Roseanne Barr and the Reality of Being “Roseanne”

The cast of Roseanne top left to right: Laurie Metcalf, John Goodman, Sarah Chalke, Bottom left to right: Sara Gilbert, Roseanne Barr, Michael Fishman, Lacy Goranson

 

On March 27th the groundbreaking sitcom Roseanne comes back t0 television and we get the chance to peer into the lives of the fictional Connor family 30 years after the show premiered on ABC. We have a chance to see how the Connor’s have moved on in life, and it may very well mirror so many of our own lives. What made Roseanne so groundbreaking was the fact that Roseanne Barr and John Goodman’s Roseanne & Dan Connor were larger than life, both in personality and in their physical appearance. Never before had working class American been portrayed by people who looked like what a lot of middle America looks like. The Connor’s three children could be brats. In some cases episodes were not wrapped up neatly after 30 minutes as real life issues were talked about, issues that most sitcoms didn’t even come close to touching. You certainly wouldn’t find Alan Thicke schooling Mike Seaver on the evils of domestic abuse on Growing Pains or little Vanessa Huxtable approaching Phylicia Rashad on The Cosby Show to inform her that she thinks it’s time to start birth control. Roseanne was ground breaking in many ways, especially the way it handled gay characters. In the show, we met Martin Mull as Leon Carp. He was Roseanne’s boss then her business partner and frenemy. She threw for him and his partner one of television’s first gay weddings. There was Nancy, played by Sandra Bernhard who came out as a lesbian in the show then as bisexual. Then there was the lesbian kiss between Roseanne’s character and guest star Mariel Hemingway, a scene that caused a lot of controversy even before the episode aired.

Roseanne Barr unapologetically introduced middle America to gays and lesbians. Roseanne the TV show made working class people in the mid-west come to grips with the fact that they probably knew someone gay or had a gay person in their family. If Roseanne Barr through her character Roseanne Connor brought visibility to the LGBT community then why are a lot of people in that same community not happy the show is coming back? Well as it turns out Roseanne Barr is a supporter of one Donald J. Trump.

Never one to shy away from controversy Roseanne Barr did indeed vote Trump for President and her character Roseanne Connor will be portrayed at a Trump supporter in the new revival of the show. Roseanne, who said in the June 6, 2016 issue of The Hollywood Reporter, “If I were president, a majority of my cabinet would be poor because that’s true representational government here in America,” Roseanne is many things including a living breathing contradiction, especially since Donald Trump and most of his cabinet are so rich that they can’t possibly relate to working class middle American. I’m sure U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin never had to choose between buying food or buying medicine for a sick child. That same article reports that Roseanne is friends with Michael Moore one the biggest anti-Trumpers around. Comedian Whitney Cummings, also not a fan of the current occupant of The White House is acting as one of the show runners of the revival.

Long before the ‘Me Too’ movement Roseanne talked in public about difficult subjects and fought everyone from network executives to her own writers and producers to bring to life an accurate representation of working class America. Why would a strong independent woman like Roseanne Barr vote for someone who has the reputation of treating women the way Trump does? From bragging about grabbing women by the pussy to paying them off to keep silent about alleged affairs. Or the way he treats women who disagree with his policies, calling them ugly or pigs, comedian Rosie O’Donnell comes to mind.

In Roseanne Barr’s mind the explanation is simple, “4 Those who wonder-back in the day when I was called a ‘liberal by journalists, I used to answer-I’m not a Liberal, I’m a radical’ & I still am- voted Trump 2 shake up the status quo & the staid establishment,” in a Tweet reported by The Washington Post on January 11 of this year. In the same article Roseanne goes on to state that her show is about a working-class family and “it was working-class people who elected Trump.” Show runner Whitney Cummings thinks the show will give families on the opposite side of the political spectrum a chance to heal and warns against those who only expose themselves to one sided political beliefs instead of trying to see the opposite point of view. “If we aren’t disagreeing with someone, that probably means we’ve only surrounded ourselves with people we agree with. Although I’m the first to admit that’s a comfortable place to be, from what I understand about how societies work, it’s also a very dangerous place to be,” Cumming’s told Vulture. But where does the “healing” come in? Cumming’s observes that as it “turns out, many Americans never get to know or even meet people who aren’t like them, so putting them on a flickering box in their living room-full of vulnerabilities, problems, jokes, and dreams-is a great way to develop empathy toward a type of person they may normally not cross paths with. This show is not about Trump- it’s about the circumstances that made people think Trump was a good idea.” Maybe a good year after the general election some of us can start to mend fences with family or friends, maybe it’s time for forgiveness.

There are some people in the LGBT community that loved the original run of Roseanne because the show brought an awareness and an exposure that our community didn’t have in a time when it was not fashionable to do so, and many of those same people in our community won’t watch the revival of the show because they can’t forgive Roseanne Barr for voting into office Donald Trump. Is forgiveness even possible, not just for Roseanne Barr but for the people we know and love who voted the same way. Honestly, I don’t know but maybe it’s time to start trying or even better yet maybe it’s time we start listening to each other because not listening is probably what got us into this mess in the first place.

And that is my view from the other side of the lake.

Rosanne airs on Tuesdays on ABC starting March 27, 2018 at 8:00 p.m.

Queer Eye for the Soul

When Netflix announced six months ago that a new retooled Queer Eye, (formally Queer Eye for the Straight Guy) would premiere on the streaming

The All New and All Different Fab Five from left to right, Bobby Berk (design), Karamo Brown (culture), Jonathan Van Ness (grooming), Antoni Porowski (food & wine), Tan France (fashion)

service a lot people including myself were skeptical, why did we need a new Queer Eye? Always the optimist I had high hopes that the series would not only stay true to the original but give us new reasons to keep watching it.

The original series premiered on BRAVO 15 years ago and would help the channel become the premier network catering to women 25 to 54 and gay men of all ages. The premise was simple, the show would showcase five gay men, each with an X-Men like superpower which included grooming, interior design, fashion, food & wine, and culture. (For that last one see Aquaman on the Superfriends.) These five gay men would find an unsuspecting straight guy nominated by a friend, family member or girlfriend to give them a “makeover.” So at the end of 45 minutes the disgusting caveman who leaves his unpaid bills in a wicker basket along with his dirty underwear and lives in squaller  would in one day become a sophisticated and polished metro sexual that said girlfriend would actually like to spend time with. At the end of the episode we would see our real life superhero’s chilling with a cocktail in their secret headquarters watching their subject on a monitor as he groomed, dressed, and cooked for himself, and telepathically talked to fish…I mean did something cultural in his new professionally interior decorated apartment.

Fab Five Classic, from left to right, Thom Filicia (Design), Ted Allen (Food & Wine), Carson Kressley (Fashion), Kyan Douglas (Grooming), Jai Rodriguez (Culture).

The show worked on bridging gaps between gay men and straight men by breaking down the barriers of what it means to be masculine. Just because you cared about the way you looked it didn’t mean you were any less of a man and the show set an example to gay men, just because you have certain mannerisms or a certain tone of voice you are not less of a man but more of one by embracing your truth and creating your own identity living life on your terms. Usually at the end of an episode the show left me feeling good and empowered.

In the new show we find an “all new all different” Fab Five. A new team of superheroes picking up where the first team left off. No longer based in the comfort zone of New York City the new Fab Five is based in Atlanta, Georgia and it’s suburbs. Not only are they making over their nominated subjects but changing attitudes and perceptions of how men in red states perceive gay men and how gay men perceive men in red states often making a very real impact on lives beyond a new wardrobe or hair style.

The impact they have on some of these men is so touching it can bring a tear to the eye. Like in episode four the Fab Five are sent to meet A.J. Brown, a civil engineer and closeted gay man who dresses very plain with no sense of style for fear of appearing ‘too gay.’  A.J. desperately wants to come out to his step mother and publicly acknowledge his boyfriend, yet caves into the fear of rejection. The moment he comes out to his step mother is a powerful testament to living ones authentic self, you can almost see a vail being lifted as she sees who he really is for the first time. The cameras in the room capturing this deeply personal event leave the audience feeling almost guilty for eavesdropping on a private family conversation and you can almost feel the sad regret A.J. has because he isn’t able to share his life with the father that passed away but finds redemption in the eyes of the woman that raised him like her own son.

At the start of the first episode of the series the ‘all new all different’ Fab Five tell us that the original show was fighting for tolerance and the new show is fighting for acceptance. Not just acceptance of queer people but of the acceptance of all people from all walks of life, like Cory a nascar loving Trump supporter from deep inside Georgia. The Fab Five find common ground, camaraderie, and dare I say friendship with a man who is deeper then just a political choice or a sport, just like a gay man is deeper then just his sexuality or finding the next trick on Grindr.

In a world where life long friends and family members are divided over politics or social issues or both, this incarnation of Queer Eye is about more than showing one person how to feel good about themselves, it’s showing all of us how to find common ground and to feel good about our common interests focusing not on what divides us but what brings us together.

And that is my view from the other side of the lake.

Season 2 of the all new ‘Queer Eye’ priemires June 15 on Netflix Season 1 now streaming. You can catch classic episodes of with the original Fab Five on YouTube.