Roseanne v “Roseanne”

On March 27th the reboot of “Roseanne” debuted to huge audiences and high praise.  On May 29th the series was cancelled. Nine weeks. Anybody else’s head spinning?

It was only six weeks ago that I blogged about Roseanne the series after having watched the first three episodes (read it here).

I had been reluctant to give the new series a chance, having burned out on the old one long before its eventual demise, but that’s to say nothing about the star of the show.

Roseanne Barr is a controversial figure. Whether or not you find her funny or thought-provoking, as I often do, there is an equally good chance you’ve found her utterly baffling or profoundly offensive. Intentionally or not, Roseanne is sometimes maddening.

Roseanne’s tweetstorm this week isn’t by any means the first time she’s given offense, it’s just the latest. Taking another look at a prior meltdown helps to put the current one into better perspective. I give you 1990.

Most of us who were alive at the time will recall Ms Barr’s infamous rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner at a Major League Baseball game on July 25, 1990. The crowd didn’t get it or didn’t appreciate it and neither did the country at large. The performance created a media firestorm. Barr was rebuked and reviled all the way up to the President of the United States. Some of the criticism was justified, at least as a mistake of judgment on Barr’s part, if not as an act of intentional disrespect to the national anthem, baseball and America. Some of the criticism was threatening, personal and extremely hurtful, as we are about to learn.

In researching this blog I stumbled across a 2015 Washington Post article about Roseanne’s national anthem debacle, Roseanne on the day she shrieked ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ grabbed her crotch and earned a rebuke from President Bush.

Roseanne Barr was threatened, ridiculed, humiliated, and by her telling, abandoned.

This week history repeated itself and Roseanne blew up her career for at least the second time. Roseanne tweeted insulting and inaccurate statements about former President Barack Obama’s senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, along with Chelsea Clinton and her husband’s family. And when I say insulting and inaccurate, others are saying racist lies. Roseanne characterized Jarrett as the child of Islamic Brotherhood and Planet of the Apes. She attempted to smear Clinton by some fictitious association with George Soros, then by insults and allegations about Clinton’s father-in-law.

Co-stars and colleagues quickly condemned the tweets. Roseanne apologized, said she was leaving Twitter, deleted tweets, returned to Twitter, tweeted some more, apologized some more, deleted some more, took issue with her co-stars and colleagues, took issue with her network… For its part, ABC pulled the trigger quickly. The network condemned the tweets and cancelled Roseanne. Boom, like that, the biggest hit of the Spring 2018 television season was done, only a week after the season finale.

Barr claims that all of it (the Twitter rampage) was a bad joke. She said that she was “Ambien tweeting”. Was Barr being racist when she called Jarrett an ape? Barr says no, that she didn’t even know Jarrett was black. In 2013 Barr referred to Susan Rice, another prominent African-American member of the Obama administration, as “a man with big swinging ape balls.”

I don’t know if Roseanne Barr is prone to labeling white women as male apes. It seems, at the absolute least, that there is some kind of unconscious bias that rears its ugly head from time to time. Nothing I’ve read so far indicates to me that Ms Barr has given serious consideration to that possibility, as she’s now defensive and lashing out in all directions.

A television series that had huge potential to get people talking in constructive ways has crashed and burned while detractors and supporters argue.

This is what happens when high profile people click Send or press Enter on egregiously stupid remarks.

Twitter should probably come with a warning label.

This is also yet another reminder that no matter what you may later delete, the Internet doesn’t come with an Undo button. It doesn’t exist. And the more famous you are, the more you have to lose, and you can lose it all in the blink of an eye.

As for Roseanne the series, we watched all ten episodes this season on Hulu and enjoyed the series a lot. Did I agree with everything? No, but that’s part of the point. It was like being able to have a conversation with your annoying friends and family members without putting actual relationships on the line.

Roseanne the show is now probably doomed everywhere and forever. ABC had no real choice but to condemn the tweets and cancel the series. Lawyers will probably be fighting over who owns what and who wronged whom.

Roseanne the comedian needs to keep her word, get off Twitter, and get some counseling. If the 1990 national anthem debacle didn’t leave her with PTSD, the 2018 Twitter meltdown certainly will.



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