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Roseanne March 31, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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I got hold of Season Six of Roseanne on DVD second hand (€2.50 – a bargain) and been working through it across the last couple of months. Many years back I watched probably most of the seasons, though I must have faded out because I have no memory of the infamous last one. And now of course there’s a return to an older Roseanne and family.

What’s fascinating is how rooted in working class life in the US the orginal series was. It really doesn’t at that time shy away from at least a version of reality – education, workplaces, etc. Add to that an openness on social issues and sexuality that was ground-breaking in its own way.And that it is wrapped up in a weird almost stilted humour doesn’t detract from that. And crucially it is funny – weird and all.

What’s also intriguing is the way in which Barr in real life has shuffled around politically. A fiery leftwing candidate for the President in the past she appears to have aligned (due in some part animus to Clinton) with Trump. This too apparently is part of the new series – which I haven’t seen Roxane Gay has as always a very thought-provoking piece here in the NYT on the returning show. And she makes a key point, to my mind, that being:

What I found is that the tensions in the TV show — which more than 18 million people watched, a network TV high since 2014 — are the same tensions that shape this current political climate. Roseanne the character voted for Donald Trump because he talked about “jobs.” For that she sacrificed so many other things. The promise of jobs and the myth of the white working class as the only people struggling in this country, which animates so much of our present political moment, are right there, in this sitcom.

This is an essential oddity, particularly of those who have argued that somehow the Trump presidency would represent some fundamental shift – almost to the past, with state investment, jobs, etc. It is of course utterly belied by the reality of that supposed investment (in infrastructure in particularly that has been shown to be utterly hollow). But it’s also a curious line to be taking given the reification of ‘work’ above all else, and the sidelining of the nature of the work or the position of labour and unions and so in this mix. It’s a sort of half-nostalgia – rhetorical at best for a time when there were ‘real’ jobs and lifetimes spent in them but ignoring what else was necessary for them to exist and in reality being completely hostile to the ‘what else was necessary’. And of course it ignores a multitude to in relation to attitudes to race and gender extant at that time.

Difficult not to agree with Gay when she writes:

When a lot of the mainstream media talks about the working class, there is a tendency to romanticize, to idealize them as the most authentic Americans. They are “real” and their problems are “real” problems, as if everyone else is dealing with artificial obstacles. We see this in the some of the breathless media coverage of Trump voters and in a lot of the online chatter about the “Roseanne” reboot. What often goes unsaid is that when the working class is defined in our cultural imagination, we are talking about white people, even though the real American working class is made up of people from many races and ethnicities.

Moreover – as Gay further notes:

During a Television Critics Association panel promoting the show, Ms. Barr said, “it was working-class people who elected Trump.”

This myth persists, but it is only a myth. Forty-one percent of voters earning less than $50,000 voted for Mr. Trump while 53 percent voted for Hillary Clinton. Forty-nine percent of voters earning between $50,000 and $100,000 voted for Mr. Trump while 47 percent voted for Mrs. Clinton. The median income of these voters was $72,000, while the median income of Hillary Clinton voters was $61,000. A significant number of middle-class and wealthy white people contributed to Trump’s election.

Gay will not be watching more episodes, though she enjoyed the first two. For her, and I think this is completely understandable, disentangling the actor from the show is too great an ask in the era of Trump and risks normalising the latter. I’ve not seen it myself, have others?

Comments»

1. Sean Munger - March 31, 2018

I’m annoyed by the Roseanne reboot for two reasons. First, probably as was probably inevitable, it’s become all about Trump. By “congratulating” her on the ratings he’s turned the show into a referendum on his own popularity, which is clearly not the intent of the creators. But no one will remember that.

Secondly, and more importantly at least for me, the coverage of the new Roseanne whitewashes just how nuts she really is, and how her extreme views in the past have unfortunately become normalized. Does no one remember that she ran for President in 2012 as the 9/11 Truther candidate, pushing bizarre and delusional conspiracy theories (many of which, ironic considering her present stance on Israel, are of a decidedly anti-Semitic bent?) Separating the art from the artist becomes even more impossible when one takes this into consideration. What message would it send if a director cast Alex Jones in a supporting role in a movie or TV show, even if the character did not ostensibly have anything to do with conspiracy theories? What conversation would we then have about “the soul of working-class America” with that elephant in the room?

The Roseanne reboot troubles me on many levels. I didn’t watch it in the 90s and have no plans to watch it now, but dealing with its political baggage is certainly the last thing I want to sign up for when I click on Netflix after a hard day’s work.

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WorldbyStorm - March 31, 2018

Great overview, and yes her political stances have been characterized by near incoherent chaos

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