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.

Author: John Livelsberger

John Martin Livelsberger is a writer. He lives in Michigan City Indiana with his husband Chris, four pugs, and a couple of cats that just happened to wander in.

Leave a Reply