It was one of the most highly anticipated reboots of the year. Heck, of the decade. Last fall, when ABC announced it was bringing back Roseanne, the Internet lost its collective mind. Swarms of people flocked to the dredges of their closets to bring out their clunky Timberland boots and tattered fleeces. The 90s are back, baby. This is just what we need, people said. Some raunchy humor and a slice of “real” American family life will cure our collective ails. Halle-freaking-lujah, they said.
I was dubious, at best. Roseanne? Really? We’re excited about watching a woman who once dressed up as Hitler (yes, she said it was satire) and routinely spouts asinine conspiracy theories? Huh? Are we all being punked or experiencing a case of Stockholm Syndrome?
What the fuck is happening?, I thought.
You see, I didn’t exactly share my generation’s nostalgia for this slightly off-color show about a working class family. My parents thought the show was rude and crude so they didn’t let us watch it. At the time, I was annoyed and embarrassed that my parents were so “uncool” (though, admittedly, I couldn’t stand all the screechy yelling either), but now I see my parents for what they were — ahead of their time and 100% correct. (Thanks, Mom and Dad.)
Because this show is absolute trash.
Sure, I get the initial appeal. Roseanne wasn’t like the mothers we’d seen on tv before. She drank. She swore. She yelled at her kids and didn’t take any shit. We were here for it. (Well, I wasn’t because of my parents and all, but everyone else was). Not to mention that, the first time around, the show was lauded for its accurate depiction of the struggles of working class families, and I’ll grant you that it was (seemingly) pretty damn funny.
But the re-boot has lost any and all redeeming qualities that it might have had back in the day. Sure, it still shows the everyday plight of many working class families and that struggle is very real. And yes, it shows the political divide in many American families today. Believe me, I can absolutely relate to that.
There is a big difference between typical political disagreements, and normalizing hate, bigotry, and willful ignorance — which is what the show does with its title character’s allegiance to Trump. Much like Roseanne Barr, Roseanne Connor is a full-on Trumper. MAGA hat and all. The show — and Roseanne herself on the show and in her personal life — treat this presidency like any other when it is anything but.
My disdain for this show isn’t about Republicans or politics. (For the record, I don’t have the same issues with many of our former Republican presidents.) This is about normalizing a president that acts anything but presidential — or even like a decent human. It’s about trivializing the real plight of marginalized communities. It’s about putting fake news, misinformation, and nastiness on equal footing with facts, logic, and common decency.
And those things are never acceptable — even if they come with a hefty share of belly laughs.
As if this all weren’t enough, the show stepped way over the line in the most recent episode. Roseanne and her daughter Darlene have very different parenting styles (no surprise there), but when Darlene’s daughter Harris said she thinks she’s better than her “hillbilly” relatives, Roseanne called her granddaughter an “entitled little b–ch” and then shoved her head under the kitchen sink and turned the sprayer on her.
WHAT?!?! Seriously? In what world is this ever okay? This isn’t a case of “tough love;” it is downright mean and borderline abusive.
Now I cuss as much as the next person, and I don’t even mind when my own kids swear now and then, so I don’t mind the cussing. At all. But my #1 rule is no name-calling — whether it’s with swear words or not. Isn’t this just basic decency and kindness? Apparently not in Roseanne’s world. And don’t even get me started on the physical abuse of shoving a child’s head under a sink. I’m already rage-typing.
Not surprisingly, folks were divided about it. (Because, apparently, abuse of children — even teens and one’s grandchildren — is no longer a bright line rule anymore.) But lots of people took to Twitter to call out this trash.
#Roseanne took a dark turn tonight when she called her granddaughter a bitch and put her head under a running faucet. Reflecting that she thinks parenting involves swearing and physical violence. Awful. #RoseanneBarr @RoseanneOnABC @therealroseanne
— John Weicher (@John_Weicher) April 4, 2018
I realize I'm pretty new to parenting and all, but I feel pretty confident that if any family member shoved my daughter's head in a sink and called her a bitch, they'd be dead to me. That this as played as a "tough love" lesson in the new Roseanne is, well, that's something.
— Carly Kocurek (@sparklebliss) April 4, 2018
Please tell me why Roseanne is being made into some kind of hero,and wonderful person? She is clearly a racist bigot,I just get don't fucking get the level of stupidity in this country!!!
— Christine (@tiniebeany) April 5, 2018
Not our gay ass closet!
Y’all need to pick another name. They came out of the pantry, cellar… shed. Roseanne is bringing conservative women out of the storm shelter. https://t.co/ItDIuuy67E
— Kingsley (@kingsleyyy) April 4, 2018
As if the normalization of a president who thrives on hate and bigotry and the abusive behavior of the title character weren’t enough, the show also took jabs at marginalized communities too. And Kelvin Yu, the writer for Bob’s Burgers, took to Twitter to call the show out.
Here's why the Roseanne joke about "missing all the shows about Black and Asian families" matters. At the very least, it's reductive and belittling, as if to say those shows are nothing more than "Black" and "Asian" in their existence. 1/9
— Kelvin Yu (@InternetKelvin) April 5, 2018
“Here’s why the Roseanne joke about ‘missing all the shows about Black and Asian families’ matters. At the very least, it’s reductive and belittling, as if to say those shows are nothing more than ‘Black’ and ‘Asian’ in their existence,” he wrote on Twitter. “But the real kicker is when Roseanne says: ‘They’re just like us. There, now you’re all caught up.’ Which implies that the point of any show about a minority family is simply to normalize them. That’s it. The stories, the humor, the characters… not important.”
He went on, saying: “Then you take ALLLLLL of that and put it in the mouth of an avowed Trump supporter (not the actress–the CHARACTER of Roseanne) and you have one stinky little shit sandwich of a joke that ABC allowed to be served in their own restaurant. It’s a big deal.”
Damn, right. It is a big deal.
Friends, we are better than this. As humans and as Americans. We are better than scrounging around for laughs from a conspiracy theorist who masks hate and bigotry with claims that “it was all about the jobs.” We are better than a show that feeds us political propaganda and flippantly throws in a side of child abuse. And if that isn’t enough, just remember this:
I am *not* boycotting #Roseanne. I simply am not watching it because the jokes aren’t funny, the characters aren’t likeable, and the plot lines are contrived and depressing.
— TDPattillo (@TDPattillo) April 4, 2018
Look. If you want to watch a show that showcases “real” American families, turn on black-ish or Bob’s Burgers. If you want a few laughs, watch the Queer Eye reboot on Netflix or flip to some old Golden Girls re-runs. And if you want to see a house divided, just watch a few minutes of Game of Thrones. Or hell, plan a family reunion and ask your great-uncle Carl about intersectional feminism and white fragility. That outta do it.