If we’re being completely honest, I’ve avoided writing about the reboot – and now, much-deserved cancellation – of Roseanne, because I’m tired of racists, xenophobes, and Trump supporters getting a platform and receiving validation.
I wanted to ignore the topic altogether because I didn’t want to give Roseanne the attention Trump so avidly believes it deserves. I didn’t want to contribute to Roseanne Barr’s Google searches. I didn’t want to seek out the episodes and give them more views than they were already racking up. I refused to give Barr, her coworkers, and the producers of the show any more time in the spotlight; I was attempting to deny Roseanne the affirmation the rest of the world seemed to be bestowing so carelessly upon it.
But ABC’s decision to cancel the show spurred me to thoroughly trash Roseanne 2.0 because of the network’s decision to bring it back in the first place.
I’m not buying ABC’s statement about Roseanne Barr’s racist, Islamophobic tweet about Valerie Jarrett, in which Barr says of Jarrett: “Muslim brotherhood and planet of the apes had a baby.” ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey insisted that Barr’s heinous Twitter tirade is “abhorrent,” repugnant,” and “inconsistent” with the network’s values.
If this is true, why did ABC give her this reboot in the first place?
Trump’s treatment of women and his defense of white supremacists is abhorrent. His supporters’ public, violent mistreatment of Muslims, immigrants, and anyone who isn’t white and/or doesn’t speak English as a first language is repugnant. And Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, and his subsequent silence of the slaughter of Palestinians, is inconsistent with world values.
Living in Trump’s America isn’t a comedy. It’s hell for millions of people.
Roseanne, as we have seen, runs with stereotypes and uses degrading language, such as on the episode “Go Cubs,” when Roseanne expressed her fears of her Muslim neighbors, Fatima and Samir, saying they are from “Talibanjistan.” She thinks her new neighbors are going to “blow up” the neighborhood. At another point during the episode, Dan blames “illegals” for his loss on a big contract. If this sounds like a mess, it gets better: in a bizarre turn of events that is supposed to somehow redeem Roseanne for her bigoted behavior in the beginning of the episode, she actually pays for Fatima’s groceries and tells off the cashier, who told Fatima to “go back” to her country, in front of the whole store.
I don’t care that Roseanne suddenly felt the urge to stand up for the very person she had been harassing at the start of the episode. That boils down to little more than respectability politics, anyway. I realize that the show’s writers and producers were trying to make this a lesson about humanity and tolerance, but, they miserably failed because of the blatantly racist, anti-Muslim, and xenophobic language the characters use throughout. It’s more than cringe-worthy; the words we use to demonize and dehumanize others have lasting consequences.
ABC was fine airing this episode, which completely missed the mark (and to be honest, I’m not even sure what “the mark” was? To prove that awful, hateful white people can occasionally step up and do the right thing when they want to make themselves look good in public and cause a scene?).
This tells me that Channing Dungey, and ABC as a whole, never worried about the damage this reboot could cause.
The new Roseanne has shown us, from day one, that it is foul, destructive, and caters to viewers who, even if not Trump supporters, are willing to ignore the show’s implications for the sake of nostalgia. Roseanne has been upfront about and proud of its ignorant content, but ABC still stood behind it.
Normalizing Trumpism is dangerous enough already. Using comedy as the medium by which to validate the behavior and mindset of Trump supporters, not only ignores the white supremacy that put Trump in the White House, but advocates for this ideology’s mainstream acceptance by shrugging it off with a laugh and a cozy family sitcom.
This is for Channing Dungey, the producers, writers, and executives at ABC, and anyone who worked on this garbage project: if you produce film, music, or any other form of art that normalizes tyrannical behavior, you are then complicit in the oppression of others. If you give bigots a space to display their hatefulness, you are advocating for violence against marginalized peoples. If you make a joke of someone’s poisonous bigotry for the sake of “showing a different opinion,” you are encouraging a nation that has already shown how much it hates black and brown folks to continue its violence against them.
If you give a racist a platform, then you’re a colonizer, too.