The Disappointing Character Arc of Moira Rose


Amelie Lee ’23

Breaking the record for most Emmys won in a single season for a comedy, Schitt’s Creek has clearly captured the hearts of many with its top-notch script and three-dimensional characters. It’s not surprising that the show only received this level of recognition in its last season. While most of my favorite sitcoms won me over with their premise in the first few episodes, my obsession with Schitt’s Creek only solidified after a couple seasons. Ultimately, the characters wormed their way into my heart — but only after they were forced to grow and develop.

The show follows the Rose family — multi-millionaires who lose all their money and are forced to live in a janky motel in a small town they bought as a joke: Schitt’s Creek. Over the course of six seasons, the characters learn about “normal” life, one where they are forced to learn the value of hard work and address their shortcomings.

Writers and creators of the show, Dan and Eugene Levy — who also play main characters David and Johnny Rose — are incredible at creating coherent character development over the course of the show’s six seasons. Season 1 of the show gives us four unbelievably spoiled and privileged family members that the audience can barely stand to watch. The characters lack not only self sufficiency, but also any sense of decency or respect for the people around them. When we watch Johnny, Moira (Catherine O’Hara), David, and Alexis (Annie Murphy) struggling to adapt to life without butlers and cooks, the Roses’ complete lack of understanding of how the average person lives is a commentary on class status that is endlessly entertaining. At the same time, the audience is completely in support of the much needed dose of harsh reality for this obnoxiously privileged family.

However, rather than just being revenge porn, Schitt’s Creek and its creators put in the hard work to redeem these characters throughout the course of the show. Johnny, Moira, David, and Alexis each go through a process in which hardships build up their character. Through the difficulties they face and the relationships they build, each Rose family member eventually becomes the best version of themselves — a person who no longer holds the same narcissistic and spoiled worldview of their Season 1 self. At least … each Rose family member except Moira.

I love Schitt’s Creek, but as I finished up the show, I couldn’t help but find myself incredibly disappointed with Moira’s character arc. Throughout the timeline of the show, the transformation that the other three members of the family go through — particularly Alexis and David — is monumental.

Annoying heiress Alexis Rose starts out so blinded to other people’s problems that almost every action of hers is selfish. While initially frivolous and obsessed with her image, she eventually invests time into becoming a confident and committed PR agent. Most importantly, her relationship with Ted in Season 6 showed her willingness to make sacrifices for the people she loves. We see Alexis put other people’s needs before her own time after time, becoming a much more compassionate and well-rounded version of herself.

In early seasons, we see that David Rose is incredibly critical of others, eventually learning how David uses an attitude of superiority to deal with his fear of failure and vulnerability. As David eventually starts to let down his emotional walls, he learns to stop looking down at those around him. While still maintaining high standards for his peers, he learns to apply those standards to himself, working hard to open his own apothecary. Through his relationship with Patrick and friendship with Stevie, David starts to open up and becomes more vulnerable and accepting of those around him.

Even businessman Johnny Rose, who arguably is the most tolerable character at the start of the show, learns to respect his peers and treat them as equals. His attitude of hard work and commitment pays off in the end, but he learns compassion for his peers and coworkers. Johnny’s friendships with Stevie and Roland allow him to develop class consciousness and maintain relationships that surpass their work — exemplified best through Johnny’s mentorship of Stevie’s business career.

Unfortunately, Moira Rose doesn’t undergo a comparable transformation. Actress Catherine O’Hara is undoubtedly one of the show’s largest strengths. Using Moira’s distinctive vocabulary and expensive wigs, O’Hara is the star of every scene that she’s in, and Moira’s character is integral to the Rose family dynamic. Like the other Roses, Moira has incredibly high standards for both herself and others, with Moira’s boisterous and elegant personality demanding attention wherever she goes. But Moira’s character arc lacked the same developmental aspects as the other characters. Seeing herself as above the average individual, Moira expects respect from everyone she interacts with — often to the point of being inconsiderate of others feelings. A consistent problem of Moira is that she inconveniences those around her, from her husband to her coworkers, due to her own selfishness and self-absorption. Johnny is often forced to sacrifice his own needs to adhere to Moira’s whimsical demands.

Much like the other Rose character arcs, Moira’s storylines are meant to address her flaws. Being on the Town Council and joining the Jazzigals forces Moira to invest in the town, and to some extent, she realizes that there is value in the lifestyle of those she previously saw as beneath her. However, while the growth of the other characters is transformative, Moira doesn’t develop nearly as much as her family members. Following the later storylines of Moira — as Cabaret director and actress in “The Crows Have Eyes” — there aren’t distinctive lessons that Moira learns that advance her character. Even after facing frustrating situations meant to humble her, Season 6 broadcasts a Moira that is just as entertainingly insufferable as she is at the start of the show.

While by Season 6, Alexis, David, and Johnny have all overcome the majority of their most damaging character flaws, Season 6 Moira has not. Season 6 Moira is still obsessed with her career, leaving her husband naked in a river when she receives a phone call from her agent. Season 6 Moira is still overly concerned with fame and reputation, humiliating her son after accidentally broadcasting his secrets on social media. The intense transformations of the other Roses reinforce the unrealized potential of Moira’s character. At the end of the show, Moira might have learned to value her family more, but is just as self-absorbed and fame obsessed as she is in Season 1.

As one of the defining shows of this generation, Schitt’s Creek will continue to win hearts through the impeccable character development of the Rose family. And while I will always love the character of Moira Rose, her failed character arc will bother me rewatch after rewatch.

Image Source: The Spinoff

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