Should One Tweet End a Career?

By now we’ve all heard about Roseanne’s “Big Twitter Mistake” and subsequent firing. More shocking than the nature of Roseanne’s ugly tweet was her immediate firing from ABC. Just like that hundreds of jobs were tanked and one of the greatest comeback stories in television history came to a grinding halt.

I’ve never been a huge fan of the groundbreaking comic, but I respect her talent. While I never did watch the reboot, I found it impressive that Roseanne was able to make crowd-pleasing comedy in a completely different day and age than the one that made her famous.

Times have changed drastically since she first debuted “Roseanne”. One thing that has been uniquely disruptive is the advent of social media. It has turned out to be Roseanne’s downfall. All of it has me asking:

Should one tweet ruin a person’s career?

When it comes to Roseanne, the situation is a lot more nuanced than the question. But let me answer the question before I delve into what happened to the sitcom star.

The answer, of course is NO. Social media has given us the opportunity to share our thoughts and experiences instantaneously. While President Bill Clinton had to lie about smoking marijuana to get elected, we now live in a time where most young people are documenting every dumb decision and action. Being able to witness the bad behavior we all used to keep between friends has lowered our moral standards for our leaders.

Simultaneously (and very bizarrely) social media has driven us more towards a culture of perfection. It isn’t perfection of the body, but perfection of thought. Social media is able to instantaneously gin up the mob mentality and many have taken that as an opportunity to shut down people and avenues of thought they don’t like.

Think of how quickly Laura Ingraham hemmorhaged sponsors for one poorly expressed opinion. Likewise, one statement from a Google worker who simply questioned a line of reasoning led to his immediate firing. It’s not like either of these examples were experiencing any trouble before their publicized thoughts. Ingraham was a celebrated media personality at the top of her field and James Damore seemed to have a pretty clean record at Google. In both cases it was one statement that sunk them.

One statement, one sentence in all of the thousands and millions and of words they’d uttered on a daily basis.

We are asking people to perfect their thoughts when such a thing is impossible. People say stupid things all the time. One offensive thought should not be able to sink an entire career, let alone the livelihood of hundreds of others who depend on that person’s career. It may be distasteful to have a co-worker who says something insensitive from time-to-time but that isn’t enough reason to ensure that your co-worker can never earn a living in that industry again. After all, are we not all going to offend someone at some point in our lives? It doesn’t matter if we think we are on the “right side” of the issue…at some point we will offend someone with how we express our opinion.

Just ask RuPaul – drag queen extraordinaire. He was forced to apologize for even using the term “drag queen” and then again for banning post-op transgender women from competing in his show “Drag Race”. He’s on the “right side” and still got pegged for being wrong.

We shouldn’t be ruining entire careers because of one thought, one tweet, or even one “like”. It is a ridiculous standard to set and one we will all fail at some point.

When it comes to Roseanne – well, it’s not as simple as all that. Sure that one tweet was pretty gross, but it’s not like Roseanne hasn’t been doing and saying outrageous things for her entire career. What has changed in the span of her lifetime is her access to the public.

When she was running around with Tom Arnold and trashing the national anthem at baseball games all she had to contend with was the tabloid press. She yelled outrageous things at them and made outrageous pronouncements when a microphone was in front of her, but that was the only way any of us would ever know what she was thinking. With Twitter, Roseanne found a non-stop, 24/7 outlet for her every thought.

And boy did she use it. In fact, it wasn’t all that long ago conservatives were shouting her down on Twitter for being a liberal lunatic.

What a difference a presidency makes!

The former Green Party presidential candidate had been promising to close her Twitter account in the weeks leading up to “THE TWEET”. This tells me that she may have been getting some heat from behind the scenes to dial it back just a bit. After her reboot became a bonafide hit and conservatives began hailing her as some sort of spokeswoman, she began to spin up. She even admitted as much in a tweet.

She couldn’t handle the sudden explosion of attention. Like a kid with a bag full of Halloween candy she was unable to escape the clutches of the sugar rush.

Roseanne was fired for one tweet…but not really. That “one tweet” was weeks and months and maybe years coming. She knows it and so do the people who have kept up with her over the years.

The “whataboutism” in all this is getting really annoying. It’s hard to imagine that ABC had any other choice but to cancel her after that tweet. However it is worth noting that Valerie Jarrett and the Obamas are stepping into the entertainment industry and they all hold quite a bit of influence in said industry already. Pair that with all the other insane things Roseanne has tweeted in the past (and not been fired for) and the off-the-charts level of Trump Derangement Syndrome in entertainment and it does at least make you think a bit differently about the process behind her firing.

It is sad to see such a great comeback cut dramatically short by one terrible tweet. It’s a tough lesson, but hopefully one the immensely talented Roseanne Barr can learn from and spin into more creativity.

Should one tweet end a career?

No. But one tweet didn’t end Roseanne’s career. Her inability to just say no to social media fame did.