Tuesday night, “The Conners” opened with the (spoiler alert) death of Roseanne Conner. The matriarch of the family overdosed on opioids.
In reality, Roseanne Barr overdosed on entitled bigotry, supported by a culture at war, where the President of the United States is celebrated for being an open racist or gentrifiers feel empowered to call the police as a manifest destiny weapon of choice. Scroll through your social media feed, there are passionate debates about right and wrong, defenders for any and every deplorable act.
Throughout the episode, Roseanne’s sister Jackie, played by Laurie Metcalf, is manically cleaning, appearing to wipe away whatever Roseanne left behind. This is not a subtle metaphor. Clearly, ABC wants to maintain the cash cow of Barr’s history-making sitcom “Roseanne” without the baggage carried by the show’s star.
The truth is, nothing will remove the stain of Roseanne. Not changing the title, not funny one-liners and certainly not the passage of five months since she was fired. Barr’s legacy is in every frame of “The Conners.” As the episode continued, it was clear that there was no need to bring this family back for a second time around. Moreover, it’s past time and crucial to let all reboots go in our recycled culture.
I didn’t always feel this way. In case you missed it, the 2018 version of “Roseanne” hit television screens in March, which I wrote about. I admitted to enjoying the first two episodes, despite not being a fan of Barr’s. I was interested in the show because Wanda Sykes was a writer and consulting producer. I wrote the Conner family was more “relevant than nostalgic;” however, I was wrong. We didn’t need to see the Conners again. We could explore our country’s current cultural war with a new television family.
There was no need to revisit the past and two months later, Barr proved why by tweeting about former aide to President Barack Obama, Valerie Jarrett. She wrote, “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.” This was not her first time referring to a black woman this way; she called Susan Rice an “ape” back in 2013.
ABC quickly canceled the series and Barr went on countless tirades. She never owned her racism and gave faux apologies with qualifications for her behavior, including implicitly blaming Wanda Sykes, who left the series.
Here is the problem with apologies for racism: if they are truly sincere, there must be full accountability. This isn’t a debate of political correctness or being “too sensitive.” Similar to the trite defenses of Ron DeSantis’ “monkey this up” comment, many believe “liberals” are seeking to be offended. No, the reaction to Barr or DeSantis isn’t about partisan politics – plenty of bleeding-heart liberals hold wildly racist views. But references to monkeys and apes are old tropes that have been used to mock black people for decades.
In our current climate, being called out for bigotry and framing yourself as a victim of the left is now a badge of honor. When someone calls a black person an ape, that is a racist comment, period. Calling out that person for their racism is not an act of oppression or censorship. The Constitution affords us free speech, not consequence-free speech. Nonetheless, these are people who are passionate to vote for a president who is clearly a bigot and even praises idols of white supremacy. As Steve Bannon declared, “Let them call you racists!”
While on a podcast this week with Joe Rogan, who said she is being attacked because she’s white, Barr responded she doesn’t identify as white – but she called the tweet “genius.” Roseanne clearly is not sorry, but she is still in the news cycle talking to VICE and has a YouTube channel she promoted just days ago. Why? Because her show, even if she’s been thrown off of it, has been rebooted and is still out there.
Get our free weekly newsletter
This is the issue with reboots. Whenever you dig up the past, old souls will rise up singing. We must stop moving backwards. We must stop wading in nostalgia. We are living in reboot culture, from our television shows to our old guard politicians. We are in a cycle of repetitive history with bizarre journeys to the past, which is why Make America Great Again is so toxic. It’s a deadly reboot of a dangerous narrative, a phantasm that haunts the very fabric of our American life.
Roseanne put the nail in her rich, privileged coffin. Leave her where she belongs.