The reboot of the family sitcom has become a monster ratings hit but the off-screen views of its lead star continue to unsettle
The original series of Roseanne featured gay characters, cohabiting teenagers, women rebelling against sexist bosses and it was, for its time, shocking and progressive. It was also award-winning. Now, it’s back on ABC for an initial eight-episode run (a second series has already been commissioned). Why wouldn’t old fans like me herald the return of Roseanne?
The answer: Roseanne.
Roseanne Barr was known as a colorful character long before her show’s debut. But though some on the left might have found her behavior distasteful – crotch-grabbing after singing the National Anthem badly at a baseball game, for example – in general, she was regarded as a card-carrying, Obama-voting Hollywood liberal. Sometimes, an extreme one: she ran for president in 2012, losing the Green Party nomination to Jill Stein. Also in 2012, she tweeted the home address of the parents of George Zimmerman, the killer of Trayvon Martin.
But in the run-up to the release of the new show, it became apparent that Barr had changed sides. She’s embraced Trump and expressed far right views about everything from economics to immigration. She’s an enthusiastic retweeter (and sometimes deleter) of conspiracy theories, from Pizzagate to slurs about Palestinians to doctored photos of school shooting survivors doing Nazi salutes. And since the relaunch of the show, an old photoshoot of Barr dressed as Hitler baking cookies meant to represent Jewish people has been doing the rounds again on Twitter – Barr is Jewish, and the shoot was done for the satirical Jewish magazine Heeb in 2009, which maybe makes it slightly less antisemitic. But it was still in unquestionably bad taste.
After the debut of the show, the president himself called her with his personal congratulations – “It was very sweet,” Barr said – and claimed credit for the show’s ratings at a rally in Ohio: “They were unbelievable. Over 18 million people. And it was about us.” Sean Hannity promptly invited her to guest host his show. On the other hand, many on the left pointed out that Trump has failed to find time to call many other people, such as family members of victims of the Parkland shooting, families of military people fallen in combat, and his own secretary of state. His admiration of Barr is in keeping with his admiration of himself.
But does all of this mean that folks who loathe everything about the current president should boycott the new series on ethical grounds?
In 2018, Roseanne Conner, like her creator, is also a Trump supporter. But unlike Barr, her support of Trump is driven less by belief in rightwing conspiracy and more by the belief that he’d do more for her white, working-class Illinois family than Hillary Clinton. Does this normalize Trump supporters? Maybe.
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