Firing Roseanne Raises the Bar

Roseanne is canceled. I never watched the first run of the show so I won’t use any false sarcasm or hyperbole. Rather I’ll jump right into it. As of May 30, 2018 Roseanne sent a tweet stating; 

“guys I did something unforgivable so do not defend me. It was 2 in the morning and I was Ambien tweeting-it was memorial day-too went 2 far & do not want it defended-it was egregious Indefensible. I made a mistake I wish I hadn’t but…don’t defend it please. ty”

A segment of Americans such as former Major League pitcher Curt Schilling are up in arms over the firing of Roseanne Barr and the canceling of her renewed sitcom. Roseanne was fired for a tweet which was “abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values” as per a statement from ABC. It's also been reported that the chairman of the network himself called for this action. I had read in a season one review of the Roseanne reboot, that one of the oddest things about the title character's swing right into Trumpland, is that the original characters would never have stood for or supported the kind of shady double dealing Trump has built…let’s face it his entire existence on.

And that’s where I want to focus. From what I gather the…specimens who are defending Roseanne, and tiki torch bearing mobs, and vehicular murderers, and Russian hackers, and ICE techniques ripped straight from the Gestapo handbook are thirsting for some kind of warped return to fairness. They wish to see non whites thumped for all the perceived coddling they’ve received over the past few decades (Affirmative Action because of little old slavery, and Jim Crow, and redlining, and institutional racism, and lynchings, and diseased blankets). These people are also defending an action that was not a popular part of the show, not funny, and not a joke. It was an ugly attack and as per Roseanne herself “egregious and indefensible"

So why the uproar? For any of you fortunate enough to slip into a restful coma after 2008 I’m going to try to sum this up neatly. You see over the past couple of decades it very slowly almost became common sense that having 50 or 500 caucasians play Egyptians, Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, and Emperors of Siam is bad enough that we could relegate things such as minstrel shows and making fun of accents old hat. You see there used to be a theory in comedy that you should not “punch down”. After all what kind of person finds comedy in making fun of children with terminal diseases, or homeless American veterans, or laughing at crime victims, or pistol whipping a blind kid.

But not to get too confusing I’ll stick with the humor aspect which Roseanne’s supporters are incorrectly framing as a “free speech” argument. You see whether they’ll admit it or not, a segment of white America deeply resents the fact that while minorities have become seemingly off limits in comedy, white people, white Americans maybe especially have become a punchline…maybe even a bit of a laughing stock?

But there is the rub, it’s hard to pity the man who has everything and for every “white people can’t dance" joke there is a dollar bill being hoarded almost certainly by a white man. A white man who owns your cable company and newspapers, a white man who owns the stock you buy, the bank you go to, the mall you shop in. A white man owns all the studios who release the movies you love and hate, and white men own most if not all of the sports teams in most countries. And while there certainly are white Americans struggling in this country, they at a bare minimum have the luxury of police protection.

But more to the point. Roseanne amended her character in a way which did not ring true to it’s origin and starred in a show that despite extremely strong opening numbers had a dwindling audience in each following week. Roseanne decided to punch down in a way that for a couple of good reasons we decided was shitty by no later than the 1990’s. 

And the oddest damn thing is that the same people who defend Roseanne are very likely the ones who wanted and almost certainly still want Kathy Griffin, Hillary Clinton, and Michelle Obama crucified in any order. These same people wanted to boycott the literally marvelous Black Panther movie because of idiocy so dense it could be considered a mineral. These are the same people who are in tears because of the perceived attack on Roseanne’s free speech, yet they have applauded the silencing of Colin Kaepernick's free speech along with the free speech of a staggering majority of his contemporaries. These are the same people who vote for and defend Nazis after spending eight years claiming a half Kenyan man was a “Muslim Nazi Sleeper Terrorist” who would never leave the office of President and begin a Liberal dictatorship.

If I remember correctly, Kenyans were not really in high demand in Nazi Germany. I can’t imagine Muslims were welcomed with open arms either. And yet here we are, with a bunch of children basically arguing in Roseanne’s defense because at the end of the day she makes it ok. What does she make ok? She makes it ok for hate filled people to hate openly again, to think of people different from them as inferior. To these people "Make America Great Again" means “Make It OK To Use Racial Slurs Again” I guess MIOKTURSA isn't as catchy as MAGA, maybe it sounds too foreign? Incidentally these people are thirsting to do the exact opposite of what Christ (whom they likely believe is the Son of God who despises Muslims almost as much as he hates gays) actually told them to do.

So…why are they wrong? Aside from the ENTIRE LIFE’S WORK OF THE BEDROCK OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH (I’m talking bout Jesus…), I remember the 1990’s. I remember we all collectively decided to at least try to start being the best planet we could. It’s sad that it took nearly four centuries living here before black people could even be considered by some (sadly not all) as worthy of sharing a universe, let alone a continent with caucasians. We watched Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Michael Jackson, and Michael Jordan excel in ways we literally could not believe. Based on this and much much more (Fucking Motown anyone?) we collectively decided to not punch down because back then we remembered beating the piss out of Nazis for some similarly shitty ideas. We were by no means perfect, Rodney King was beaten and our War on Drugs was still crushing minorities with extraordinary efficiency due to sentencing guidelines among other things. But we were trying back then.  

As a comedian and someone who wasn't always as woke as he is now I feel I should tell you, if you can’t make people laugh without making disadvantaged, defenseless people feel like garbage, then you are probably not funny and you probably should not be a comedian. I have been on stage and I still do this for a living. If you’re funny, grow up and punch up. Prove you’re funny and adapt your act.

Truth be told I am very hesitant to suggest censoring oneself, especially in comedy. But defending this tweet is not the same as censoring a joke by any measure. Additionally you are going to be better off in this field the faster you learn to adapt. You owe it to yourself and all of us who might be your future fans to at least try. Prove yourself because otherwise you’re just a piece of shit bully. And even more to the point, your right to free speech will not always protect you from the wrath of your employer. Ironically conservatives have their own legislators and their conservative Supreme Court judges to blame for that.

So if you are going to be a racist, because of Ambien or just because you’re awful, do not expect your boss to be ok with losing money because you are an awful person.

Especially when your shitty show is tanking in the ratings.