About five years ago, Roseanne Barr blocked me on Twitter.
She was accusing Lindy West of advocating “censorship of comedy” over her criticism of certain kinds of rape jokes, and I tweeted this at her in response.
You know who also probably would not have been too fond of misogynistic rape jokes? This lady right here, yelling at a truck driver with naked lady mudflaps and a bumper sticker reading “Save The Whales: Harpoon A Fat Chick.”
Since then, in addition to taking up arms against feminists who dare to question the hilarity of misogynistic rape jokes, she also said some seriously messed up things about trans people, and has actively opposed allowing them to go to the bathroom.
To say I was disappointed by this is an understatement. I don’t want to say I “grew up idolizing” Roseanne (both the character and the person). I definitely did, but it was more than that. I was deeply, deeply grateful to her for carving out a place in the world for brash, outspoken, feminist women, for funny women, for women who didn’t look like supermodels. She was important to me and what she represented was important to me — hell, the things she represented then are things that, to this day, are deeply important to me. I fiercely defended her to my fourth-grade class after she grabbed her crotch and spat after singing the national anthem. My blood would boil every time some man disparaged her or called her loud or obnoxious. I was glad she was loud, I was glad that she was obnoxious. The more loud, obnoxious women out there, the better!
It was hard to lose that. I honestly had to “rewire” my brain to think of her in a different way. Every time I look at a picture of her, I still automatically feel the same “comfort” I used to feel, only now it’s followed by the feeling of a knife twisting in my stomach when I remember what she is like now.
Roseanne ruined herself for me a long time ago, but now she’s about to ruin Roseanne Conner as well. She announced this weekend that, like her, Roseanne Conner would be a Trump supporter in the newly rebooted series. This, quite frankly, takes more of a leap to believe than Dan being retconned and alive again. While it may make sense for Roseanne, the person, it makes literally no sense for Roseanne the character.
“I’ve always tried to have [the show] be a true reflection of the society we live in. Half the people voted for Trump and half didn’t. It’s just realistic,” Barr told reporters at ABC’s Television Critics Association press tour panel in Pasadena, California. “I’ve always attempted to portray a realistic portrait of the American working-class people and, in fact, it was working-class people who elected Trump, so I felt that was very real and something that needed to be discussed,” she continued, “especially about polarization within the family and people actually hating other people for the way they voted, which I feel is not American.”
That is all well and good — although the idea that the working class elected Trump is a myth and his supporters were largely more well off than Clinton’s — and it’s something that would absolutely make sense for this show to address. It’s something I would, in fact, eagerly watch if I were not currently morally opposed to supporting anything she does.
Are we really supposed to buy that this woman is all about tax cuts for the rich now? That she wants national Right To Work that will basically render unions powerless to fight for higher wages? That she is excitedly awaiting the day when only rich people will have health care? That she thinks some misogynistic asshole billionaire actually gives a crap about her? That she’s suddenly down with trickle-down economics?
While defending her character’s support of Trump, Roseanne said:
“One bright thing I read today is this is the lowest black unemployment for many, many years, so I think that’s great. I do support jobs for people. I think that’s a great way to fight racism is that everybody has a job.”
While it’s not terribly surprising, now, that Roseanne the person would fall for that line of bullshit, if Roseanne the character were to remain true to herself, she’d probably note that the unemployment rate for African Americans has been falling steadily for several years and that this current rate very likely has zero to do with Donald Trump. In fact, it probably has a lot more to do with the very people Roseanne Barr is now at odds with, who have been fighting for equality in the workplace.
This evolution makes no sense for the character. It makes sense only for propaganda.
There is something sinister in taking a feminist character who stood up for working people, who not only opposed racism and homophobia but thoughtfully addressed her own biases and worked to overcome them, and who — perhaps most importantly — did not fall for bullshit, and putting her on the freaking Trump train.
Roseanne Conner’s perceived moral authority when it comes to standing up for “the little guy” is what is at issue here, not simply the existence of a character who supports Donald Trump.
This is the sitcom version of the Sprint commercials featuring the guy who used to be the Verizon guy. His former association with Verizon is the only thing that gives power and veracity to his newfound love for Sprint. “Well if he changed his mind, there must be something to it!,” we automatically think. It’s like making a sequel to “Serpico” in which Serpico decides that police corruption is actually awesome. We do it on our side as well when we suddenly fall madly in love with Republicans who speak out against Trump. It’s an extremely powerful form of propaganda, made even more powerful in this instance because of how well people feel they know the character of Roseanne Conner — her intent and what motivates her — and how deeply they once identified with her.
Journalists in this day and age love going to “Trump Country” and doing puff pieces on “all the dumb hicks what live there and voted for Donald Trump” as if they are the only people who voted him in. As if an upscale conservative suburb isn’t just as much “Trump Country” as Bumpkin’s Holler, West Virginia, if not more. Yet the very reason Roseanne was so important as a show was that it threw a wrench into that narrative. Roseanne wasn’t revolutionary because it depicted a “white working class family” — other sitcoms had done that before. It was revolutionary because it did not portray those people as stupid, like The Beverly Hillbillies, or ignorant, like Archie Bunker. Roseanne Conner was smart, she wasn’t a bigot, and she would never have been taken in by a slimy, gropey billionaire con-artist like Donald Trump.
I’ve heard some people saying that they’re at least looking forward to seeing Darlene and Aunt Jackie get some good digs in on Roseanne and her support of Trump. But I don’t want Roseanne Conner to be stupid. I don’t want Roseanne Conner to be one of the swindled, and I don’t want her to be used as a tool of propaganda. It makes me sad.
I guess I just respect her more than Roseanne does.
And now it is your OPEN THREAD.