Dan Conner of “Roseanne” has always been the father I never had

I was thrilled to learn that iconic ’80s-’90s sitcom Roseanne is coming back into our lives. After winning a battle against the formidable Netflix, ABC secured an opportunity to release an 8-episode revival. And in this version (dramatic drum roll please), Dan Conner, husband to Roseanne and father of their children, never died! I am willing to forgive this inconsistency for the sake of his memory.

I always felt a special affinity for Dan Conner. As far as I was concerned, my mother was the real life version of Roseanne. So naturally, John Goodman’s performance represented the father prototype for me, largely shaping my ideas about fatherhood. 

Dan Conner will always be the person I think of when I celebrate Father’s Day

Father’s Day wasn’t really celebrated in my house since my dad wasn’t around for most of my childhood. I had male coaches, teachers, and mentors who served as excellent surrogates, though. My uncles and grandfather showed me great examples of manhood.

When I think of the relationship I would have wanted to have with my dad, Dan Conner comes to mind.

Dan Conner is one of the reasons I didn’t grow up bitter about my father. As a young Roseanne in the making, I was opinionated and boisterous. Dan’s love for Roseanne encouraged me to be more comfortable with myself. In one of my favorite episodes, when Roseanne sees her newly divorced friend, Dan feels insecure about whether Roseanne will stay with him. His openness and willingness to communicate fears was beautiful. Dan Conner showed me an example of how to fight with your partner without destroying the relationship from the root.

In another touching moment, he gave Jackie (Roseanne’s sister) advice about relationships. He stood up to bullies. He encouraged people without (much) judgement. Although Dan Conner was the physical stereotype of a macho man, he was actually quite tender in his role as a husband and father.

I had a lot of friends who, like me, were raised by single mothers.

They talked so negatively of their absentee dads, and couldn’t connect with peers who had positive relationships with their fathers. Some of my classmates would make Father’s Day gifts for their mothers, but I liked keeping Father’s Day strictly for fathers — or for Dan Conner.

If a parent was caught on camera today doing what Dan did, they’d likely be accosted on social media, but I loved his vulnerable, yet tough parenting style. He was loving to a fault. Dan was a blue collar man supporting his family. Unlike the TV dads most of my friends admired (Uncle Phil, Dr. Huxtable, George Jefferson, etc.) Dan Conner was not a rich man. I could relate to the Conners because of that. He was a hybrid of Al Bundy and Andy Taylor. Dan was a different type of father to each of his children.

It wasn’t until after middle school (coincidentally around the time the Conner family struck it rich) that my concept of fatherhood changed — because that’s when my estranged father showed up in my life again to debunk my Dan Conner Dad Theory. Essentially, Dan Conner was a lovable, loving, supportive, strong man who stayed committed to his family, no matter what.

Dan was more of a father to me than my own transient, unreliable, absentee father.

Of course, Dan didn’t deal with addiction or racism the way my father did — but in the show, his character still had a challenging life. When Dan confronted his father about the way he treated women, it helped me realize that we are not necessarily destined to turn into our fathers. I chose to believe in my Dan Conner Dad Theory rather than reality.

I am so grateful that Roseanne Barr created the central character. Even when John Goodman is playing some totally non-Dan character, I still get that warm feeling inside.

Dan Conner will always be my favorite TV father because of his reliability, his vulnerability, and his imperfections.

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