The new Roseanne : Paying attention to Trump’s America
If Hollywood truly cared about diversity, said Kyle Smith in NYPost.com, it would be “wise to take note of the largest minority it’s currently ignoring: Trump voters.” Last week, after a 21-year hiatus, the show Roseanne returned to a monster audience of more than 18 million and a daring message: “Trump supporters are human.” The reborn show reunites Roseanne Barr and John Goodman as Roseanne and Dan Conner, heads of a big, messy, blue-collar family in the Illinois rust belt, still squabbling, loving each other, and trying to make ends meet. But something has changed. Once an obvious Democrat, Barr’s titular character has morphed—like Barr herself—into a passionate supporter of President Trump, who, she explains, “talked about jobs” and promised to “shake things up.” With wit and humor, she trades insults with her sister, Jackie (Laurie Metcalf), a liberal Democrat who finds Trump horrifying. The show’s instant popularity holds a lesson for TV producers, said The Washington Times in an editorial. Rather than cater solely to coastal elites, maybe they might make a few shows for “the deplorables” in “flyover country”—working-class people who elected a president that “Hollywood doesn’t approve of.”
Naturally, our “notoriously ratings-obsessed president” took Roseanne’s success as a personal triumph, said Will Bunch in Philly.com. Trump called Barr to congratulate her and later bragged to a rally that the show “is about us.” But is it really? The Conners now have a black granddaughter and a “gender-fluid” grandson, both of whom they treat with love and compassion. If the goal is to give an honest portrayal of “Trump’s America,” the Conners should have Fox News blaring all day long and spend each episode spewing venom about illegal immigrants, Muslims, ungrateful blacks, and transgender soldiers. By filtering out the most toxic elements of Trumpism, said Roxane Gay in The New York Times, Roseanne ends up just “normalizing Trump and his warped, harmful political ideologies.”
The show also normalizes Roseanne Barr herself, said Rob Sheffield in RollingStone.com. Once upon a time, Barr, now 65, was “the most abrasively left-wing presence on network TV,” an unapologetic champion of every woman trying to keep a home and a family together in post-industrial America. Since leaving our screens, Barr has “swerved right with a vengeance.” The new Roseanne can often be found spouting off on Twitter, said Dan Fishback in Esquire.com, calling Clinton aide Huma Abedin a “filthy Nazi whore” and peddling lunatic conspiracy theories from the far-right fever swamps. Just this week, she tweeted that Trump “has freed so many children held in bondage to pimps”—a claim stemming from the #Pizzagate conspiracy theory that leading Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, are running a global pedophile ring.
Lots of other actors say “nutty things,” said Gary Abernathy in The Washington Post. Look: Roseanne may be a Trump supporter, but the show is not highly partisan and does “a good job representing various points of view,” including her liberal sister’s. For the show to reach its potential, it should seek to do what All in the Family did in the early 1970s. Archie Bunker, the bigoted Richard Nixon supporter, and his liberal son-in-law, Mike, start out hating each other, but over time, they both evolve, become less extreme, and “eventually understand and respect each other.” If the new Roseanne is skillfully written, sometimes “Roseanne’s point of view will make Jackie stop and think, and Jackie’s opinions will occasionally give Roseanne cause for reflection.” Wouldn’t that be a refreshing change? ■