The Heartbreaking Return of 80’s Icon “Roseanne” as a Trump Supporter
When Roseanne premiered in 1988, the world was a much different place and television itself was a totally different beast. The 80’s were rife with television dramas and comedies revolving around the lives of the filthy rich and unimaginably privileged. It was a portal that viewers turned on in order to imagine themselves in a better life… whether getting into pool fights while wearing haute couture in Dynasty, or being shuttled around in a stretch limo from a mansion perched upon a thousand acres in Dallas, or dealing with basic, self created drama in Falcon Crest and Knots Landing. There was also the quirky Nephew adapting to the difficult life in a Bel Air estate in Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and the family living in San Francisco’s elite Alamo Square Park, lined by a row of colorful townhouses affectionately deemed The Painted Ladies. That was Full House.
But, ABC caught lightning in a bottle when they situated a small, half hour comedy into their Tuesday night lineup. It starred a notoriously foul mouthed and brash working class circuit comedian who most considered ‘low brow’ simply because she acted and spoke as confidently as any male comedian. Roseanne Barr paid her dues, both in the entertainment industry that stifled women comedians, and in her real life.
Roseanne’s life was not one of a typical star. As where most are born into the Hollywood machine with a silver spoon laid firmly upon their tongue, she struggled in the trenches of poverty, divorce and abuse. She worked from check-to-check at minimum wage jobs until she got her break. Even after, she never seemed to forget where she came from- the same place most Americans still were. The relatable show that would become the iconic series “Roseanne” wasn’t a portal into a fantasy world of the rich and famous, but instead a mirror held up before the nation that reflected our day to day life and trials.
Whether the titular character and her charmingly sarcastic husband were worried over mortgage payments, having to consider going on food stamps, taking on a second job to cover the bills, or dealing with the ridicule and elitism of the “Haves” toward the “Have-nots,” they did so with equal parts humor and authenticity that provided access to most American families who finally had representation on television. Roseanne became the effigy of all those men and women in the trenches of society, doggy paddling like hell to keep their head above water.
The series ran for 222 episodes until bidding audiences farewell in it’s final episode on May, 20th 1997, nearly a decade after it first hit the airwaves. In the annals of television history, it stood strong as groundbreaking; being integral in national discussions about the hardships of the middle class, of women, and the LGBT community, being one of the first to feature a same sex kiss.
Roseanne is a vital part of television history, much in the same way All in the Family broke social taboos and gave accurate portrayals of life as it was for the 99%.
Fast forward two decades and Roseanne is making its triumphant return to ABC. However, a lot has changed in 20 years. Roseanne herself has seemingly turned on the audiences she once boldly represented in their adversity and has perched herself from the lofts of privilege, and apparently, madness. In the past 20 years, she has become more famous to the newer generation of social media denizens for her bizarre twitter rants and hate-speech that frequently targets trans people, liberals, poor people and even Jews.
Bizarrely, she is also a hardcore Trump supporter. That’s right. Our domestic, working class goddess who once slammed the door in a politicians face is now advocating for conservative, alt-right extremists who have their foot on the necks of working class Americans. And they’re pressing down harder every day.
In the two decades since she trotted off into the sunset of syndication and royalty checks, Roseanne has clearly gone tone deaf to the daily strife that Americans on the ground floor suffer with and fight against every day. The fact that she is staunchly pro Trump, a man who has imposed a ban on Transgender military members, stood alongside evangelists and applauded their anti-gay rhetoric, funneled money away from public schools to predominantly white private institutions, gave tax breaks to the richest people in the country while cutting benefits for those of us working 16 hour days to feed our families… it is hard not to feel betrayed. She has evolved into the antithesis of everything she once represented, and it’s tragic.
She has vowed that her return to her iconic character will reflect that evolution- Roseanne’s character will also be a proud Trump supporter. Okay, her art is imitating her privileged life. I get it. But don’t play us for fools.
Coming from her stance, which has marginalized and impaired the progress of women, LGBT individuals, the working class, Black Americans and other people of color, her recently released opening sequence is reminiscent of her old one, only now it includes a black child, a gender ambiguous teenager, a single mother… and it’s hard not to think; Tokens. We’ve become tokens in her show. She’s parading the diversity she has railed against. This isn’t the old Roseanne who didn’t have a twitter to spew her bigoted views from. We had to accept her as she was, and we found a kindred spirit in that which was portrayed… but to do it again, with all we know, is both offensive and an outright lie. Using minorities and disenfranchised people, especially children, that you support the oppression of and systematic excision of from society, in your television show to draw the audience that once championed you- well, you’ve betrayed them, and this showboating of faux diversity to embed yourself back into a culture where we have enough fake allies and representatives holding us at arms length so they don’t get dirty is reprehensible.
In response to Roseanne’s return to television, boycotts have sprouted up, acknowledging the grotesque display of acceptance and inclusion as a fraudulent attempt to renew her relevance and repair her damaged reputation. The last thing we need to do is provide another bigot a platform, especially when they are using us as leverage for personal benefit.