Knives in Pop Culture: Dan, Roseanne, and the pocket knife

Roseanne knife

This is going to be a fairly open-ended post, because my thoughts are not completely formed on the topic. I am sure that there will be plenty of folks commenting. “I didn’t watch it”, but the fact is a whole lot of people watched the premier of the Roseanne reboot. In one of the combined episodes, Darlene’s gender-bending teenage son gets sent home from school for having a knife which Dan gave to him.


The grandparents are not concerned about Mark’s need to express himself through his clothes, but worry that their grandson will get bullied for being different.

After a heartwarming conversation with Roseanne, where she asks her grandson point plank if he identifies as a girl or a boy — which he answers by identifying as a boy — Roseanne takes him to school.

 Later in the episode however, an angry Darlene comes home early with her son after he is suspended for bringing a weapon to school, and has a serious conversation with her father.

“Guess what? I had to pick up Mark from the principal’s office today,” Darlene says.

“I knew something was going to happen,” Dan comments.

“Yeah, he showed a kid a knife at school and he said you gave it to him,” Darlene says, pulling out a pocket knife and showing it to her father. “Is that true?”

“Well … Yeah,” Dan responds. “I gave it to him. I didn’t tell him to bring it to school.”

“What the hell were you thinking?”

“I didn’t think it was that big of a deal Darlene, you wanted a knife at that age and I gave it to you,” Dan says.

Darlene tells her dad the only reason he gave Mark the knife was to make him seem more masculine. Dan admits he liked that Mark found the knife fascinating.

Dan also said he hoped it would “be a gateway to pockets”. As the episode goes on, it becomes clear that Dan’s motivations are good, and he is genuinely worried about the boy.

So this gets me to the point of the post. If you watched the episode, what did you think? I am not particularly interested in moderating a discussion on the cross-dressing itself, I think the show handled it wiell. I am more interested in how the knife was treated on the show.

I don’t disagree that it is a bad idea to have a kid bring a knife to school given the current climate. But context is important. We have seen severe overractions for knives brought for protection, and those which were innocent mistakes. 

As I said, I am not sure I have a concrete rumination about it, but I think that the knife was definitely “normalized” in a sense. Yes it was a bad idea, but it was seen as normal for a boy to have a knife. Combined with shows like Forged in Fire and the new Bladesports-inspired “Knife or Death” show, it seems that the normally hoplophobic American media is able to separate knives from guns in the current political climate.

The late Andrew Breitbart once said “Politics is downstream of culture”. For this reason I think the importance of knife “normalization” in pop culture cannot be overstated. Just as switchblade and gravity knife laws were artifacts of “Rebel Without a Cause” in the 50’s, now Vice News, NYT, Village Voice, and WSJ are all actively endorsing gravity knife repeal in NYC. The NRA and the Village frickin’ Voice are both in agreement about something.

I bought each of my children a Mora Eldris, with extremely stern admonitions to not bring them to school. Fact is, I drop them off and pick them up, and for better or worse they do not need to be “resourceful” on the way home.

But I am thrilled when they grab it at home, and head into the acre of woods adjacent to my property. Knives are a normal part of growing up. Knives are “normal” period.


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  1. stuartb says:

    Didn’t watch it, but anything that pisses off the SJW types by getting to the simple truth is good in my books

  2. Sam L. says:

    I didn’t watch it. I did read that it would be on, but not which channel and when, and didn’t care to look for it. I’ve pretty much given up watching network tv. It does sound like a show that Trump-voters could enjoy.

  3. cmeat says:

    i witnessed a very liberal widow and a highly conservative barkeep gal discussing their varied opinions on viewing this. the bartender spat and made retching sounds in reference to barr’s national anthem interpretation, while the libtard made mention of roseanne’s trump support and metcalf’s left wing leanings. i hadn’t considered any of that previously; i’m disappointed to have missed the airing, i enjoyed the writing of the early seasons.
    any mainstream show that portrays youngsters with pocket knives “just because” is great.

  4. Overload in CO says:

    I watched the show. I was disappointed they didn’t have any anti-bullying talk, but concentrated on the knife. The kid says he pulled the knife when he _knew_ he was going to get beat up. The knife was a Case-style folding knife, like a boy scout knife. Also, surprised the kid wasn’t suspended under a no-tolerance rule.

  5. DannyG says:

    Whittling was part of my woodworking class in Jr High (early ‘70’s). We were expected to bring our own tools, including knives.

  6. BatChainPuller says:

    My son was suspended in 1997 for having an exacto knife in his backpack. The cop was searching for cigarettes.
    That’s at least 20 years of “zero tolerance”
    When I picked him up from school I told the principal the kids used the exacto knives to slit open blunts to pack with pot and that she and her onsite cop were not too bright and needed to get a life..
    Don’t have much sympathy for any “zero tolerance” policies.
    The neighbor girl cheerleader was caught with an exacto knife and guess what? Mike Flynn and Andy McCabe…we only punish our enemies.

    I always carried pocket knives for utility, not protection.

  7. McGehee says:

    When I was in 6th grade, more than 40 years ago, I was called into the principal’s office because the previous day, while walking home from school, I showed another kid from school a folding pocket knife.

    The only reason the other kid would have found it threatening was because he happened to be trying to pick a fight at the time — but having a knife at school (technically after school, but I had to have had it with me at school, and I did still have it that next day), even a folding pocket knife like mine, was already an issue back in the 1970s.

    The trajectory of this subject may be flatter than some might be trying to make out.

    1. I was carrying a Spydie Endura openly clipped to my pocket in HS in the early 90s.

      1. McGehee says:

        After I finished high school my older brother gave me a Buck 110, which I’ve kept on my belt whenever I wasn’t forced by courthouse rules or the TSA not to. It’s still there, in fact.

        I think the fact I grew up in California may have had something to do with the principal getting involved, then again all he did was hold it until after school and tell me not to bring it again.

        1. Scottie says:

          I had a pocket knife from the time I was a cub scout. It was in my pocket, ready for whatever I needed it for. I carried it with me all the time. It never would have occurred to me to use it as a weapon. It’s been traded for a lighter model in my dotage and moved to my keychain, but I still wouldn’t ever think of it as a weapon.

  8. Penrod says:

    We watched it. Pocket knives should be normalized. Giving the knife to the kid was a good thing, and if the motivation was to make him feel more masculine, that was a good thing, too, because the real world is, no matter how acceptable effeminacy may be to many, life is easier for masculine guys gay or straight than for effeminate guys.

    Yeah, maybe Mom should have been consulted, and he definitely should have been warned not to take it to school.

    I don’t remember my schools having any rules about knives, but that was the late 1950s and ‘60s. I do remember my teacher…about first grade…making it quite clear how unhappy she was with me for forgetting to bring my three real Civil War swords BACK to school for a skit we did for the other classes. I had taken them for Show & Tell a couple days earlier and she asked me to bring them back. I felt really bad.

    Kids old enough to be responsible should be allowed to have knives, and whether schools should allow them should be up to the school, not statewide zero tolerance laws/regs.

  9. JC says:

    I’ve carried a pocket knife for the best part of 70 yeaqrs. At boarding school in the 50s in the bodgie and widgie period we had slick backed hair and a knife in our socks held in place by the garter. The reaction from the Catholic Brothers was one of amusement..

    But then, I grew up in a period of farming, horses, ropes and leather and feed sacks where a knife was an essential tool.

    Life moves on and todays kids live in a throw away culture and don’t have to make do with scarce resources.. they can get along without a knife on their person.
    A kid with a knife at school must seem like an oddity to a young female teacher whose only knowledge of knives away from the kitchen is as weapons.. she probably doesn’t even know how to make a bow and arrows!


  10. TomABC says:

    I’m OK with pocket knives at school (although my son was attacked by a kid armed with one – about 25 years ago), but I sure hope the schools don’t show any tolerance for pop-tarts chewed down to look like a pistol. That is really dangerous and should become part of their permanent record demonstrating serious depravity.

  11. C R Krieger says:

    Back when I was about 8 and Harry Truman was President I took a knife to school, as did everyone else, because we were caring soap. I did get in trouble for rounding off the edge of my desk lid, but not serious trouble. Handled by the teacher. On the other hand, I never knew of anyone being sent to the Principal in that K-8 school. I don’t think we had one.

  12. Pecker Wood says:

    I’ve carried a pocket knife, given to me by my Dad, since I was a kid. The implicit thought was that a well-dressed gentleman wouldn’t be without one – and I haven’t been since, except when flying. I still think it is the height of the government’s unquenchable desire for control that at least small pocket knives are not permitted on airplanes.

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Knives in Pop Culture: Dan, Roseanne, and the pocket knife

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