Now that I’m watching the show with a closer lens and taking everything apart, I’m beginning to realize that things between Becky and the rest of the Conners aren’t as bad as I always remember them being. Granted, from around season 3 onward things get really, really bad, and Becky becomes insufferable nearly 24/7 instead of only half the time, but watching this season I’m realizing how early episodes like this one can slip through the cracks. Becky spends most of the episode exactly as I expected, pouting and moping and being your average bratty high school girl, but she actually has a moment of maturity that redeems a lot of her acting out in this episode. In the grand scheme of things it’s not much considering what she later becomes (though maybe we can chalk that one up to flanderization), but it does give the character more weight in my eyes.
The only real plot to the episode is that the family is going to the mall for a day of huge sales. Becky wants to buy a new dress for the One Enchanted Evening dance, and Roseanne has been pestering Dan to get a new pair of shoes, which he is reluctant to do (to say the least).
They arrive at the mall, and not a whole lot happens. Several conversations take place while they wait for Dan to park the car, as apparently he needs to arrive in the mall before they can go to “The Ultimate,” where Becky will shop for her dress. It’s not really clear why this is the case, as the moment he and DJ arrive, they split off to go to the shoe store while the girls go to The Ultimate. What’s more, due to the show only building one mall set (for obvious reasons) they’re literally standing right in front of The Ultimate while Becky begs her mother to let her go off to the store alone. This is pretty small minutiae, I realize, but hey, we’re going over things with a fine-tooth comb here.
Finally in the store, we’re treated to an entire rack of 80’s fashion delights. Look at the poofy sleeves! And the butt bows! Frankly it’s a wonder Becky ends up with such a normal, classic dress in the end. You can see it above– it’s surprising to see something so simple in 1988/1989, right?
Tensions rise as Roseanne sees the prices of the atrocious dresses, and Becky goes “in the back” with the saleswoman to check out some nicer stuff. Dan returns and informs Roseanne that he will not be purchasing shoes today, that’s it, end of discussion. Obviously this does not hold up against Roseanne’s withering stare.
Becky returns with an $80 dress, and begs Roseanne to buy it for her– if she doesn’t have a cool dress like all her friends, none of the guys will want to dance with her. Roseanne is in a tough spot as her daughter and the sales lady try to sway her when she can’t afford the dress. Unable to get what she wants, Becky resorts to pouting and giving her mother the silent treatment.
Meanwhile, Jackie is flirting with a guy hocking his infomercial exercise product, which is basically a resistance band. And at that, a resistance band that’s set up so all you can do is bicep curls. Ridiculously, he wears a weightlifting belt to do said bicep curls.
Their conversation leads Jackie to realize that she feels stuck in Lanford, working in a factory and going nowhere. This plot doesn’t really go anywhere until season 2 when Jackie decides to become a police officer (in an episode written by Joss Whedon, no less), but the show is crafty in planting these seeds now so her decision isn’t out of the blue.
This also reminds me that in the early seasons Jackie is a strong female character. I’ve lamented this here before, but by the end of the series Jackie is a strung-out, weak, nervous and frail woman who is merely a shell of her former self (see flanderization above). It’s one of the handful of faults in this show, that this character, who had her flaws but was strong and driven and smart, should become such a mess later. On the flipside, given what we know to be Jackie’s real story at the end of the series, perhaps we can even interpret this inner crisis as the beginning of her questioning her sexuality as well.
With Jackie momentarily comforted by Roseanne’s reassurances, we return to the central conflict as Becky freezes out her mother and swears she’ll never eat again.
Roseanne tells Becky that she knows Becky didn’t mean it, but that she was very embarrassed by her behavior in the store and not being able to afford the dress. To my surprise, Becky very quickly changes her tune and apologizes for embarrassing her mother. She concedes that she can find something nice to wear in her closet and, shockingly, everything is fine again.
Apparently Becky deserves more credit than I give her, at least at this early stage. Imagining myself in her shoes, there’s no way I would have been mature enough to a) apologize for embarrassing my mother and b) not pout or be upset for the next month or so about not getting a new dress. Though her responsibility and maturity become a cause for her to rebel and hate her family in later seasons (after all, she only gets punished for it while Darlene is rewarded for her depression and refusal to help out around the house), for now it’s rewarded and appreciated (sometimes) by her parents. Though her saintliness in this episode borders on the level of the 7th Heaven kids, it’s counterbalanced by her sass and acting out in other episodes enough that it feels real instead of sitcommy-goody-two-shoes-ish.
As it turns out, Dan spent $80 on his much maligned new shoes, the same cost as Becky’s dress. Roseanne, feeling her daughter has earned it with her maturity (who could blame her), asks Dan to return the shoes, sending him off on a rant about the hell he went through to obtain them– and eliciting a yawn in response.
But once Roseanne tells Dan why she wants to return them, he relents and tells her she’s an amazing woman. A little hyperbolic, maybe, but it’s nice to see this family, particularly two parents and their teenage daughter, happily getting along together.
– Seriously, why does Becky have to refer to Roseanne as “Mother?” And in such a hateful tone? Even in episodes like this one where I like her/cut her some slack, it just puts me on edge to hear it.
– Yeah, Crystal was in this episode too, but I feel I don’t need to reiterate my feelings on her insanity at this point.
– DJ, as always, is adorable. Seriously, who trained Michael Fishman at that young age, because he had impeccable delivery!