I’ve been trying to steer clear from the dumpster fire that is Roseanne Barr and her show’s cancellation. As a longtime fan of the show, I’m equally disappointed and confused, while simultaneously not surprised. Barr was fired and her show cancelled as a result of racist tweets sent Tuesday about Valerie Jarrett, a former aide to President Barack Obama. When news of the cancellation broke, I was elated. I thought to myself, “This is exactly how we need to respond to racism in 2018.” We need to hold people accountable because freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences. Barr not only dug her grave, but had multiple chances to subdue her lunacy. All she had to do was not tweet (something our “president” can’t even figure out) and enjoy the success of her newly revived show.
Then I read this take (“I’d Feel Bad for Those Fired Because of Roseanne’s Racism if They Didn’t Get Hired Because of Roseanne’s Racism”), along with multiple others online, throwing shade at the rest of the cast and crew, argument being that they chose to work with her with full knowledge of the comedian’s volatility and prior racist, uber-right comments. This blanket blaming and shaming is something that needs unpacking because it’s not as cut and dry as it may seem.
While it’s true that Barr has a long history of being fiery, conservative, unstable, and irritable (the list goes on and I certainly don’t defend her), it’s hard to ignore the activism and achievements of the show’s original run. Throughout its nine season run, Roseanne gave a platform to many important issues such as gay rights, women’s rights, birth control, domestic abuse, and yes, racial issues. For a writer to say that the cast and crew got “hired because of Roseanne’s racism” is egregious. The show didn’t exist nor was it revived because of Barr’s opinion on racism. That’s such a narrow-minded perspective, fueled by emotion. All of her historical flaws, as insufferable as they may be, helped her change TV for women and lend a voice to the lower class. Whether the angry mob wants to admit this or not (because trust me, I know this is a hot issue right now), Roseanne became what it was because she was a fearless, feminist punk battling an overtly white and male industry. Isn’t it at least possible that some of the cast and crew would want to reunite with her to recapture and reignite that legacy?
And let’s be real: I’ve worked with people who’ve had different, radical opinions I didn’t agree with. Who hasn’t?! (Welcome to the real world where every employment decision isn’t necessarily an artistic one.)
Factions of writers and commenters are blaming Laurie Metcalf, John Goodman, and the entire crew of the show, some of whom were simply working a job to stay employed in a tough town. How quick the mob is to pass judgment, how righteous the internet can be. When did this turn into a Weinstein-ian world of finger pointing about “Who knew?” I’m strongly on Team Fuck Racism, but I refuse to believe that Goodman, Metcalf and Sara Gilbert did this show “for the money”—none of these stars are starving—but there are others associated with the show who did do it for the money. They’re grips or PAs or assistants who might only be making $30-40k for many long hours of work. They don’t know where their next gig will be, especially since crews for the fall are already filled.
The fallout should stick to one person and one person alone: Barr.
Yes, she’s already proven she’s unhinged. Yes, she’s been given many chances. But pointing the finger at anyone but Barr and Barr alone is angry mob mentality and I’m not here for that. We live in a screwed up society where most Americans are too intimidated, too weak to stand up to the racism at their own family dinner tables, yet we’re completely fine to hide behind our keyboards and sink the integrity of hundreds of people without hesitation? For trying to support their families? For trying to make it in one of the hardest industries?
Barr will face the music just like she’s done in the past because racism cannot and should not be tolerated. We need to continue calling out racist bullshit in our society, especially when we have a “president” who certainly doesn’t give a single fuck about political correctness. (A “man” who’s said and done far, far worse than Barr in my opinion, but I digress. Apples and oranges, I suppose.)
ABC’s decision should be celebrated. The world was looking at them for a response, and the answer was deafening. We can’t afford to be passive anymore and the fight for equality must continue. I just ask that we place the blame for this disgusting display exactly where it belongs, on the single perpetrator who sealed the fate of an entire crew. Ambien be damned.