Gee, Roseanne, if you wanted to go back into retirement again wouldn’t it have just been easier to simply quit?
Nothing was going to end Roseanne Barr’s enormously successful comeback quicker than touching the third rail of racism, even with a joke. You just can’t do a punchline combining an African-American with ape imagery and expect to keep your job. (Even if you think she’s Persian. Even if you’re whacked out on Ambien.) Heck, ABC fired sportscaster Howard Cosell 35 years ago for comparing NFL wide receiver Alvin Garrett to a “little monkey” … and Cosell was trying to compliment the guy.
The atmosphere is worse now. At least if you are a Trump supporter.
But this is how Hollywood works. Before the show was cancelled, Roseanne producer Wanda Sykes quit in response to Roseanne’s tweet. Sykes is a comedian, and African-American, who often talks about race in her routines. In her 2009 HBO special I’ma Be Me Sykes joked about having used white sperm donors to have children with her white partner. Why white donors? If she died, she didn’t want to have black kids raised by a white woman.
Yeah, she was joking, but do you think she’d have escaped Twitter hell for that jest if she supported Donald Trump? Do you really think Roseanne would have lost her job for remarks directed at Ben Carson? Had she called him (as some liberals have) an “Uncle Tom”? Don’t make me laugh.
Roseanne, who appears as repentant and contrite as any public figure in memory, does not want people defending her tweet. She knows she messed up. She didn’t need an army of PR flacks twisting her arm for days to apologize and own up.
Within hours, the network cancelled her show. Her talent agency, the powerful ICM Partners, dumped her. The same ICM Partners who still represent Woody Allen, credibly accused by his daughter of molesting her.
But this is how Hollywood works.
The ABC/Disney Hypocrisy
Channing Dungey, President of ABC Entertainment, got the task of announcing the cancellation of Roseanne. (Though the decision went all the way up the line to parent company Disney’s CEO, according to CNN.) She said, “Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show.”
ABC’s credibility is as skimpy as the costumes on Dancing With The Stars. As Dr. Michael Brown noted, ABC/Disney fired Roseanne over one tweet just days after re-hiring Keith Olbermann despite years of vile, hateful rhetoric. Clearly, nothing is “abhorrent” when the target is Deplorables.
And every weekday on The View, there squats Joy Behar. Behar is allowed to describe Christians as mentally ill, and declare that Republicans have a “penchant for Nazis.” Was her show cancelled? No. Suspended? No. Did she apologize? Not for days and days, and not after tremendous public pressure. Why? It’s not “repugnant” when it’s from the mouths of liberals.
This is also the network that cancelled the conservative-friendly, conservative-starring and still highly-rated Last Man Standing.
Protecting and hiring hateful liberals while jettisoning Trump supporters at first opportunity. THIS is consistent with ABC’s values.
President Trump just struck a similar note, remarking on ABC’s hypocrisy.
Bob Iger of ABC called Valerie Jarrett to let her know that “ABC does not tolerate comments like those” made by Roseanne Barr. Gee, he never called President Donald J. Trump to apologize for the HORRIBLE statements made and said about me on ABC. Maybe I just didn’t get the call?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 30, 2018
Crushed by the Bus She Built
If you think one tweet did in Roseanne, you haven’t been paying close attention. Since the stunning debut of the reboot, we heard murmurs that the cast and crew (not named Roseanne) were horrified that the character’s pro-Trump views got credit for the show’s success. A few weeks ago, Dungey went out of her way to stress that politics would play less a role in the second season.
The reaction of several cast members to the cancellation is very telling. Both Sara Gilbert and Michael Fishman suggested the reboot’s inclusivity was the work of everyone on the show but Roseanne. (You know, the creator and guiding force behind the show.) Roseanne felt as if she’d been thrown under the bus.
i created the platform for that inclusivity and you know https://t.co/hViHPX2ZUb. You throw me under the bus. nice!
— Roseanne Barr (@therealroseanne) May 30, 2018
Roseanne Barr built the bus, gave them seats when they were kids, filled it with gold, drove it to the pinnacles of success, and this year refurbished it back to mint condition. And they promptly tossed her under it.
Fishman responded this morning, acknowledging the truth of what Roseanne said.
You fought, built, and designed Roseanne for inclusiveness. That is why yesterday was so out of character with the last 30 years. It was in your hands from the beginning to the end. No one can deny that
— Michael Fishman (@ReelMFishman) May 30, 2018
Fishman admits the tweets were “out of character.” Yet by not standing up for her when it counts, Fishman is denying that history. And that may be the saddest part of the saga. One thing Roseanne’s show recognized is that people fall down. And families must pick each other up. That Roseanne’s TV family doesn’t have the back of their matriarch is heartbreaking. She’s down, so it’s time to kick. Her politics overrides their personal history. One moment overshadows three decades.
But as my actress wife and I can say from personal experience, that’s how Hollywood works.
Inclusion Without Grace
Why did the Roseanne reboot explode to become the most successful TV sitcom in years? Sure, one reason was because it portrayed a Trump supporter in a positive light, which is unheard of in Hollywood. Fishman approaches another: “I believe our show strived to embrace different backgrounds and opinions, through open dialogue.” Open dialogue’s fine for a C-SPAN panel or diplomatic negotiations, but that’s not why millions embraced the Connors.
We felt the underlying love and grace shared between the family members, despite their differences. Without grace, inclusivity is just a talking point. Without love, open dialogue is just pages on a script.
Without grace and love we can’t laugh with each other, even in our folly. We can only mock each other for our weaker moments, then abandon.
Al Perrotta is the Managing Editor of The Stream, and co-author of the new book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration from Regnery.