We’ve all done it, haven’t we?
We’ve all taken a little too much Ambien, picked up our phone, and opened our Twitter account with 750k followers. We’ve all done it.
We’ve all then tweeted out racist remarks, conspiracy theories and incorrect information. We’ve all had our network sitcom cancelled. We have. I don’t know why you’re shaking your head. This happens to everyone, all of the time!
Except, oh wait, no it doesn’t.
The always controversial Roseanne Barr went one step too far on Monday night, by tweeting out racist comments towards Valerie Jarrett, a former member of the Obama administration.
Now, the muslim brotherhood comment is just classic conspiracy theorist. Which tells me that Barr spent a little too much listening to Alex Jones, and not enough time in the writers room for her latest series. As of today, she’s blaming Ambien and declaring that she’s “not a racist, just an idiot.” Except, you don’t have to be a genius to understand the unequivocally unacceptable racism behind comparing a black person to an ape.
Although, having said that, I certainly won’t argue with the second part of her statement.
Since her show ended the first time around, she’s been known for her controversial opinions and outlandish public statements. I believe she would’ve died in irrelevance back in the early nineties, if it weren’t for the emergence of Trump-era politics. Prejudice in the oval office has a way of making these cowardly opinions crawl out of the woodwork. See the Nazis in Charlottesville, or social media, for further examples.
Fortunately, ABC were swift with their justice. Within hours of the tweet being made, Roseanne was cancelled. The premiere for the revival series drew 18.44 million viewers, with the series settling out at around 10 million by the final few episodes. This is no small figure in the age of dying broadcast television. I would wager, barring any controversies, that ABC had planned to have Roseanne back on the air for a few seasons, especially with numbers like that.
They had certainly commissioned an eleventh season, days after the premiere of season ten. And it’s season eleven that has been pulled, via a statement from president of ABC Entertainment, Channing Dungey.
“Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show.”
Straight and to the point. As it should be with people and opinions like this. The overwhelming response, from the majority of people, has been that ABC made the right call by cancelling Roseanne. Barr set out to make a sitcom that centred around a Trump supporter, in order to prove that not all people who voted Trump are out and open racists. Her point may still be true for some voters, but not for herself.
A minority of people on social media, and the darker corners of the internet, have called the cancellation an “attack on free speech” and a “first amendment issue”. Which is absurdly brilliant, and shows a basic lack of understanding of the American constitution.
Free speech has never meant the freedom to say anything at all without consequence. The first amendment was put in place to allow people to openly criticise the government, without fear of prosecution from the government.
Nowhere in the first amendment does it say that citizens should have the freedom to say whatever they want, whenever they want, without their fellow citizens turning on them.
The free market still exists. It might be corrupt on many levels and not exactly what anyone would call a perfect system, but the beauty of it is that companies and people get to vote with their wallet. ABC took a gamble by bringing Roseanne back on the air, and they cut their losses after its star made some abhorrent remarks via social media. That’s not an attack on free speech, that’s just the free market at work.
If Barr was jailed for her comments, then this would be a different issue. Instead she’ll receive the appropriate punishment, that we should all be able to agree on; A major loss of income. Nobody in the entertainment industry will want to work with her again, and she’ll have to make a living as a talking head on right-wing news platforms. And honestly, given her self-admitted level of intelligence, they’re welcome to her.
“And now on Fox News, what Roseanne Barr thinks about the immigrant problem. Let’s hope she’s taken her Ambien. We like her best when she’s had her Ambien.” – Made up, hypothetical quote from Fox News in 2019. NOT REAL.
I do feel sorry for the other members of the cast and crew of Roseanne, who were probably looking forward to a few years of steady work. On a show that many of them seemed to genuinely enjoy. Most of the cast have distanced themselves from Barr via social media, and I don’t blame them.
Despite the revival show being centred around the Trump-supporter always getting the upper-hand, and Democrats being the butt of every joke, the majority of the cast don’t appear to hold these opinions.
I’m all for representing the broad spectrum of America in all forms of populist media, but the few episodes of the revival show that I made myself watch didn’t seem to mirror the aim set out by Barr herself. Which was to show a dialogue between a family that disagrees politically, but who can still find common ground. It turns out that by “dialogue” and “common ground” she meant, “beating every other character into submission until they’re no longer a Democrat.”
No doubt Barr will make a bit of money from interviews and TV appearances over the next week, until everybody forgets about her once more. Whenever a high profile celebrity makes comments like this, or does something terrible, I always think about the multitude of aspiring creatives who’re just as talented and managing to not be bigots.
I don’t really mind what happens with her ABC sitcom slot next year. If they can find a vehicle for the other cast members, for at least a season, it would be decent reparations for their loss of income.
I will say that I’m sick of revivals in general. Give me new. Give me new, now. I want networks to be bold and brave, the cream will always rise. Let these throwback, nostalgia pieces live in the time they can be understood.
This is 2018, we need 2018 content.
And I hope, more than anything, that this incident is a lesson to all networks. It’s a lesson in what happens when you back an “openly right-wing” person in modern times. It might turn out that they’re not a harmless Republican from a bygone era, and they’re actually a dangerous individual from the new era of right-wing politics, whose only goal is to Make America White Again.
Today is Wednesday, May 30th and at least John Goodman can get back to working on decent projects.