I grew up in a blue collar home in Flushing, Queens, a mere 20 minutes outside of Manhattan.
My dad was a semi-professional baseball player, Army veteran, and New York City firefighter. He later retired from the FDNY to open up a Irish pub that he owned for over 30 years. He was a great guy, with a huge heart. He was also a Rush Limbaugh-listening Republican.
He was a depression-era baby whose parents died when he was twelve and 14-years-old, leaving their Irish Catholic family of twelve kids almost penniless to defend for themselves. He became a self-made American success story, and his pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps upbringing is what connected him to the Republican party. But my dad’s GOP is not the rotting landfill of bigotry, greed, deceit and hate that the Republican party is today.
I remember that Clinton was a dirty name in our household. He hated both of them. I also remember another target of his contempt: Roseanne Barr.
I loved Barr, and I loved her show. I watched that show religiously, even when I wasn’t sure which Becky I was going to see! I even stuck with it during the bizarre finale season storyline about Roseanne winning the lottery.
On her original show, Roseanne Conner and her family were an exemplification of blue collar, working class American life. She personified a very specific, very liberal middle class lifestyle. She never said she was a Democrat, but she aligned perfectly with many of the Democratic party’s core values.
Despite protests from the network, Barr herself demanded that there be gay characters surrounding her life on screen. During the eighth season of the show, Roseanne Connor’s boss Leon and his partner Scott, were married on the show. This was in 1995, and the network had to air the episode later than its usual time slot because of its “adult humor.” At one point Roseanne’s mother Beverly (played by Estelle Parsons) came out as a lesbian, and even the brilliant Laurie Metcalf (who took home multiple Emmy’s for her portrayal of Roseanne’s sister Jackie on the show) was revealed to be a lesbian in the show’s finale.
Off-screen, Barr also pushed the envelope. I remember my dad losing his mind when she screamed her way through the national anthem at a Padres game in 1990. He was enraged.
My dad was very vocal about “that goddam liberal Roseanne.” He never watched the show and admitted that he wouldn’t watch that “fat liberal and her fat family even if it was the only show on TV.” I told him that he was being irrational. How could you not watch someone’s TV show, or not enjoy their music (Barbra Streisand) because they were liberal? It seemed so closed minded.
Yet, here I am today, fully standing by my decision not to watch the Roseanne reboot on ABC.
But there’s a big difference between my decision and my father’s.
Roseanne in 2018 is not the Roseanne we all loved back then. For starters, Barr is a huge Trump supporter. I don’t just mean she voted for him and then ignored all of the awful things he has done since the election, like many of his supporters. I mean she still vocally supports and applauds him at every failing turn.
Her Twitter feed was a dumpster pile of praise for Trump, and a bullhorn for his rancid beliefs, lies, divisive rhetoric, and even conspiracy theories. Don’t go searching those tweets, as she deleted most of them as the ramp up for the Roseanne reboot began (and this was before ABC’s fruitless efforts to soften her up with glossy interviews and award show appearances).
She is a favorite of the pro-Trump Internet. She was also one of the first mainstream celebrities to join Gab, a social media platform that Trump supporters flocked to after Twitter cracked down on people who violated its users terms for “hateful conduct.”
Recently, she told an audience at the Television Critics Association press tour that the character Roseanne was a working class person, and that “it was working-class people who elected Trump.”
Actually, Ro, that isn’t so true.
Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com easily debunks that claim by showing that Trump’s voters are better off financially than most Americans.
Barr also suggested that her character would be a Trump supporter in a family that were not all Trump supporters, and that she hoped the show would teach people to respect everyone else, no matter who they voted for.
That right-wing spin always stings of hypocrisy when you vote for someone whose entire platform was based off of disrespecting people for every reason possible—including who they supported/voted for.
Let me be clear: I am not boycotting the Roseanne reboot because she is a Trump supporter. I am boycotting the Roseanne reboot because she is a very specific type of Trump supporter.
In a world where we are always fighting against disinformation, discrimination, and hate, I can not willingly support a woman who happily traffics in all three. That kind of behavior makes her very dangerous to me.
I’ve heard the wimpy excuses from liberal friends who say “but I loved the show so much, I have to watch,” and “She’s not the only one on there. Whitney Cummings is producing it.” Listen, I get very nostalgic for the original show, I enjoy Whitney Cummings and I worship at the altar of Laurie Metcalf just as much as any other gay guy. But no, it’s not enough.
No matter how many storylines they churn out about accepting each other, it cannot make up for the fact that their star, the show’s namesake, still partakes in vile beliefs and behaviors.
In fact, in an early not-so-glowing review of the show, Variety highlights a moment where Roseanne’s character, much like other real-life Trump supporters, gets pleasure out of bullying and causing hurt and pain to someone who disagrees with them.
I can not willingly support someone who uses all of their platforms to spread lies and hate. If that kind of thing doesn’t bother you, enjoy the show. If it does, I implore you not to watch.
Success on TV is all about ratings. Ratings equal advertisers, and advertisers equal money.
Our society is in crisis mode. Some might think it seems silly to believe that not watching a TV show could make a difference, but in these times of resistance, every choice that we make has an impact and sends a message.
If we have learned anything since the 2016 election, it is that our voices matter, the power of where we spend our money matters, and now, as frivolous as it may have seemed a few years ago, where we tune in for our entertainment matters as well.