Liberal media-figures and celebrities are having a field day with the cancellation of Roseanne and the public shaming of its main-star Roseanne Barr who instigated the show’s demise via her racist tweet about Valerie Jarett.
When it was announced that eponymous character would return to TV as a Trump supporter, many liberals already fiercely condemned it without even seeing it. It didn’t help that Barr herself has portrayed the basest characteristics of your typical Trump Supporter- meaning inflammatory rhetoric and conspiracy theory. In most cases, they weren’t unfair about Roseanne. We aren’t talking about subversive figures like Sam Harris or even provocateurs like Jordan Peterson; the contrarians who are often misunderstood and sometimes insidiously misrepresented by liberal media forces. Roseanne’s twitter history is full of misguided, borderline racist humour, 9/11 Conspiracy theory, Jewish conspiracy theory (Israel is apparently a Nazi state), Islamophobia and with her support for Donald Trump came the inevitable tirades against Hilary Clinton.
One of Roseanne Barr’s typical insane tweets.
In short, one can make the safe assumption that she isn’t all that stable. One can conclude that sometimes she likes to darkly satirize or joke about issues but in most of these cases she’s absolutely genuine about her political views. She always enjoyed rocking the boat. Her star turn in Roseanne was about a blue-collar woman who didn’t take any shit and would call out bullshit when necessary. In its early inception, before Roseanne’s fragile ego enveloped the show, Roseanne was about the plight and dignity of the working class. It wasn’t about the glamour of making it in America, it was about accepting your place and being there for each other.
The ninth season of Roseanne betrayed this with her character winning the lottery and going into madcap crazy adventures. In its final episode, the show tried to reclaim its authentic blue-collar glory by revealing that everything that preceded it was merely a literary concoction of Roseanne Conner as a way to deal with her husband’s untimely death. Needless to say it didn’t work and it wasn’t until its revival in March 27 that we were blessed in seeing these beloved characters again in the way it was always intended: struggling to make ends meet as they head onto an uncertain future. With age comes different struggles; the inability to pay for the proper medicine, coping with regret and never having achieved certain dreams and the awareness that death is always around the corner.
Arguably one of the greatest sitcom couples.
The show’s final ended with dignity but were it not for Roseanne’s tweet, we would have enjoyed another thirteen episodes in 2019. The media storm that followed came with of sacrilegious preaching against Roseanne’s hidden racism and when that subject lost its steam, it led to long prepared monologues of America’s systemic racism which was ultimately politicized as being part of Trump’s brand of Americana- it didn’t help that Trump turned the whole debacle about himself, as he wondered why ABC’s CEO Bob Igor, who apologized to Valerie Jarett about Roseanne’s tweet, didn’t apologize to him for the horrible comments made about him on his network. This was shortly after it was announced that Kim Kardashian came to the white House to discuss prison reform to Donald Trump- and its moment like these that makes you question your own sanity.
Two great intellects…. Yes this really happened.
Political pundits, commentators and comedians quickly jumped on whatever network would have them to condemn Roseanne and make some liberal progressive points. Countless articles came out, pointing out the cultural significance of her particular slur and the current hard line against it. It’s a celebrity, a Trump Supporter, referring a prominent black woman as an ape- payday couldn’t be easier for them.
In all fairness Roseanne’s actions after the cancellation only made it worse. It seemed like she was begging to be roasted mercilessly. She should have just apologized but instead she quickly went on a mental tirade, calling out her co-stars for not defending her. She also stated that she was under the influence of sleep drug Ambien when she wrote that grossly offensive tweet. She also told Joe Rogan that she had no idea that Valerie was Jewish- this despite the fact that she had referred to a Black person being like an ape five years before in a tweet against Susanne Rice, stating that she was ‘’a man with big swinging ape balls.’’
The company of Safoni tweeted as a response to her: ‘’while all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication. Ouch.
Her volatile behaviour makes it very easy to mock and deride her. In some ways I can fully understand and when one argues she’s asking for it, I can understand that too. Yet I also feel that the kind of vitriol against her is morosely excessive. It’s not just that it feels cheap and easy, to me it also overlooks one particular pressing subject of the human condition: living with a mental illness. Roseanne Barr, besides being a talented stand-up comedian and actress (you might disagree with me but I’ve felt she’s shown both great comic timing an emotional depth in her titular show), she’s also deeply mentally unstable. The origins of her personal demons are hard to uncover as Roseanne has a tendency for hyperbole and the unnecessary polemical. For instance she has claimed that she was sexually abused by her parents, something that was vehemently denied by both the parents and her two sisters Geraldine and Stephanie. On the Oprah show Roseanne regretted making those accusations and that she wasn’t in the right state of mind when she made them. During the time she made these accusations she was a heavy drug user, which along with her own prescription pills at the time, caused her to lose her grip on any semblance of reality. She however didn’t retract the accusations but did regretted the use of the word ‘’incest’’ which seemed to her to be the only word to describe it.
Her volatile marriage with Tom Arnold, who reasonably came to the limelight to also make the case for her mental instability, was one of enabling drug abuse. When she left him, she claimed that she thought Arnold was trying to kill her.
Roseanne Barr and Tom Arnold, a particularly unhinged celebrity couple.
There’s also the case of a car accident she endured when she was sixteen which resulted in a traumatic brain injury. The damage to her brain caused a rapid change of her personality and her parents weren’t able to deal with her anymore. Eight months after the incident she was institutionalized and during that time she also became pregnant and the resulting child was put up for adoption. She later stated that she was diagnosed with dissociative-identity disorder which in her case, meant that she had seven different personalities running around in her mind, all with varying degrees of extreme emotions. If that wasn’t enough, she also stated that she has ADHD and bipolar tendencies, and from the looks of her actions, it’s hard to dispute the validity of these statements.
Her life in the limelights and the question of whether this exacerbated her internal frailty.
Looking at these harsh facts of life, it’s easy to see how increasing fame and media attention, with the sudden boost of narcissism that comes with it, can cause disarray to an already fragile mind. Cue the inevitable fall of her celebrity- and the rise and fall that has happened recently- and you have yourself a perfect example of a celebrity mental case. Some people just can’t handle celebrity fame, their ego’s and insecurities taking them to strange places- Prince isolated himself and become a devoted Jehovah’s Witness, Nicolas Cage’s eccentric tendencies are heightened and Justin Bieber acts like a wannabee thug. It’s not a normal life and though it’s easy to make fun of them- as I more than often do- it’s also good to understand that if we were in their particular shoes, we might not be as cool as we imagine ourselves to be. When your life is dissected and judged by strangers, it’s easy to lose grip of who you are.
Especially if by the time of your infamy, you didn’t even know what you yourself wanted from this life. And even if you receive what you had always dreamed to receive, it might not be enough. The high ends and you’re back to square one. Perhaps you needed something else but now, as you’re lost in the shimmering lights of flash-photography, you don’t know where to look.
You’re lost. It’s so easy to get lost out there.
Jimmy Kimmel recently came to a slight defence of Rosanne: rightfully condemning her remarks but also calling for compassion on her side. The obvious response was: mental illness does not cause racism. Stating this means you are missing the point. Mental illness means losing your grip on reality and yourself. It means that you are able to unreasonable things, sometimes even dangerous things to yourself and others.
Consider Roseanne’s life before the infamous tweet: her health problems, the return of media exposure, the pressure of her work-schedule and let’s face it: her tendency to abuse chemicals, all of this can lead to a warped perception- such as thinking that such a racist tweet is ‘’humorous.’’
Kudos for Jimmy Kimmel coming to her defense. The negative response might be partly an awareness that perhaps Roseanne isn’t just the racist demon they perceive her to be.
It’s not an excuse and rightfully it was condemned by all respectable media forces- even some of the less respectable ones like the alt-right hack Tomi Lahren tweeted that her tweet was simply ‘’wrong.’’ Unfortunately, the current political climate of the progressive left is unforgiving, especially when it comes to any perpetrators of racism or sexism. Every day bloggers and journalists fill their sites or papers with solitary examples of racisms just to get the juices of social-justice warriors flowing. People love to smack down these racist and sexist evildoers and that’s perfectly understandable- and a lot of fun too. Perhaps this is also partly as a sign of resentment against the current buffoon in chief. But it has also become such an obsession that sometimes, the bigger picture is missed.
It’s certainly true that there is still is intense bigotry among the American populace that needs to examined and clarified but it’s not the only demon lurking in its culture. While victims of racism and sexism are almost fetishized daily on every newsfeed, the roots of some of these isolated moments of bigotry never seems important. It’s just people being racist or sexist, just white men ruining it for the rest of us.
But it’s rarely that simple. I’m certainly not stating that mental illness is the root cause of all racists. Some people are just bigoted. But trying to understand why people are saying such things instead of pushing them in a corner, especially when this very person might be suffering from mental illness should not be the right answer. Sometimes it’s just culture, influences of misguided parenting, traumatic events or being under the spell of populism. Undoubtedly Trump has fuelled racism in America, creating a frightening universe for some white men where their identity and culture are under attack by either Muslims or liberal-progressives. At the same time, Trump has also spouted simplistic and insidious conspiracy theories, something that attracts the paranoid mind to no end. Numerous studies have looked into how mental illness and conspiracy theories are often linked. We’ve all seen footage of Trump-supporters recalling the most ludicrous anti-Hilary theories on camera. The Russia state media thrives on fuelling identity politics and conspiracy theories into the fringe voters of Russians (or whatever country they are trying to influence).
The symptoms are there with many and it’s easy to make fun of them but in these divisive times, it’s especially necessary to try to understand them. It’s not easy but her sin is not ours to forgive. We’ve forgiven many other celebrities for greater transgressions while we’ve demanded the disappearance of others. Rarely is there any consistency. Is Jim Carrey’s endorsement of anti-vaccine’s propaganda not offensive and even dangerous? We’ve accepted Mel Gibson back in the Hollywood flock despite his history of domestic abuse. What about celebrities who were horrible and selfish parents? Doesn’t that cause immense suffering on the subjects? The outrage culture is selective in its anger and we should have the mental capacity to challenge it. We don’t all have to follow the stream of hate because if we don’t, we might channel our anger towards someone who might equally deserve our understanding.
Looking at Roseanne’s history of conflicting and contrarian politics- a socialist in the golden days of her Rosanne fame who fervently stood up for LGBT rights to becoming a deranged Trump supporter- one sees that we are not just looking at some simple right-wing ideologue. Being prone to conspiratorial fantasies, either one fostered by George Bush, a Jewish cabal or George Soros, reveals a deeply paranoid woman who is eager to fight the power. Like many misguided activists, she considers herself to be enlightened about the insidious mind-games being played on the voters. She doesn’t realize she’s trapped in her own mind-games or ones devised by the real villains of American politics.
The false profit and his flock.
Through the years many voters have learned to distrust the media and politicians so much, that only the colourful words of populists seem to make any sense anymore. People don’t know what’s real anymore and they fear being fooled- as they have been, time and again. When somebody speaks to them without complicated political jargon, who tells them honestly that they have been robbed and lied to, why wouldn’t they listen to him? If you believe his version of reality, the world seems less complicated: you know who the bad guys and the answers of society’s ills are suddenly so simple.
Roseanne, like many of her kin, was always sensitive to unravelling the hidden machinery of the elites. She grew up in a time when the American dream was constantly proven to be fraudulent, whether this is due to the ever increasing popularity of John F. Kennedy’s assassination theories, the Watergate scandal, sheer gory pointlessness of the Vietnam war, the illusionary weapons of mass destruction of Saddam Hussein or the great financial crisis of 2008, where the dream of laissez-faire capitalism truly died. All these peddlers of the American dream turn out to be simply filling their pockets. The revelations of hidden money just made her mad, as it did to anybody who wants to rally against injustice. Roseanne, just like a near poignant half of American voters, became increasingly sensitive to the whims of a populist.
All she wants, just like the majority of Trump voters, was the corruption to stop.
But unfortunately the corruption has only festered. Though the American system still continues to be democratic, the institutions are continuously weakened and our supposed guardians have sold their idealism for self-preservation.
The giant swamp of corruption that is Trump Land.
If Roseanne could see this, she would have been an essential ally for liberals but she can’t. And judging by her mental instability, I don’t think we shouldn’t judge her too harshly for it.
Many of her outlandish actions are almost bipolar or borderline-personality in nature. They seemed impulsive and she seemed unable to grasp the potential consequences of them. Nothing makes what she said or does right. But speaking from personal experiences, good people can say stupid or cruel things when they are not in the right frame of mind. I’ve been around people who suffered from all manner of mental illnesses and deep down all of them were loving individuals- it’s just that sometimes you couldn’t see it when they were lost in their particular neurotic mania.
If you consider yourself a social-justice warrior and want to fight for the rights for minorities, understand that Mental illness transcends race or gender. This is why I’m often annoyed with the constant mention of ‘’white privilege’’, as if white people cannot suffer equally or sometimes more horribly than other races or gender. They might not suffer in similar ways but if they happen to suffer from severe mental or emotional instability, their supposed privileges are not going to matter. It will feel to them that life has become a living hell.
Both Roseanne and I are not fans of Bill Clinton, but he’s certainly right on this issue…
And it’s not easy to understand them. But it’s easier to understand them than it is to suffer from their specific or multiple disorders. Roseanne Barr has made hundreds of inane tweets after the cancellation and her state of mind cannot be good right now. The response to this was the same cruelty and dismissiveness as before. As Tom Arnold stated in an interview: ‘’somebody should put a stop to this.’’
Jimmy Kimmel stated in his defense of Roseanne that ‘angrily attacking a woman who is obviously not well does no good to anyone. Mental health issues are real. The real Roseanne I know could use some compassion right now.’’ Kimmel received a lot of criticism for this and all of them reveal painful ignorance about what it means to be living with mental illness. And to me, the cruelty of the media and supposed compassionate social justice warriors is disheartening. Dismissing her as being ‘’a racist idiot’’ like John Legend does is not helping any of us. You might think racism or sexism are the most pressing issues right now, but mental-illness belongs to be their equally. With America’s treatment of mental illness of late- especially with the pharmaceutical companies taking advantage of people’s weaknesses- you’d think that more people would stand up for her. But instead media figures are just scoring cheap points as they degrade and debase her as their fan base cheers and hollers.
The real Roseanne Barr, the one who suffered enough as it is, deserved better than this.