I rarely watch sitcoms anymore. And I can’t tell you the last time I made a point to catch the premiere of one. But when I saw that Roseanne was returning to primetime, I was intrigued — eager, even, to catch up with the Conners after all these years.
Though my viewing of it tailed off in the later years (I’d forgotten there was a Jerry, or that Dan “died”), I loved the original. I have a vivid recollection of being in college, watching an episode where either Darlene or Becky — or perhaps both — were being particularly snarly toward their mother, and picking up the phone to call my own mom and apologize for having been such a snot to her in my middle teens. (A glimmer of hope to which I presently cling as the mother of a sixteen-year-old.) Roseanne had a way of connecting with middle-America; of portraying working class people realistically — and humorously — without being patronizing.
I’d seen some of the previews and was aware that the reboot would incorporate some of today’s polarizing politics into the storyline, but that didn’t put me off. Something told me Roseanne would find a way to handle it in playful, not preachy, fashion.
Tuesday night’s episodes did not disappoint. The characters have aged, but the set hasn’t changed much. The Conner family room still features the cluttered hint of Cheeto remnants, and familiar crocheted blanket draped over the dated couch. I watched and laughed and thoroughly enjoyed the show.
I wasn’t alone in that. As has been widely reported, the premiere racked up huge ratings:
The return delivered an incredible 18.2 million viewers along with an equally impressive 5.1 rating among adults 18-49.
And while it played best in “flyover country,” — places like Tulsa, Kansas City, Cincinnati — it struck a chord with liberals and conservatives alike.
Not everyone was enthralled, though. The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro cautioned yesterday that the show is problematic for conservatives:
Conservatives are celebrating because they believe that Roseanne is helping to cure the culture by depicting a Trump supporter as something other than a rube or an idiot. There’s some truth to this: Roseanne’s character is whip-smart and unwilling to take crap from anyone — she’s sort of a female mini-Trump in terms of personality.
But there’s something else going on in Roseanne that should disturb conservatives: the redefinition of Trump supporters as blue collar leftists rather than conservatives. Roseanne’s character is pro-gay-marriage, pro-abortion, feminist, and pro-transgenderism — and the implication is that she is a good person because of these views. The real difference between Trump voters and Hillary voters are economic in nature, not cultural.
I’m a fan of Ben’s — have been for years. I think he’s brilliant and I respect immensely his fearless defense of the First Amendment. But I believe he’s missing the point here. Many Trump voters were blue collar “leftists” — or, at least, people who aren’t social conservatives. And attempting to equate “Trump” with “conservative values” is misguided at best.
Yes, conservatives are celebrating the show’s depiction of Trump voters who aren’t knuckle-dragging mouthbreathers; who don’t have horns and aren’t made the butt of every joke. Even those of us who weren’t Trump voters appreciate the textured approach. They’re depicted as “real” people with financial concerns, age-related ailments, family dysfunction, and everyday worries that many of us have or can relate to, regardless of our politics.
But it’s more than that. Millions of Americans voted for Donald Trump in 2016. Millions voted for Hillary Clinton. Some even voted for Jill Stein. Or Evan McMullin. Those votes don’t define us. They don’t even begin to tell the whole story — of any of us. We don’t fit neatly into little labeled boxes. We may be “conservative” in most respects, but have family and friends who live “non-traditional” lifestyles, or are non-binary, or are life coaches who sport p-hats. And we love them anyway. We may be “liberal” in many respects, but have family and friends who are pro-life, or pro-traditional marriage, or card-carrying NRA members. And we love them anyway. We are so much more than who we voted for. And life is so much more than politics.
Conservatives — and liberals, and moderates, and people who aren’t particularly political — are celebrating because the show depicts “normal” (albeit quirky) people who may disagree with their loved ones on politics or political candidates but who love them nonetheless. As a somewhat liberal friend of mine observed yesterday, “Real families argue and ridicule each other while still loving everyone.” Roseanne captures that well. And equally important — it’s funny.
In its premiere episode(s), Roseanne does a nice job of poking gentle, loving fun at both/all sides of the spectrum. It serves as a welcome reminder not to take ourselves so dang seriously all the time. It’s a breath of fresh air. And Cheeto dust.