The Observer doesn’t watch a lot of TV unless it’s the killer robots on “Westworld” or the killer sexyfolk on “Game of Thrones.” We did, however, want to weigh in on the “Roseanne” horse puckey. You’re already turning the page, aren’t you? Stay thy hand and stay awhile, traveler. This might be, dare we say it, important.
The Observer, born into a clan where casual racism was as natural as breathing, has grown into an old fart who despises racism and racists like a bunny in the tall grass despises the sly fox. We’ve tried to scrub out every damned spot of it from our own heart and speech, and we have tried, as we are able, to make sure Junior was never exposed by Dear Old Dad to the slow drip of the mental and societal corrosive that has dissolved so much promise during this country’s long history. To that end, we have told him since he was too young to understand our words what we know: that if you believe Billy Joe Trailerparkrebelflag is smarter and worth more to society than astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson just because Tyson happens to be black, that’s not only wrong, it’s a form of mental illness.
So you’ll understand why we say you ain’t gonna believe this, but: After a momentary flush of satisfaction that Roseanne Barr got a speedy comeuppance following her proudly racist tirade on Twitter, The Observer is actually sad the reboot of her show, “Roseanne,” was canceled.
Don’t get us wrong. First: Ambien, my ass. Second: She spread latrine-of-the-internet-created conspiratorial slander about several people, and topped it off with the rotten cherry of saying a black woman looked like she came from “Planet of the Apes.” If you don’t see anything wrong with that, you’re either being purposely obtuse or you and Roseanne need to be roomies at the Laughing Academy. Booting her off her gold-plated, prime-time soapbox was absolutely the right thing to do. But it still makes The Observer sad, and not only because a lot of actors and behind-the-scenes folks lost their jobs because one contrarian, racist asshat couldn’t stay off Twitter. (Call it: Trump, writ smaller.) Why does Yours Truly care that some sitcom got shit-canned? Don’t we have better and more important things to worry about? Maybe. But we also know that right now, America needs Archie Bunker.
One look around the sitcom universe shows why Yours Truly has never had much use for them: They don’t look like where we came from. They’re almost universally about solidly middle-class to upper-middle class urbanites or suburbanites. Blue collars are as rare in sitcoms as graphic sex scenes. But “Roseanne” was different in that regard (the blue collars, not the graphic sex scenes, thank God), and that’s what made it special. Starting conversations through laughter about race, class, economic anxiety and folks who feel “left behind” by the economy and the culture is a way to help us start healing the cracks exposed by the election of the dour and humorless bigot in the White House. We are in desperate need of that medicine.
Roseanne Barr not only got the rare Hollywood Second Act, she had a golden opportunity to help this country start repairing itself through making both liberals and conservatives laugh at ourselves and find common ground through that laughter. Ever heard the phrase “laughter is the best medicine”? Turns out whoever came up with that gem is right. If you don’t believe us, next time you’re arguing with someone, say something self-deprecating and get them laughing. Watch how quickly the venom falls away. Laughter is a bridge, and “Roseanne” had the opportunity to build one. Instead, the show’s namesake used the megaphone she’d been given to spread racism, conspiracy theories and hate, and was as shocked as the rest of us when the suits at ABC chose what was moral over a certified hit show worth a couple hunnert million greenback dollars.
Saying those repulsive things was her right, of course, because our birthday present from Thomas Jefferson was free speech (but not, Dear Roseanne Apologists, speech free of social and financial consequences … go back and read the First Amendment reeeeal close if you don’t believe it). But because of her selfish decision, the opportunity she’d been given to nudge an entire nation a half-inch back from the brink is lost.
So even if you’re liberal as the day is long, even if you hate a racist with every fiber of your being, don’t celebrate too hard about Roseanne tripping on the stumbling block of her own hate and biting the dust. With her goes a chance at rebuilding a few of those bonds of affection, swelled by the mystic chords of memory that Lincoln talked about as a way of wooing home the better angels of our uniquely American nature. And we are all worse for it.