Today Blogger Candidate Forum wants to take a look at the fallout surrounding the cancellation of the Roseanne television series.
By now we all what happened: Roseanne Barr posted a racially derogatory tweet directed at Valerie Jarrett, a longtime African American advisor to former President Barack Obama. She followed up this tweet with nonsense about Chelsea Clinton marrying into the Soros family. The backlash was swift--her co-stars disavowed her comments and ABC network executives abruptly cancelled the series. Ms. Barr angrily responded to her co-stars, claiming that they "threw her under a bus." Her management, ICM Partners ceased representing her. ABC's termination of her eponymous series came two months after Ms. Barr's glorious return to television after a two decade absence.
The idea came out of a post election meeting of network executives who were trying to figure out what the election of Mr. Donald Trump meant. Ben Sherwood, the president of Disney and ABC's television group told The New York Times,
We looked at each other and said There's a lot about this country we need to learn a lot more about, her on the coasts.
The show returned to good rating and was renewed for a second season when ABC entertainment president Channing Dungey made the decision to cancel Roseanne. In a statement, Ms. Dungey called Ms. Barr's tweet,
Roseanne's statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values.
Ms. Barr later apologized, claiming her joke was in bad taste and she was suffering the side effects of the sleep medication ambien. Ambien's manufacturer clapped back, "racism is not a side effect." Even the president waded into the fray with a typically self centered tweet. Regardless of what you think about Roseanne Barr, this is a case of words having consequences.
In his May 29, 2018 Op-Ed column, "Roseanne Barr's racist tweet pushed the limits of the Trump era. ABC finally drew a line," for The Chicago Tribune (chicagotribune.com; May 29, 2018; May 30, 2018) Rex Huppke rightly points out, "When the only people who would consider your comment a joke are racist lunatics your to reconsider your definition of the word 'joke.' And when you try to apologize for your obviously racist comment by calling it a joke, you have to reconsider your definition of the word 'apologize.'"
Mr. Huppke also is right when he points out that despite or inspite of her "anti-vaccine, anti-transgender cracks--Barr was rewarded with a prime-time slot on a major network." ABC made a lot of money from her show but finally decided on Tuesday that enough was enough. What was it about the rebooted Roseanne show that made it ideal for this moment in America.
The original series was the perfect antidote for the high flying eighties. The original series was centered around a working class Midwestern family just trying to make ends meet. Each episode blended humour and intelligence, not shying away from the difficult topics. The series ended in mid-nineties. However like Bill Cosby, Ms. Barr seemed unable to disengage herself from her character.
It sounds like a really bad analogy, comparing a convicted sexual offender with an obnoxious television actor but that is where their similarities end. The real issue with Roseanne Barr is that she is an avatar for contemporary America. Roxane Gay writes in New York Times column, "Roseanne's Is Gone, but the Culture That Gave Her a Show Isn't," (nytimes.com; May 29, 2018; May 30, 2018) "The problem is that Donald Trump is a toxic president who amassed his power through the provocation of hate. He has behaved as if conservatives my and racism are synonymous when, in fact, they are not. The problem with having a television character as a Trump supporter is that it normalizes racism, misogyny, xenophobia."
Ms. Gay continues, "President Trump often seems like a living embodiment of Ms. Barr's Twitter feed, and many of his vocal supporters revel in that. They revel in the freedom and the permission to be racist. The reboot contributed to a cultural moment that makes white people feel exceedingly comfortable and entitled as they police black bodies in public spaces."
It a coincidence that the cancellation of Roseanne came on the day that coffee emporium giant Starbucks closed its stores for a racial sensitivity training day. The racial sensitivity training day was the product of the now famous incident at a Phildelphia franchise at which a barista called the police regarding two African American men waiting for an associate before placing their order. This was not an isolated incident. There was the case of Lolande Siyonbola, the African American Yale graduate student who was caught napping in the common room of her dorm by a Cauasian student who called the campus police and had to prove her belong their. Then there was the case of three women who checking out of an Airbnb when they were surrounded by the police who were called by a white woman who believed the black women were criminals and did not smile at her. You get the idea.
Ms Gay writes that in each of these and similar cases, "white people took it upon themselves to place black bodies in public spaces." Racism is the reason why Caucasians felt entitled to define the boundaries of what they consider appropriate behavior for African Americans. It gives one group of people a sense of superiority over another. When asked to comment on the tweet, Valerie Jarrett had this to say, This should be a teaching moment. An elegant statment but how many more teaching moments do we need before Cauasian people stop feeling entitled to police African American bodies?How much longer will it be before we cease consuming popular culture that encourages this sense of entitlement?
Roseanne Barr is free to speak her mind but she is not free from the consequences. The crew members are the ones who are suffering for ABC's swift decision to cancel the series. The actors, not so much. Yours Truly also wonders what was going on in the heads of the ABC executives who made the decision to revive the show, knowing full well that their star has a reputation for hateful comments. Actually, Blogger is being rhetorical, visions of dollars signs were dancing in the heads of the network executives as the joked about Ms. Barr's Twitter feed. This what fueled the hypocritical decision by network executives to shelve an episode of Black-ish that dealt with the N.F.L. anthem protests. No one goes into the entertainment industry out the goodness of their hearts but they can exercise more of conscious in deciding whether or not to normalize a toxic culture and the viewer can make their voices heard by switching off the television.