When it became apparent that Roseanne Conner, sitcom’s blue collar heroine, would return after twenty-years as a Trump supporter, the revival show was already on the hit-list of media liberals. To have a respectable ABC show humanize a Trump supporter was apparently too controversial and when it was released, numerous clickbait articles demonized the show to no end. You’d be excused in thinking that Roseanne became a propaganda vessel of Roseanne Barr’s own vigilant support for Trump. If you’d actually watch it, you’d see that the show was fairly innocuous: it poked light fun at the current political division of America. At no point did we get a swaying speech from Roseanne about why Trump was the only reasonable choice in the maddening 2016 election. At the same time, the show called for tolerance and understanding against Muslims and people who have a different gender than the one they are assigned to.
Dan holding the manuscript that was the basis of Roseanne’s ninth lackluster season.
What we did get was a faithful return of the Conner family, whose final season appearance 1997 was embarrassing to say the least. Much of the failure of season 9 of Roseanne was due to Roseanne Barr’s own troublesome character, something that ironically also destroyed the show from receiving an eleventh season. Season 9 was hampered down by Roseanne’s continuous bloating ego and her demand for rewrites- like many celebrities, fame was something the talented comedian and actress simply couldn’t handle.
The chance to see the Conner family again next year, was destroyed by Roseanne’s grotesque tweet about Valerie Jarrett about her being black and born in Iran which went: ‘’Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby’’ yeah, hilarious Roseanne. Naturally in this current political climate, this supposed joke didn’t fly and it quickly caused division among its own producers with Wanda Sykes, long-time friend of Roseanne, leaving the show. Co-star Sarah Gilbert tweeted her disappointment with Roseanne’s comments. The tweet caused countless condemnation of celebrities and media figures, some of them jumping on the opportunity to bash Roseanne, deploring the revival show’s mere existence. Re-run episodes were quickly pulled from the air and add revenue went down in oblivion. Disney CEO Bob Iger even called Valerie to apologize for Roseanne’s abhorrent tweet and announced that the show would be cancelled. All of this despite the incredible high ratings of the show and sufficed to say, Roseanne’s tweet caused ABC a lot of money.
Roseanne’s fatal tweet.
Roseanne apologized profusely and stated that she wrote the tweet on Ambien. It was my suspicion that some chemical imbalance causes her weird twitter outburst- some profusely filled with demented conspiracy theory. Even so, it wasn’t enough to safe the show.
As a fan of the show it caused me great annoyance for the show to become so annoying politicized. People condemned the show before it even came out, citing Roseanne’s moronic political beliefs. As a liberal who absolutely loathes Trump, I couldn’t care less about Roseanne’s personal political beliefs and it’s hypocritical for others to do so. It would be easy to name numerous performers from Cinema and TV we give a pass too, but apparently being a Trump supporter is going too far. As usual, someone was outraged so cue: the attention seeking tweets and clickbait articles. Soon enough you will have tribalism with with Trump supporters all standing by Roseanne- all of this despite the fact that the show is not political propaganda but a touching and humorous look at blue-collar Americana.
Sarah Gilbert, Roseanne Barr and John Goodman reading the countless clickbait articles about why nobody should watch Roseanne.
It didn’t help that Trump apparantly called Roseanne to congratulate her on the show’s huge premiere ratings. Numerous pundits and writers would condemn the show for its (imagined) racism. If Barr herself wasn’t a Trump supporter, perhaps the show would have been left alone, but the show even called out for being slightly dangerous for normalizing Trump supporters. The show was simply on the hit-list by many liberals. It became an issue of partisan politics and wasn’t looked at objectively. With the show being cancelled, numerous pundits and celebrities are supporting this decision, some even revelling this as a great sign or progression.
Being a fan and a liberal myself, I understand the decision to cancel the show, even if I don’t wholly support it. A dumb and drug-induced comment by the main star should not immediately result in the cancellation of a huge show- and with it, the jobs of all those performers who worked on the show. As someone suffering from mental-illness, I also feel for Roseanne Barr who suffered from her own bouts of neurosis and perhaps we should be more sympathetic and forgiving for her stupid and cruel joke. If we really want to have diversity among the humanities, it shouldn’t be just about race or gender, it should also be about the state of our mental-health. But race is such a sensitive subject in America that a calm and measured response I simply not in the cards. I’m not defending Roseanne’s comments but I wonder whether this response was right. The self-righteousness of many liberals seems overblown. This piece of news was used to make a political statement and perhaps it should have been used to make a higher and more humanizing statement. What Roseanne said about Valerie Jarrett was cruel and inhumane and should be condemned. But at the same time, as many right-wing pundits point out, numerous insensitive comments are made about Trump supporters or white people and apparantly that’s accepted, even encouraged. White people are often the butt of many jokes in TV shows and comedians. White people are lumped together in ways that would be offensive if it were to be done with black people. The common excuse being that white people have certain privileges that make it necessary for them to conform themselves to the sensitivities of minorities (or is more often the case) and sensitive liberals.
Jackie as the raging Hilary supporter.
But perhaps the right thing would be to really look at America’s political divisions, at the hatred the show received from its inception, at the imbalanced mental-state that becomes attracted to one side of this polemical debate. Roseanne Barr is a celebrity that’s enmeshed in fake news and partisan politics but she’s not the only one. The decision becomes another issue of partisan politics, of the power of the outrage culture which cannot accept any compromises. And yet, maybe there was a better way. Maybe there was a way to bring us all together. Maybe we should have looked more inwardly to ourselves and to the perpetrator instead of immediately shunning her out of the spotlight.
The Conner family twenty years ago, in their younger and apparantly less vulnerable years.
With that being said, I also humbly believe that Roseanne as a show has immense cultural importance. Jeffrey Tambor was quickly fired from the hit-show Transparent following sexual harassment allegations. Showrunner Jill Soloway stressed the importance of continuing the show because of its importance to the LBGT community. If that’s the case, a similar case could be made for Roseanne as there are not many sitcoms around that are as honest in its depiction of American life. It’s important because unlike shows like Modern Family or Big Bang Theory, this is closer to how real Americans live day by day. Rarely do we see Americans in sitcoms struggle like the Conners do. In Roseanne we see the painful compromises they have to make, in their personal dreams and ambitions. We see how tired they are, how much of a mess their house is, how tragically easy it is to lose the little comfort they have left. The sentiment that often transpires in the show is genuine too. People love each other but often can’t stand each other. People can hurt each other, people can be selfish. But in the end, as the Conner family shows us, we have to stick together. The only way to make it out of this troublesome country is that we stick together.
I watched this show at the same time as watching episodes from the first season. It’s fascinating to watch these two different time periods back to back. It’s like you’re watching real people from the past and in the future. Sometimes Darlene or Becky would mention their ambitions to the future or Jackie would mention having children in the future and I’d shake my head knowing that things will be very different for them. In America, dreams usually don’t come true.
The tenth season was not supposed to be the last but at least we got see all the usual faces again. True to its roots, none of is glamorous. DJ Conner became an ex-veteran that is sometimes haunted by the horrible things witnessed and participated in. The passionate and vitriolic love affair between Darlene and David ended as it probably would; with Darlene breaking it up indefinitely in order not to spoil any semblance of stability for their child, with David hopefully showing some paternal instinct in the future. Becky would not have the fashionable life she dreamed off but instead becomes a waitress with a history of bad men and a slight drinking problem. Jackie becomes an elderly and clueless Social-justice Warrior, a woman with all the right intentions but none of the proper tact. Grandmother Beverly (still played wonderfully by ninety year old Estelle Parsons) still interferes with her children lives but revels in her newfound sexual hedonism that can appear in old age with the continuing awareness of the finality of life- which includes banging senior Christopher Lloyd. And finally, there is Dan and Roseanne, who still have the same chemistry they had twenty years ago. Roseanne has a painful hip problem which she, as is sadly common in America, treats with her slight addiction for prescription medication. Dan is still a contractor but suffers under the weights of cheap American Labour. Both have an uncertain future, as do all of them.
But at least they have each other.
The show ends with the whole family enjoying a meal the day before Roseanne is undergoing hip surgery. She’s afraid that she won’t wake up and see Dan anymore. Complications can always arise with procedures like this. Life is filled with unwelcome surprises.
It’s more than likely, as was the plan, that Roseanne would be okay. It’s not the perfect ending to the Conner family saga but it’s more a dignified end than what fans originally got. Life will go on with the Conner’s. And life will go on with all who loved watching the trials and tribulations of the quintessential American family.
But I’m certainly going to miss them.
The Conner family’s final meal.