beverly met Al (would later become her husband) outside of a bar in which Al flirted with her and kissed her and asked her out and offered to drive her home, he however drove her our to the middle of a field and gave her some of his liquor. They talked about their lives, then started making out with her and a minute later he was “on” her, she didn’t even know they were doing “it” until 2 minutes later and that was how Roseanne was conceived. She married Al Harris after she was pregnant out of wedlock. As a result, Al took out his frustrations on the kids, Roseanne and Jackie, often being verbally and physically abusive towards them, and then for over 20 years had an ongoing affair with a mistress, due to the fact that he married Bev only out of necessity. After finding out the affair had been going on for twenty two years, Bev kicked Al out of the house. She became a partner in the Lanford Lunchbox restaurant in lending a portion of money needed to open it with her daughters, but later sold her interest to Leon Carp. Bev herself was, and is during the course of the series, a recovering alcoholic.

Bev with her granddaughters

During most of the series, Bev is loving but overly critical of everyone in the family, especially Jackie. She is very anxious and consistently pessimistic causing her to be very hard to please, and extremely hard for anyone to like. She has no problem pointing out the faults in people’s lives, often throwing their mistakes in their faces. The only character that has ever matched her was her mother, Nana Mary, whose relationship with her is very similar to the one she shares with her own daughters.

When Roseanne was a young girl, whenever she was sad, Beverly would give her lots of sweets with ice cream with chocolate chips. She might be the reason that Roseanne is overweight even at a very young age. She used to force her children to go to etiquette school, and they were horrible at it. In “Home Is Where The Afghan Is”, it is hinted that when her kids were growing up, she was more of an etiquette teacher than a mother. After her husband Al died, Beverly later came out as a lesbian to her family during Season 9. The Season was later revealed to be a book written by Roseanne and that Beverly wasn’t actually a lesbian.

Twenty-One years later, she has since been put into a retirement home where she begins a rather intimate relationship with a man named Lou. However, after infecting several other men there with Gonorrhea, she was kicked out and forced to live at Roseanne’s place, much to Roseanne’s dismay. After some time living with Roseanne, she attempts to reside at Jackie’s apartment before realizing how unwelcomed she is and instead opts to live at Becky’s. After a heart to heart with Jackie though, she decides to live at Jackie’s permanently where they intend on getting along with each other no matter what.


Beverly appears in 64 episodes of the series and the only recurring character to appear in every season.

List of AppearancesEdit

The Conners
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 #
Season 1 X N/A 1
Season 2 X X X 3
Total 4

Estelle Margaret Parsons (born November 20, 1927) appears on Roseanne and The Conners as Beverly Harris, Roseanne and Jackie’s one-time alcoholic, sometimes overbearing mother. Estelle is a seasoned veteran theatre, film and television actress and occasional theatrical director.


Early life and careerEdit

Born in Lynn, Massachusetts, in the Lynn Hospital, Estelle’s mother, Elinor Ingeborg (née Mattsson), was a native of Sweden, and her father, Eben Parsons, was of English descent. She attended the Oak Grove School for Girls in Maine. After graduating from Connecticut College in 1949, Parsons initially studied law at Boston University, and then worked as a singer with a band before settling on an acting career in the early 1950s.

After studying law, Parsons became a singer before deciding to pursue a career in acting. She worked for the television program Today and made her stage debut in 1961. During the 1960s, Parsons established her career on Broadway before progressing to film. She received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Blanche Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde (1967), and was also nominated for her work in Rachel, Rachel (1968).

Moving to New York City, she worked as a writer, producer and commentator for The Today Show. She made her Broadway debut in 1956 in the ensemble of the Ethel Merman musical “Happy Hunting.” She began performing Off-Broadway in 1961, and received a Theatre World Award in 1963 for her performance in Whisper into My Good Ear / Mrs. Dally Has a Lover (1962).

Stage careerEdit

Parsons has received Tony Award nominations for her work in The Seven Descents of Myrtle (1968), And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little (1971), Miss Margarida’s Way (1978), and Morning’s at Seven (2002). She played the Widow Begbick in the American premiere of the Weill – Brecht opera Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (1970), and performed as Mrs. Peacham to Lotte Lenya’s Jenny in Threepenny Opera on tour and in New York City. She also played “Ruth” in Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance on Broadway in 1981. From June 17, 2008, through May 17, 2009, she played the role of “Violet Weston” in August: Osage County by Tracy Letts. She continued playing the role during the show’s national tour beginning July 24, 2009, in Denver.

as Director

As a director, Estelle has a number of Broadway credits, including a production of Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and As You Like It in 1986. Off-Broadway, she directed Dario Fo’s Orgasmo Adulto Escapes from the Zoo (1983). She also served as the Artistic Director of the Actors Studio for five years, ending in 2003.

Film careerEdit

Estelle’s film career includes an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Blanche Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde (1967), and a nomination for Rachel, Rachel (1968). She also received a BAFTA Award nomination for her role in Watermelon Man (1970), and appeared in I Never Sang for My Father (1971), Two People (1973), A Memory of Two Mondays (1974), For Pete’s Sake (1975), Dick Tracy (1990) and Boys on the Side (1995). She was also the original choice to play the part of Pamela Voorhees in the 1980 film Friday the 13th; the part later went to Betsy Palmer.

TV creditsEdit

On television, Parsons played the part of Roseanne and Jackie’s pretentious mother, Beverly, on the 1988–1997 sitcom Roseanne. Her other television credits include appearances in The Patty Duke Show, All In The Family and Archie Bunker’s Place (on both series as Blanche Hefner, Barney Hefner’s estranged wife), Open Admissions, Frasier, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, the TV-movie The UFO Incident: The Story of Betty and Barney Hill (opposite James Earl Jones), and the PBS production of June Moon.


Parsons worked extensively in film and theatre during the 1970s and later directed several Broadway productions. More recently her television work included a role in the sitcom Roseanne. Nominated on four occasions for a Tony Award, in 2004 Parsons was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.

External linksEdit

  • Estelle Parsons at the Internet Movie Database (IMDb)

‘Roseanne’: If America Is ‘No Country For Old Women,’ the Conners Are Only Making It Worse

Another week of “Roseanne,” another list of grievances, another ending without any solutions.

To be fair, “No Country For Old Women” provided the slightest bit of self-realization and acceptance, if not actual progress or change for the better. After spending the sixth episode of ABC’s revival season complaining about who would take care of Beverly (Estelle Parsons), the Conner sisters’ mother, Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) ends up with the honors — but only after her mom threatens to kill herself.

Beverly entered into the mix last week when she was booted out of her nursing home for inappropriate behavior. The audience gets a taste of what monstrosities she’s capable of this week, and boy are they… fine? Beverly insists on adding mustards to her cocktail wieners. She calls Roseanne bossy. She rearranges the furniture in Jackie’s house to make it more suitable for guests (since she’s planning to stay there), and she has sex with her boyfriend in Becky’s house.

Sure, some of these actions can be annoying — especially when they’re committed without any remorse — but constant pestering breeds rebuke. Near the end of the episode, Beverly tells Jackie that she knew her daughters didn’t like her, but she didn’t think they hated her. Think about that statement: That’s painful. Even in a sitcom built around people picking on each other, you have to feel for Beverly. Jackie does, and agrees to let her mom stay with her. But she still doesn’t like her.

This is the kind of episode that’s meant to be a cathartic release for people who are fed up with their own frustrating family members. “Honey, look at Roseanne and Jackie mock their mom! I wish we could do that with your mother! No, no, of course I’m kidding. I love Janice…” That’s a fine purpose for escapist comedy, even if the episode lays it on a little too thick, but the real sticking point is that “No Country for Old Women” lacks a proper reminder of why we ultimately put up with them. Hint: It’s not because we’d feel too guilty if they killed themselves. At the very least, it’s because caring for our parents is part of the cycle of life: They took care of us when we couldn’t take care of ourselves (you know, when we were babies), and we’ll take care of them when they can’t do it anymore.

A simpler answer is that we love them, but “Roseanne” wasn’t about to cop out on that old stand by. These characters are too disciplined; they use humor as a defense mechanism and see feelings as a weakness. Roseanne doesn’t want to deal with her mother, just like in past episodes she made clear that she doesn’t want to deal with her grandkids, and she doesn’t want to deal with anyone challenging her political beliefs. She doesn’t want to do much of anything, and that raises an telling question given the title of the episode: Does Roseanne care about her mom, and from a broader perspective, does she care about older women?

A related query is bluntly posed by Dan when he asks if Roseanne would have actually put Beverly in a home. She says she doesn’t know and that indecision is as much of an answer as we get, since Dan ends the topic with a joke: “We don’t want the kids to get any ideas,” he says, nodding to a fear of being put in a home when he and Roseanne get older. But neither of them are swayed toward a more human consideration of her mom by realizing they may face a similar fate. They just go back to gloating over not having to take care of her, putting off the problem that was staring them square in the face.

It would have been somewhat encouraging for Roseanne to see herself in Beverly. With all her concerns about aging — the cost of medicine, the physical pain of simple tasks, the exhaustion of day-to-day life — she could’ve looked at her demanding mother and seen the future (or at least considered it). “Is this what’s coming? Is this what I’ll become?”

Instead, “Roseanne” fell back on its basic model: raise a problem, watch people struggle with it, settle on the most practical result. Beverly living with Jackie isn’t so much a solution as it’s the only feasible option. (Roseanne’s house is at full capacity anyway.) As for the state of older women as a whole, one has to wonder if Roseanne is content with the status quo, beaten down into accepting her fate, or simply happiest when she’s complaining. With quips about lesbians only fighting about the privilege to do household chores and treating her aging mother “like a fly in the potato salad” (to use Beverly’s words), it doesn’t seem like Roseanne wants a better life for her fellow women. She may not have money, but she still has the capacity for empathy.

Jackie comes closest to showing she has such breadth of emotion, but even if you contend she discovered a newfound perspective on her relationship with Beverly, the button at the end of the episode dampens that belief. She complains about her mom saying hello to her, calling it a “trigger,” and yes, it’s a joke, but if you heard that joke about you, does that sound like a place you’d want to live? No country for old women, indeed.

“Roseanne” airs new episodes every Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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Warning: This article contains spoilers for the latest episode of Roseanne.

She’s back! Estelle Parsons returned to Roseanne on Tuesday night’s episode, playing Roseanne and Jackie’s mother, Beverly Harris. The beloved actress made a huge splash in the episode, and provided some much-needed comic relief in an episode mostly focused on David and Darlene’s relationship drama.

During the episode, Bev bursts through the door of the Conner family home, suitcases in tow. She announces to Jackie and Roseanne that she can no longer stay at the nursing home where she was living — because she was kicked out. “I watch TV, I play cards, I have an occasional drink, but apparently at my age I am not supposed to enjoy a healthy sex life with multiple partners, in multiple parts of the facility,” Bev says. “What? I had sex! Is that so difficult to imagine?”

Bev’s back! 😱 #Roseanne

— Roseanne on ABC (@RoseanneOnABC) April 16, 2018

Bev says at first that she can return if she writes a letter of apology, but later admits she made that up. “I can’t go back to the home, I’m going to have to stay here with you girls,” she says. “They said that I am a danger to others. I gave a couple of the men a little gonorrhea.” Jackie and Roseanne are left to figure out what to do — and the audience is left in hysterics.

It seems like the cast loves Parsons just as much as the viewers do. “Estelle is another legend, so perfect in her execution of characters that she almost blends into the project, occasionally obscuring her greatness,” Michael Fishman, who plays DJ Conner, wrote for Entertainment Weekly. “Bev is the overbearing influence that makes comedy gold.”

If you thought there wasn’t enough Bev during this episode, don’t worry. Parsons will return for more episodes of Roseanne, including May 1’s episode,“No Country for Old Women,” in which Roseanne and Jackie fight over who will take care of Bev.

Roseanne’s Johnny Galecki and Estelle Parsons return: Michael Fishman shares photos


  • TV Show

Actor Michael Fishman — who played son D.J. Conner on Roseanne from 1988 to 1997 and has returned for the revival of the ABC sitcom (Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET) — blogs exclusively for EW about his experience filming the new episodes.

Let me start with, You need to watch this week’s episode live!

Famed Director Gail Mancuso returns to Roseanne, orchestrating a script credited to our head writer Bruce Helford. This is undoubtedly a show true Roseanne fans have waited decades for.

David is back! Johnny Galecki returns and is everything audiences have been waiting for. The scenes between him and Sara Gilbert explode off the screen. Their chemistry is palpable and you’ll find yourself pushed and pulled in many directions.

The return of David means the rest of the Conner-Healy family has to come to grips with where they each stand, and how they feel about the situations that unfold. The storylines and character reactions are so real, people will be talking about this episode for a long time.

Image zoom Michael Fishman

If all that wasn’t reason enough to watch, the timeless Estelle Parsons returns as Beverly Harris. Estelle is another legend, so perfect in her execution of characters that she almost blends into the project, occasionally obscuring her greatness. Bev is the overbearing influence that makes comedy gold.

Image zoom Michael Fishman

Bruce Helford, who is a driving force throughout season 10, was also at the helm back in season 5. He brings with him a willingness to boldly tackle topics and the artistry to weave them together seamlessly for maximum impact and comedy.

…and I am jealous I was not in the very last scene.

  • TV Show
  • Cancelled
Complete Coverage
  • Roseanne (TV Show)

Johnny Galecki and Estelle Parsons will reprise their roles on Roseanne on Tuesday night, and the sneak peeks already have fans buzzing.

Galecki will return as the grown-up version of David Healy, Darlene Conner (Sara Gilbert)’s high school boyfriend from the original series. In the reboot continuity, David and Darlene had two children together before calling it quits, and are now struggling as a pair of awkward co-parents.

David’s back, and not much has changed. #Roseanne

— Roseanne on ABC (@RoseanneOnABC) April 16, 2018

Meanwhile, Parsons will return as Beverly Harris, the no-nonsense mother of Roseanne and Jackie. Parsons, a legendary actress, is 90 years old, yet screen tests show her lighting up the set with the same energy she has always brought to the classic sitcom.

The sneak peeks were published in Michael Fishman’s blogs. The actor, who has played D.J. Conner since he was a little boy, has been writing commentary on the Roseanne reboot for Entertainment Weekly, dishing on the hard work behind the scenes.

“The scenes between and Sara Gilbert explode off the screen,” he wrote. “Their chemistry is palpable and you’ll find yourself pushed and pulled in many directions.”

Of Parsons, he added: “the timeless Estelle Parsons returns as Beverly Harris. Estelle is another legend, so perfect in her execution of characters that she almost blends into the project, occasionally obscuring her greatness. Bev is the overbearing influence that makes comedy gold.”

Tuesday’s episode, titled “Darlene v. David,” is directed by Gail Mancuso. It is the first of the season to have a different director than John Pasquin. In addition, the script was drafted by Bruce Helford, the show’s co-executive producer. Helford has been a driving force for the comedy comeback, and has worked to detatch the show from Roseanne Barr’s personal politics.

“The show is not representing her personal politics,” he told The Hollywood Reporter earlier this month. “The Conners were Bill Clinton voters back in the day. Those people have very heavily shifted toward Trump. We did our due diligence on what all that would be about.”


“And the show, aside from the fact that Roseanne Barr and Roseanne Conner both happen to be Trump supporters, has been borne out to be pretty realistic, in terms of the demographics of that area . But aside from that, there’s a big difference between anyone’s personal politics and what the show is about. They’re not meant to be interrelated in any way.”

Roseanne airs at 8 p.m. ET on Tuesdays on ABC.

Roseanne fans will get a double dose of nostalgia this week. The upcoming episode of the Roseanne revival, titled “Darlene v. David,” will feature the return of Johnny Galecki and Estelle Parsons as David Healy and Beverly Harris, respectively. And while Galecki will only appear in one episode of the ABC reboot, fans will see a bit more of Bev, the overbearing mom of Roseanne (Roseanne Barr) and Jackie (Laurie Metcalf).

Oscar-winning actress Estelle Parsons guest-starred as Beverly Harris on over 60 episodes of Roseanne from 1989 to 1997. In an especially memorable episode from the original series, Estelle’s character was seen getting arrested for DUI. Twenty years later, it seems she hasn’t managed to stay out of trouble, despite the fact that Parsons is now 90-years-old.

In the “Darlene v. David” episode, Bev Harris turns up at the Conner home after being booted from her retirement home for her naughty behavior. In the sneak peek Roseanne clip below, you can see Estelle Parsons’ character explaining exactly why she got booted from her nursing home — and the hilarious reason is probably not what you would expect. While Grandma Bev shows up just in time to celebrate her great-granddaughter Harris’ (Emma Kenney) birthday, the reason for her unexpected ousting is something you’d only see on Roseanne. Take a look at the sneak peek scene below.

Bev’s back! ???? #Roseanne

A post shared by Roseanne on ABC (@roseanneonabc) on Apr 15, 2018 at 6:08pm PDT

In addition to her bombshell arrival at the Conner home in the “Darlene v. David” episode, a synopsis posted by the Futon Critic reveals that Estelle Parsons will guest star in a future Roseanne episode titled “No Country for Old Women.”

The synopsis reads as follows.

“After Beverly gets kicked out of the nursing home, Roseanne and Jackie fight over who will take care of their mother. Meanwhile, Mark’s creative touch with building a birdhouse for Dan’s customer is more than Dan can handle, but Darlene defends her son.”

In the sneak peek promotional photos released by ABC, Beverly Harris is seen greeting her daughter Jackie (Laurie Metcalf), having what looks like a heart-to-heart chat with her and possibly trying to escape out a window.

Featured image credit: Greg GayneABC

While she has only taken on sporadic acting roles over the past decade, it’s no surprise that Estelle Parsons agreed to reprise her role as Bev on the Roseanne reboot. In a previous interview with the New York Daily News, Parsons said she adores her character.

“I love her,” Parsons said in 1996. “I don’t know how they invented her. The writers on the show, they just love me. They’ve been able to watch me in the role and create this crazy woman. They have given me such a fun character to work with…When you play parts beyond middle age, so often people are written as settled, instead of being open to new experiences. She’s open to new experiences and does all these senior citizen things with this enormous sense of adventure.”

You can see Estelle Parsons in a classic scene from the original Roseanne series below.

Roseanne airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

TV Guy: ’20/20′ hosts ‘Roseanne’ reunion

It’s never easy competing against the Olympic Winter Games.

ABC makes the most of the situation with a “20/20” special (10 p.m.) that glances back and looks forward to a show named “Roseanne.”

Roseanne Barr’s sitcom took the world by storm in 1988. It deviated from traditional comedies like “The Cosby Show” to depict its outspoken working-class characters as less-than-perfect and proud of it.

Along with the Fox comedies “Married With Children” and “The Simpsons,” it found a dependable audience grateful that not every episode had to end with problems solved with lessons and hugs.

“Roseanne” ran for nine seasons. Few shows sported a stronger cast. Barr, John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf, Sara Gilbert, Lecy Goranson, Michael Fishman and Sarah Chalke will return for ABC’s “Roseanne” reboot, debuting March 27, and appear on tonight’s “20/20” to share memories of the series.

An accomplished actress in TV, stage and screen roles, Metcalf portrayed Roseanne’s sister Jackie. She has received critical praise for her work in the Oscar-nominated film “Lady Bird” and her Broadway performance in last year’s “A Doll’s House, Part 2.”

“Roseanne” was such a popular touchstone that people forget it introduced America to household names like George Clooney and featured everyone from Ellen DeGeneres to Tobey Maguire and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as guest stars – not to mention comedian Sandra Bernhard.

And Roseanne’s mother and grandmother were portrayed by two Oscar winners, Estelle Parsons and the late Shelley Winters.

It remains to be seen if ABC’s “Roseanne” revival will succeed or suffer the fate of other remakes. The indifference to the CW’s “Dynasty” has not stopped broadcasters from banking on familiar favorites to stand out in a crowded field. Look for “new” versions of “Heathers,” “Cagney and Lacey,” “Magnum, P.I.,” and “Murphy Brown” in your future.

– “This Is Us” fans suffering withdrawals during the Olympic Games can binge on the NBC intergenerational melodrama “Parenthood,” streaming on Hulu.

Tonight’s other highlights

– Gordon negotiates with Penguin on “Gotham” (8 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14).

– A carriage ride leads to a hot tub on “The Bachelor Winter Games” (8 p.m., ABC, TV-14).

– Tension in the band on “Nashville” (9 p.m., CMT, TV-PG).

– An Amazon (Gal Gadot) leaves home and discovers her true potential in the 2017 comic book adaptation “Wonder Woman” (9 p.m., HBO2).

Series notes

Late night

The Conners Season 2 will feature another returning Roseanne star. Oscar winner Estelle Parsons is coming back for more episodes as Beverly Harris, Jackie and Roseanne’s mother. Actor Michael Fishman broke the news himself with a photo of Parsons visiting the set.

One of my highlights so far of season 2 of @theconnersabc is the time I spent with Estelle Parsons

— Michael Fishman (@ReelMFishman) September 22, 2019

“One of my highlights so far of season 2 of is the time I spent with Estelle Parsons,” Fishman, who stars as DJ Conner, wrote on Twitter. He included a photo of himself with Parsons in the Conners’ familiar kitchen.

Parsons, who has an Oscar for her supporting role in 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde, appeared in two episodes of Roseanne’s revival season last year. She also appeared in the series premiere of The Conners, “Keep on Truckin,'” last season.

Other familiar guest stars will be appearing in The Conners Season 2. Sons of Anarchy star Katey Sagal will be back as Louise, a former classmate of Dan and Roseanne’s. In Season 1, Louise returned to Lanford and was introduced as a potential romantic interest for Dan, who is still coping with the death of Roseanne (Roseanne Barr).

Johnny Galecki confirmed he will be back for at least one episode as David Healy, his original Roseanne character.

“I may be putting the (literal/figurative) pants of back on for one or two more stories on this year,” Galecki wrote on Instagram, alongside a photo of Sara Gilbert and Laurie Metcalf trying to get him into a pair of pants. “Twenty some years later I’m still in awe of this freak a— carnie group who adopted me early on and still learn so very much from them whenever in their presence.”

Fans will have to tune in to see who else will be stopping by on the show. Juliette Lewis, who played David’s new girlfriend in Season 1, told in August that she would love to get the call to return.

Lewis said she would be “really excited” to come back.

“How fun was that? It was such a trip being on the stage. I mean, it’s funny when you still have little parts of your young self where I’m like, ‘I’m in the TV.’ Because when I was a kid, I thought like, people were in the TV. You know. I was five,” Lewis told us. “My point is, I don’t know, all things are possible.”

Lewis said she had an “amazing time with this incredible cast” while she appeared on The Conners.

The Conners also stars Alicia Goranson as Becky, Emma Kenney as Harris Conner-Healy, Ames McNamara as Mark Conner-Healy, Kayden Rey as Mary Conner and Maya Lynne Robinson as Genna Williams-Conner.


The Conners returns on Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

Photo credit: ABC/Eric McCandless

by Ava Watson

What we view on television is usually a variation of what is happening in the real world. This idea is supported as we observe the evolution of the television mother during the development of the feminist movement that was reignited in the 1960s. I believe that television mom Rosanne Connor has encompassed attributes of the television mother including the traditional stay at home mom of the 50s, the single mom of the 70s, and the 80s independent woman. She also helped to popularize and give voice to the imperfect and frustrated moms that are commonly seen on today’s sitcoms. Rosanne is the quintessential television mother.

Cultural Theory

The role of the TV mother has evolved with the pace of women and mothers in the real world. In order to prove this I will use Cultural Theory. According to sociologist Michael Richardson, “culture is simply what human beings produce and the means by which we preserve what we have produced.” Culture is the social (rules and practices), physical (clothing, music, tv, etc.) and attitudinal (values and concepts of right and wrong) forms that are shared among groups of people (Ott 124-125).

Culture cannot be attained by one individual. It has certain traits. Culture is:

  • Collective – shared among a group of people;
  • Rhetorical – Symbolic meanings to text are attached;
  • Historical – It changes, evolves, mutates or may even disappear; and,
  • Ideological – How we interpret the world (125-126).

Contemporary Cultural Studies (as it relates to media) is used to analyze how “media texts shape the way we think about the world” (124). It examines the meaning of text and looks at how text may influence the viewer. Cultural theorists argue that what we see in the media is usually shown from the perspective of the dominant/more powerful group. A main issue that arises from that structure is that other, less powerful groups in society can be (and usually are) excluded or misrepresented (124).

In addition to economic class disparity, theorists also discovered that other distinctions are made according to gender, sexuality, race, age, disability and other classifications (135). Theorists may examine: 1) the message(s) within the text, 2) how the text is being interpreted by viewers within a culture, and 3) the political and economic power structures behind them to discover if they have a negative or positive affect or influence on the culture (Fineman).

Cultural Studies is an umbrella term for a large group of studies which include: feminist culture, social culture, political cultures, fashion and beauty culture, sports culture, etc. This paper looks at how the evolution of the feminist movement in the real world was reflected in the roles of mothers on television. It centers around one mother character in particular who I believe to be the mother of all television mothers, Roseanne Conner from the television sitcom Roseanne.


Roseanne was a sitcom about the everyday life and struggles of a working class family in the fictional small town of Lanford, Illinois. The Connor family consisted of father, Dan; mom, Roseanne; and their children, Becky, Darlene and DJ (Dan Jr.). Dan and Roseanne Connor were blue collar workers struggling to make ends meet while raising their family.
The character of Roseanne was the main focus of the show. The character was based upon actress and standup comedian Roseanne Barr’s routine in which she became famous for coining the term “domestic goddess”. Rosanne and the Connor family represented the working class, whose numbers were growing in the 80s (Chillman 191). Original episodes of the show aired on ABC from 1988 to 1997.

Roseanne as the Traditional Mother

Before the revival of the feminist movement in the 60s, the television mother was a man’s dream. One of the most popular and beloved television mothers from that era was June Cleaver from the sitcom Leave it to Beaver (1957-1963). There was father, Ward, who worked a white collar office job; the older of the two sons, Wally Beaver; the star of the show and youngest child, Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver; and then, of course, there was mom, June Cleaver.

June Cleaver was the traditional mom; a true domestic goddess. Her hair was perfectly coiffed at all times. Makeup was applied perfectly whether day or night. Her clothes – usually a dress that was snug enough to highlight her small waist while revealing a glimpse of her leg, yet securing her modesty – were perfectly starched and pressed; never a wrinkle in sight. Most days she wore high heeled shoes – even while vacuuming. And don’t forget about her pearl necklace. She was never seen without it.

While some may argue that Mrs. Cleaver’s perfect appearance was unrealistic in the real world, her role as a traditional American mother was not. Mrs. Cleaver would rise every morning to prepare a fresh pot of coffee for her husband; breakfast and a bagged lunch for the kids before seeing them off to school; and then she would tend to her household duties.

The character was literally a man’s dream. She was birthed from the imaginations of writers, Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher. June Cleaver was created in a time when real American women were on the verge of declaring their discontent with the happy homemaker image – post World War II. During the war, women had been encouraged to work in factories while men went off to battle. After the war, women became reluctant to give up their jobs and return to their roles as happy homemakers. They began to question their roles in society. An excerpt from a letter sent to the Women’s Bureau of the US Department of Labor around 1944 indicates the attitude that some men had towards women who had worked, formed unions during the war, and were now questioning what they would do once the soldiers returned home: “Wishing you success in your work and hoping for the day when women may relax and stay in her beloved kitchen, a loving wife to some man who is now fighting for his beloved country” (Anderson 237). In others words, a woman’s place is in the kitchen, and there was no need to think or do for herself because she has a husband to do it for her – at least that’s my interpretation.

When it comes to appearance, Roseanne was the antithesis of June Cleaver. Roseanne was overweight and for the most part – at least in the early episodes – her hair could hardly be considered as stylish. Her clothes appeared to come from bargain stores like Kmart or a thrift store. Her “dress” was usually blue jeans and a sweat shirt. High heels were only worn for a rare special occasion.

I would argue that Roseanne was the traditional mom of the 80s. By the 1980s, which we will discuss in more detail later, it was more common than not for mothers to work outside of the home while still being responsible for taking care of the children and maintaining the household. Roseanne did just that.

In the tradition of television mother’s during the June Cleaver era, Roseanne was also responsible for directing household duties and taking care of the children’s needs. As we see in the very first episode, despite the fact that Roseanne worked full-time in a factory, it was still her duty to maintain the household and care for the children.

The first episode of Roseanne called, “Life and Stuff”, opens with a routine family day for the Connors. The Connor children — Becky, Darlene and DJ, are busily getting ready for school. Among the chaos of the children, Roseanne’s husband, Dan, is the figure of calm and authority. Although he is present in the kitchen, it is clear that Roseanne is the one the children turn to when they are in need.

While Roseanne prepares school lunch for the kids, DJ enters the kitchen to ask her to help untie his shoelace. Dan then comes in and asks for coffee. Suddenly their oldest daughter, Becky, comes in the kitchen and starts to remove food from the pantry. She states that she is collecting food for a school food drive. Roseanne reminds her not to take too much. Dan supports Roseanne’s commands when he points at Becky and says in a serious tone, “Don’t touch that creamed corn”. This leaves the impression that Roseanne is in charge, but Dan has the final word.

Roseanne then has to break up a fight between Darlene and DJ. She tells them to stop, but they continue until Dan says, “You heard your mother.” This tiny act once again shows that the male figure is in control.

Before running out the door Darlene hands Roseanne a letter calling for a parent/teacher meeting later that day, and Becky tells Rosanne that her new book bag is broken and asks her to replace it for her. After the kids are off, Rosanne asks Dan to handle one of the tasks for her, but he backs out. He had just put in a bid for a job and if it came in, he would have to start that day. Besides that, he had to fix the sink.

Roseanne voices her frustration. Running both errands would mean that she would have to take off of work early. Dan sticks to his guns. One can assume that this is because Dan makes more money as a construction worker than Roseanne does as a factory worker. Roseanne has to do both errands.

It may have been the intent of the writers to show the sacrifices and pressures of mothers, but the narrative also reinforces the ideology of the traditional family structure where the father has the ultimate authority and his job holds more importance and value than the mother. Hence the ideology that men are more important and powerful than a women.
It is also a reinforcement of gender roles. The male, Dan, does masculine chores like fixing the sink and working in construction; while the female, Roseanne, takes care of the children, household chores, and does the shopping. Those are traditional male and female roles in American society.

Roseanne as the Single Mom

The women’s movement brought independence and power to women on a larger scale than ever before in American history. The dominant idea that the role of a wives was to be subservient partners to their husbands and support to their children was a diminishing ideology in American society.

Because of the accomplishments of the women’s movement, women were becoming free to voice their opinions and flex the muscle of the economic and political power that they obtained. Women now felt empowered to leave unhappy marriages and relationships. As a result, there was a substantial increase in the divorce rate in the period after the rebirth of the feminist movement in the 1960s (Spain 30).

The connection between the effects of women’s movement in the real world and became more evident on television. One show in particular that reflected this change was One Day at a Time (1975-1984). The show focused on life after divorce for newly single mom Ann Romano. Ann had been under the command of men for most of her life. She married her husband immediately after leaving her parent’s home. She went from being under the influence of her father to being under the eye of a domineering husband. This was the first time she was technically out on her own. In addition to claiming her own independence, Ann was now faced with the hardships of being a single mom raising two teenage daughters.

Many would argue that Rosanne was married throughout the entire series and was not a single mother; but there was a point in the final season (episode 13, season 9) when Dan cheats on Roseanne and she asks him to leave (“Say It Ain’t So”). The couple separate for a while and Roseanne is the sole parent in the household.

In the previous season Roseanne had given birth to another son, Jerry Garcia Conner (“Halloween: the Final Chapter”), and DJ was now a teenager (Becky and Darlene were adult women). However brief a period, when Dan left, Roseanne was now the sole caretaker of her dependent children. She had encountered life as a single mother.

Roseanne as the Independent Business Mom

By the 1980s it was common to see women in powerful professional positions, especially in the media. Women were now leading news anchors and editors of prominent newspapers and magazines (Heinemann 302-303). Viewing women in those powerful positions allowed society to adapt quickly to the idea that women could do and have it all. They could have a career, get married, have children, and still take care of the home. No character exemplified this version of the American mother better than The Cosby Show’s (1984-1992) Clair Huxtable.

Clair Huxtable was a powerful attorney by day and a loving, wise, and patient mother at night. She also had elements of the 50s traditional mom: She was the main care taker of the children, and it was assumed that she was responsible for maintaining the home (although they could clearly afford to hire a housekeeper).

Roseanne portrayed the independent mom that could do it all in season 5 when she launched her restaurant, The Lunchbox. In episode 6 “Looking for Loans in All the Wrong Places,” Roseanne decides to open her own business; a restaurant specializing in her creation, loose meat sandwiches. The Lunch Box was Roseanne’s attempt to obtain financial independence and put an end to the string of disastrous experiences with her bosses.

While some may not agree that a restaurant owner whose educational experience did not exceed high school can be compared to those of a highly degreed attorney, I believe otherwise. The feminist movement was about empowering women; not necessarily obtaining a power position. What’s more empowering than being able to be your own boss?

Roseanne as the Frustrated Mom

Roseanne has been the poster child of the real life struggles of mothers. During the very first episode she makes it clear that she was not from the June Cleaver era. When her responsibilities became too much, she did not sit quietly. She did not hesitate to ask her husband to pitch in and help, nor did she pause to vent her frustrations when he didn’t. She was also vocal at expressing her frustrations to and about her children.
June Cleaver would never do such a thing. Roseanne’s sharp wit and sarcastic humor are now commonly seen in the TV mothers on current family sitcoms. You can find television mothers like Claire Dunphy (Modern Family) and Frankie Heck (The Middle) reprimanding and scolding their children and husbands every week. Voicing frustratios is now a common, accepted and understandable trait associated with American television mothers. With the assistance of blogs and social networking this trait has slowly been working its way into reality (which is converse to previous eras).


As the feminist movement progressed and changed the lives of American women in the real world, those changes were displayed and supported by the female characters on television. The evolution in the role of the television mother reflects these changes and Roseanne Connor embodies them. She is independent, empowered and powerful while never abandoning her role of nurturer. Roseanne is the mother of all mothers.

Works Cited

Fineman, Elissa. Powerpoint Presentation and Lecture. “Cultural Studies: Identity Politics Audience Reception.” Columbia College. Chicago, IL. Spring 2011.

“Halloween: the Final Chapter.” Roseanne. ABC. WLS-TV, Chicago. 31 Oct 1995. Television.

Heinemann, Sue. Timelines of American Women’s History. New York: The Berkley Publishing Group, 1996. Print.

“Life and Stuff.” Roseanne. ABC. WLS-TV, Chicago. 18 Oct 1988. Television.

“Looking for Loans in All the Wrong Places.” Roseanne. ABC. WLS-TV, Chicago. 20 Oct 1992. Television.

Ott, Brian L., and Robert L. Mack. Critical Media Studies: An Introduction. Malden, Mass: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. Print.

“Say It Ain’t So.” Roseanne. ABC. WLS-TV, Chicago. 7 Jan 1997. Television.

Spain, Daphne and Bianchi, Suzanne M. Balancing Act: Motherhood, Marriage, and Employment Among American Women. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1996. Web.

‘Young Sheldon’ mom hails from a TV dynasty

Zoe Perry grew up in a television studio — specifically the soundstage of “Roseanne.”

If you look at Perry and listen closely when she says her lines as Mary Cooper — mother to Sheldon (Iain Armitage) on the new CBS comedy “Young Sheldon” — you won’t be surprised to learn that her mother is acclaimed actress Laurie Metcalf, who won three Emmys for playing Roseanne’s sister, Jackie.

“I really did grow up on that set,” says Perry, 33. “I was age four to about thirteen. If I had my way, I would be there as much as I could be. What’s not enjoyable being around incredibly funny, sardonic people?”

Perry is not the first actress to play Sheldon’s mother. One of the rich ironies about her co-starring on the new series is that Metcalf plays the adult Sheldon’s mother on “The Big Bang Theory.” Despite the blood relation, Perry insists she auditioned for executive producer Chuck Lorre, who’s known her since she was a little girl.

“I hadn’t really crossed paths with Chuck during my adulthood as an actor. He would have no idea if I was capable or not to do this,” she says. “They found Iain Armitage to play young Sheldon so I was age-appropriate. I got to audition, then it was just a wonderfully happy reality for me that they chose me.”

Although Perry’s naturally effusive personality would suggest a lack of insecurities, the actress admits she walks in the shadow of her mother’s portrayal of Mary Cooper. “I try and do her proud,” she says. “But we’re being introduced to this character as a different stage of life. She’s not as fervent as she is on ‘Big Bang.’ She’ s got three kids running around. I can play the reality and not worry about what’s been established.”

If Perry — who’s single and has no children — seems like a natural in the role, concerned for nine-year old Sheldon’s welfare as he enters high school, chalk that up to “lots of babysitting.” “I’ve had a lot of younger people in my life,” she says. “I have four siblings between my dad and my mom, two brothers and two sisters.”

Dad is “Scandal” star Jeff Perry (Cyrus Beene). Perry has acted in plays (separately) with both parents, who were founding members of the Steppenwolf theater company and divorced when she was eight years old. “I’ve been so impressed with him on that show,” she says of dad Jeff. “It’s rather unlike the things he gets cast in. He personally relishes it.”

It’s rare to have the father, mother and daughter of one family all acting in three separate TV series at the same time, but that will be the case when Metcalf returns to the rebooted “Roseanne” next year. Perry, of course, has already been to the set of that show.

“It almost feels as if no time has gone by. There are even crew members from the original show,” she says. “It kind of feels like a family got back together. There something pretty special about that.”

Note: “Young Sheldon” will be preempted on WCBS/Ch. 2 in New York by Jets football, and will air at 8:30 p.m. on WLNY. Check local listings.

Where are the realistic TV moms?

At a time when parents are overworked, overburdened, stretched, frustrated, and when countless studies continue to batter us about unhappy parents — it comes as a great surprise that there aren’t more depictions of parents, namely mothers, struggling with the act of parenting on television.

Sure there are a few exceptions — moments of realistic parenting. There’s Claire Dunphy, played by Julie Bowen on “Modern Family,” the anxiety-ridden and “undervalued” stay-at-home mom who becomes more undervalued when she transitions into work, as a friend put it. A few friends swear by Kristina Braverman (Monica Potter) from “Parenthood” because, according to friend and writer Miriam Novogrodsky, “she has a recognized vulnerability.” But as my friend Nancy told me, “I love ‘Parenthood,’ but the parenting situations — all the situations — are too neatly wrapped up. ‘I have cancer.’ Done! ‘I ran for mayor, but I didn’t get elected which is fine because now I can be home with my kids which is really my calling.’ Done!”


Yet, then in the face of all new the-kids-are-driving-us-crazy studies, why are most of the realistic parenting examples found in moms of TV past? (And by realistic I don’t mean everyone’s favorite, Clair Huxtable. Though undoubtedly the best TV mom, she was too calm, too gorgeous, too successful, set up too many healthy boundaries and clearly was not on medication.) Veronica Arreola of the blog Viva La Feminista cited Elyse Keaton (Meredith Baxter) from “Family Ties,” specifically the episodes when she returned to work. And Lisa Duggan, founder of The Modern Village, mentioned Jamie Buchman’s “Mad About You” breakthrough moment “where she is realizing the enormous responsibility of being a mom when she says, ‘I know because I’m the mommy … oh my God! I’m the mommy! I’m the mommy!’”

My 21-year-old cousin Emma — not a mom at all — pointed to Edie Falco’s portrayal of Carmela Soprano because of her realistic relationship with her kids. “They would get mad at her a lot easier than Tony, even though she was always trying to help them. And I feel like blaming the mom is kind of common … at least in my family.”

I’m going to take it back even further and say Esther Rolle’s portrayal of Florida Evans on “Good Times” was one of the best TV representations of motherhood. (Although Rolle left “Good Times” because she felt the series pandered to stereotypes.) According to University of Michigan professor Kimberly Springer, criticism from the group Black Women Organized for Action led to Florida’s evolution from a somewhat cookie-cutter stay-at-home mom character to one whose pain mirrored the pain of many 1970s mothers. In “Florida Flips,” Florida is besieged by demands to make the oatmeal, do the laundry, make the bed, referee fighting kids and argue with her husband about the “state of her happiness” — she ultimately slaps her son Michael in a fit of frustration. Her friend Willona does what any enlightened woman of the ’70s would do: she drags Florida to a feminist meeting. By Season 3, Florida evolves into a working mother, voicing outrage about how women of that generation (and ours) must “do all the chores and be mother, housewife, diplomat, seamstress, referee, counselor, cook, and sparring partner with no pay and no fringe benefits.” This was over 30 years ago, folks.


But the only parent currently on television capturing the real work of being a parent like some of the characters I mentioned isn’t a mom at all. It’s a dad — Louis C.K. Writes Sheila Bapat on Feministing:

Louis C.K.’s comedy consistently and thoroughly tackles the challenges of parenting. He deconstructs it in a way that makes the frustrations of being a parent hilariously funny and profound. By picking on his kids — who, based on what paparazzi have shown us, he does seem to spend a lot of time with in his real life — Louis C.K.’s comedy reveals parenting as work, which is exactly what it is.

To Louis C.K.’s credit, he’s been calling his (TV and real) kids assholes for years. But the Season 2 opener of “Louie” captured the spirit of Jennifer Senior’s recent book on the difficulties of parenting, “All Joy and No Fun.” In that episode, Louie’s daughter announced, “I like Mommy’s better because she has good food. And I love her more so I like being there more.” His response: He gave the kid the finger. This isn’t to say that I subscribe to giving your kid the finger — unless it’s behind a wall — but in this small gesture, he demonstrates parents’ desire to name their kids’ shitty behavior. It’s why the book “Go the Fuck to Sleep” sold 5 bazillion copies. It’s why “Super Nanny” was a hit show. It’s because parenting is a confounding mystery. A paradox. And for every kid who gives lip (as my father used to say), there’s a parent who wants to wave his middle finger high in the air like a flag of glory.

But no history of TV parents illustrating the real grunt work of parenting would be complete without Roseanne. Not only did Roseanne crush the idea of the perfect TV mom — in one episode, historic TV moms including June Cleaver from “Leave It to Beaver” criticized her parenting — but she exposed the challenges of parent-child relationships. In my favorite episode, “Darlene Fades to Black,” Roseanne’s teenage daughter Darlene (Sara Gilbert) sinks into a depression, dresses in black and ditches basketball (her favorite sport) for a spot on the couch. Roseanne’s husband, Dan (John Goodman), unfairly calls out Roseanne for not having the answers. “Darlene’s turning into a zombie and you’re doing nothing!” he screams. When Roseanne and Darlene finally speak, it looks like this:


Roseanne: At least when you had basketball …

Darlene: Again with basketball.

Roseanne: Get back here, I’m not telling you to play basketball, I think it’s the stupidest sport in the world and I spent all four years of high school pretending I had cramps so I didn’t have to play.

In the end, Darlene explains to Roseanne, “It’s school. It’s my friends. It’s the way I look. It’s you. It’s Dad. It’s everything.” I can see how I might have related to this at the time; when it first aired, I was just out of high school. But revisiting it now, it’s not the my-world-as-a-teenager-sucks speech that’s most relevant — it’s Roseanne’s reaction. She didn’t try to explain it away as feelings. Instead, Roseanne left her daughter alone.

It was a poignant moment in sitcom history, particularly for a TV mom, known for their just-what-the-doctor ordered solutions, or their uncanny ability to trade wisecracks. In the last scene of the episode, the camera focuses on Darlene, sprawled on the sofa, staring wide-eyed at the television and clothed in black like Johnny Cash. Dan holds a mirror under her nose to make sure she’s breathing — but there was no “You have learned well, Grasshopper” moment. It was unresolved — much like real life. Today’s world of TV parents, heavy with melodrama and sentimentality, could use more scenes like this one.