The revival of Roseanne, which presented the title character as a Trump supporter was a ratings boon for ABC. Prior to the episode airing, I saw that some liberals on social media were calling for a ban on the show, while conservatives were tripping all over themselves praising the first episode. I understand that Trump himself called Roseanne to congratulate her. I am willing to bet that he didn’t actually view the episode and if he did, was not deft enough to pick up on the interesting nuances—which many conservatives and liberals failed to see!
Roseanne was one of the few shows I viewed from beginning to end during the 1980s and 1990s (I wasn’t the avid television watcher I am today). Even though the show depicted a blue-collar family, it was through a remarkably progressive lens. I remember when I read that it was being revived, I watched some of the original episodes again on Amazon Prime and was astounded by how much more relevant it was in 2017. The show tackled issues like domestic violence, LGBT rights, unemployment and even PMS with notable intelligence and humor. And while much the original run of the show is still relevant today, the world has changed significantly since 1997.
The most prominent change has been the bloody aftermath stemming from the loss of the Fairness Doctrine (a Federal Communications Commission policy that required news broadcasters to provide balanced views on controversial topics). The most polarizing destructive force on the nation has been Fox “news”, which was on its ascent around the time the original run of Roseanne was coming to an end. Interestingly, the Roseanne revival subtlety notes this when Rosanne yells at Jackie, “He was talking jobs. Shaking things up!”
At the moment, I don’t think that Roseanne the person has completely mutated into Charlton Heston (once an active supporter of the civil rights movement who later became an NRA gun nut). Like Trump, Roseanne is a master manipulator of garnering attention from the media (as I was writing this, some pictures surfaced of her baking gingerbread men while dressed like Hitler). I remember during the original run of the series, Roseanne always managed to spark some controversy, usually around sweeps week (like when she and her husband were going to marry their assistant…?) It became predictable and tedious. With the Roseanne revival, as with the actress, there is a disconnect with what she says and what she does or portrays (my standing recommendation with Trump is to watch what he does, and conjecture little on what he says).
We see an older and slimmer Dan and Roseanne Conner sharing medications because their insurance does not fully cover all that they need for their various ailments (e.g., Trump and his fellow Republicans have essentially killed any affordable healthcare for Americans). Darlene is now the single mother of two children who lost her job in Chicago and had to move back home (e.g., Carrier Air moving jobs south of the border to Mexico, leaving many Trump supporters unemployed). Darlene’s son, Mark, likes to wear girls’ clothes and Roseanne the Trump supporter is okay with it and supports it, while Dan tolerates it without ever being demeaning. DJ has served a tour in the Army and now has an African-American daughter named Mary (DJ’s wife is still serving abroad) whom Dan and Roseanne appear to adore (Trump’s inimical feelings toward African-Americans is well documented and long). Roseanne and Jackie haven’t spoken since the 2016 election (Jackie voted for Jill Stein) although they later reconcile. Jackie wears a “Nasty Woman” t-shirt and a pussy hat while she and Roseanne yell “deplorable” and “snowflake” at each other.
Perhaps the most interesting change is with Becky—who has physically morphed into her mother-in-law, Barbara Healy! Is this some bizarre tribute to her late husband? It reminded me of Trump’s HAIRDOn’t, which is a bizarre, gender bending tribute to his late mother. Anyway, Becky has been financially struggling after Mark’s death and agrees to act as a surrogate mother for a woman named Andrea, who is played by Sarah Chalke the actress who took over the part of Becky when Lecy Goranson left to study at Vassar. In a nod to the two Darrins on Bewitched, the Goranson Becky vs. the Chalke Becky became a running gag on the series’ original run. My favorite moment on the first episode was when Becky noted how much they look alike and Andrea responded with, “Yes, you look exactly like me when I am not wearing make-up.” The shade!
Great comedy often springs from conflict. On Will and Grace, another recently revived series which I think owes part of its success to the way Roseanne first presented Gay and Lesbian characters, the Karen Walker character is a Trump supporter—and it makes great comedy! On a recent episode, Grace actually had to defend Karen’s right to have a bakery create a MAGA cake and the result was brilliant mirror for both liberal and conservative viewpoints. I think that this is what Roseanne is trying to do, hold up a mirror to the country so that we can take a look at and think for ourselves.