The Great Roseanne Debacle

I barely started watching Roseanne when 2018 started. I was born and raised in Mexico so I didn’t have access to the countless American TV classics that some of my peers grew up with. But to be completely honest, even if I had unlimited access to television, my TV-watching habits are just like my eating and fashion choices, in a word, problematic. I often find myself either re-watching the same episodes of my favorite shows over-and-over again or starting numerous new shows without even finishing their first seasons. After being stuck in a continuous loop of 90’s Simpsons episodes and season four of Parks and Recreation, I decided to give a different show a chance. What I knew about Roseanne was that the show ran for nine successful seasons, that it highlighted a type of family that was underrepresented in the media, and that it was coming back for a new season after almost twenty years off-the-air. My fascination for the new “revival” trend coupled with the convenience of having the whole series available on Amazon Prime, made me give the show a chance. I loved the show upon first watch. The theme song ending with Roseanne’s booming laugh, the quick wit, and the chemistry of the characters made it a hit for me. I was instantly connected to how real the characters were. I had never seen a show where the family struggled to the point of having their electricity shut off. I was in the middle of season six, a mere few weeks before the new season premiere when I decided to stop watching the show and avoid the new season all together. After I read the politics they were going to incorporate to the show, as well as the documented, problematic behavior of its creator and star, I simply could not justify watching with a clear conscience.

I love getting into online arguments. For relaxation, some people do yoga, others meditate, I pick random fights with strangers (I never said I was perfect). When I have an online argument its not just out of the blue, it is usually involving an astoundingly astonishing statement made by a deplorable, a homophobe, a racist, or a Christina Aguilera hater. Just judging by my previous articles, many of you might have guessed that I am a millenial homosexual, an anti-Trump Democrat, and an extremely liberal feminist, basically I am a nightmare for the MAGA-hat-wearing demographic. When I learned that Roseanne herself pushed for the family to be Trump-supporting Republicans and the premiere to circle around that, I was hesitant, but still willing to give the show a chance.

I am all for diversity in the media. I believe in a different life, my stripper name would’ve been “Representation;” coincidentally, I’d be a very unpopular stripper, but that’s an article for another time. While I usually don’t see eye-to-eye with most Republicans, I believe they are an under-represented demographic. Hear me out. TV has become a very liberal landscape. I can’t even list five Republican families currently on television, however, I can name at least twenty liberal, Democratic families on hit series today. I cannot pick and choose the representation that best fits my lifestyle, so I decided to be more open-minded and think about all those people who don’t see their values represented in the way that I do.

I was accepting of the conversation this political stance was going to bring, especially in today’s world. What made me break ties with the show was reading more on Roseanne Barr’s past. Her history of racism towards people of color, conspiracy theories, Islamophobic comments, and even a tasteless photo shoot where she portrayed Hitler putting gingerbread people in an oven, made me question whether my insatiable need for entertainment was more important than my values. This followed a literal love-fest between our current president and Barr that included interview mentions, congratulatory tweets, and even phone calls. With the United States’ relationship with the rest of the world as rocky as it is, it is scary to think that the president’s first priority is to have Roseanne Barr on speed dial. Like Carrie Bradshaw, I stared into my window and wondered, “with Roseanne having all the creative control, how long until the inevitable Trump guest spot? How long before the normalization of his rhethoric and values? How is a show with this much buzz and audience size going to affect future elections? How big of an asshole do you have to be to break up with someone on a post-it?” But I digress.

After a tough few months of being one of the only people avoiding Roseanne, on May 29th, Barr went into a slightly Trump-esque racist Twitter rant.

ABC cancelled the show faster than I can list the reasons why Berger was the worst of Carrie’s lovers (I really need to do a Sex and the City retrospective). While I applauded ABC’s quick action against prejudice and racism, let’s not act like they’re the heroes of the situation. They had knowledge of the star’s abhorrent behaviors and stances. They deliberately gave her creative control in exchange of huge ratings and profits. They merely approached the situation promptly and decided to save face rather than to collect more profits. It is very important to acknowledge that this is not a smug “I told you so” moment. The actions of Roseanne Barr left many people without jobs and many viewers without their weekly escapism.

Separating the art from the artist has been something that I’ve struggled with throughout my entire adult life. My own internal conflicts often lead me to feel hypocritical and disingenuous when supporting something and ignoring my beliefs. Similarly with the Roseanne situation, as a Kanye West fan, it’s been incredibly difficult to avoid his new music because of the conflict it would generate to my being. But making decisions like these, however unimportant they might seem to some, make me feel like I’m standing up for myself. I am done normalizing Trump and his ideologies. I am done justifying going against my beliefs for the sake of relevance or pop culture. Many might roll their eyes or think it is silly for me to believe my boycotts make any difference. But if I have learned anything from the past election, is that the power of the media’s influence is astonishing. To think that something as silly as a sitcom, a Facebook post, or a YouTube video might change the course of an election is a terrifying Black-Mirror-style reality.

Ultimately, I choose what methods of entertainment I support and the decisions I make. I look forward to a future where all kinds of families have a place in the entertainment landscape. I look forward to a future where arts and politics can co-exist without any mutual benefit. Until then, someone better get going with that Jackie spin-off.

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