The Irony of the Roseanne Reaction

FILE - In this March 23, 2018, file photo, Roseanne Barr arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of "Roseanne" on Friday in Burbank, Calif. President Donald Trump called Barr after an estimated 18.4 million viewers tuned in for the reboot of "Roseanne." Speaking by telephone on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Thursday, March 29, Barr said Wednesday night’s call was pretty exciting. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

Tuesday morning Roseanne Barr sent out a tweet that sent Twitter into a frenzy, and, perhaps setting a new reactionary record, ABC canceled her show within hours.

Do they realize how ironic canceling the show over Roseanne’s tweet is?

The “reboot” of Roseanne had been a surprise ratings juggernaut for the network, shocking the bubble dwellers of Hollywood. Of course, the money flowing into ABC coffers from Roseanne’s advertisers is just as green as the money from other shows, so it was all good in the ABC ‘hood.

Roseanne was the only show depicting a family whose members had wildly different political views and lifestyles yet still had each other’s backs unconditionally. Sparks flew, yes. Passionate “discussions” occurred. Sometimes cutting insults were hurled. Later, after tempers cooled, they apologized, they forgave, and they moved forward. Just like the rest of us do.

As many pundits have noted, the show was successful because it reflected what the majority of Americans experience within their own families. To lefties, though, the show had only one diabolical, potentially earth-shattering theme: Normalizing people who voted for Trump, and their family members who might still actually speak to them.

Ideologues will be quick to tease meaning from every plotline, but that misses the point. “Roseanne” is not ideological, offers no policy prescription and endorses no candidate or party. Instead, the show depicts the natural drama of family life and how one American family holds itself together under duress.

Clearly ABC executives were some of those “ideologues,” since earlier in May they made it known that Season 2 would not “stay on [that] path”:

ABC entertainment president Channing Dungey put the kibosh on “Roseanne” remaining political in the second season – apparently ditching the strategy the network touted only two months ago.

“I think that they’re going to stay on the path that they were on toward the end of last season, which is away from politics and toward family,” Dungey said during the network’s upfront presentation after the call, according to TheWrap.

The new Roseanne was also one of the only shows (maybe the only show) where the father wasn’t depicted as a goofy dim-wit whose contributions were inconsequential, but who grunted and mumbled through life while the women ran the family. Even in conservative favorite Last Man Standing, Tim Allen’s character is often diminished by the women in the family (#MyUnpopularOpinion). It’s standard sitcom schtick.

In the ’80s iteration of Roseanne, the Dan Conner character leaned toward “standard sitcom dad.” But in the reboot Roseanne and Dan have mellowed and matured as a couple, much like many of us who grew up watching the original version have. Dan is very much Roseanne’s equal in family discussions and decisions. Their marriage depicts a partnership that’s not perfect, but one in which both partners deeply love and are committed to each other.

It may well be that ABC had to cancel the show after that ugly, distasteful tweet, as Kira wrote. Still, it’s ironic that the one show depicting a family whose members find each other’s lifestyles or politics offensive or distasteful or just plain wrong, but who work together and find a way past it, is abruptly canceled because of the lead character’s offensive thought. ABC executives left no room for grace, for compassion, or for forgiveness after a heartfelt and nearly immediate apology.

Talking heads and random people on social media – including everyone the left and a heck of a lot of people on the right – weren’t any kinder. When Roseanne offered an unforced apology, when she expressed concern for the nearly 200 employees of the show who are now suddenly unemployed, when she asked people to not defend her, and when she mentioned that she had been up Ambien tweeting, the responses were despicable.

Watching thousands of people virtue signal and attempt to one-up each other’s Roseanne criticisms was nauseating. Even the makers of Ambien, Sanofi, felt a need to virtue signal in their Twitter response.

In case the rest of the world forgot, Roseanne Barr is a human being. She is a devoted mother and grandmother. She is a comedy genius and a trailblazing woman who climbed to the top of a male-dominated field during a time in which it absolutely wasn’t okay for a woman to do so. It’s evident from yesterday’s tweets that she is very protective and feels a lot of responsibility for the people employed by her show, and doesn’t shirk from responsibility.

She, like the rest of us, isn’t perfect. Some of the “jokes” she’s posted or things she’s said I have found extremely offensive. I’ve vehemently disagreed with pretty much all of her political positions until recently, and even then I’d guess I still wouldn’t fully agree with her. But as a woman who hasn’t conformed with societal expectations, who has had to make decisions for family and career that I was harshly judged for, and who has felt misunderstood, I identify with Roseanne and respect her greatly.

Because of some friendships I have with members of Roseanne’s family, I’ve seen over the years that, much like the fictional Conner family, no matter what crazy things might be going on in their own lives or how they feel about each other’s words or decisions, they love each other fiercely and have each other’s back.

Christopher Buskirk, editor of American Greatness, commented:

Are we at war with one another, or can we disagree and still be friends? Believe it or not, the Conner family may point the way forward. Their querulous, precarious, fractious lives and relationships are not so uncommon. And neither is the apparent love they have for one another. Uncomfortable as it may be, America in the early 21st century resembles the Conner family. We can certainly learn from them.

I’m not suggesting that Roseanne Barr or Roseanne Conner or the Conner family are the pinnacle of virtue in our society or anything lofty like that. I’m hoping to emphasize that even in this polarized, trigger-crazy society, we are able to choose how we see and treat others, even others whose behavior really pisses us off. I hope we can choose to treat each other with respect and dignity even when we don’t think the other person deserves it.