author – activist – faculty – mom
It’s painful to watch all this talk about the success of the Roseanne Reboot, and this insistence on two fallacies: 1) that it’s possible to measure its success this early and 2) that it’s bringing people together.
I think all this success talk is confusing ratings with initial viewership. And a lot of that may be bait and switch. I read an article in BuzzFeed that implied that Roseanne was portraying a Tr*mp supporter character. When I watched the first half of the double episodes, it seemed that it could go either way. But when I read that 45 had called to congratulate her and that she actually supported him, I was totally shocked. I’m done, and will never watch again. The viewership may drop off as people get more information.
A lot of us miss the original Roseanne. She spoke truth to power and punched up, but now her show punches down. All this talk about bringing people together is a bunch of bullshit. There is no “coming together as 45’s policies have ICE tearing apart families, jailing pregnant women, and having entire communities live in fear. As men who call for women who have abortions to be hanged get respectable jobs. This is the moment where the family puts the concealer stick on the woman’s black eye so the wedding pictures to the abusive husband aren’t ruined.
I’ll be damned if I’m going to participate in that ruse. It’s tough, because some of the content and jokes on the show were smart. But I won’t get seduced by nostalgia for the old Roseanne, when that ship has sailed.
In many ways, Roseanne is a very important symbol of the lingering effects of classism. People often think of being poor or working class as a set of uncomfortable economic conditions that can be overcome. We love rags to riches stories, and take the happily ever after at face value. But it doesn’t really work like that.
To be poor or to be part of the working class that is systematically stepped on and mistreated is to endure many layers of trauma from very early in life. Having worked with and known many people who have delved into the trauma of being raised poor and vulnerable working class, I see deep reservoirs of pain, anxiety, and rage. To never know if there will be food, electricity, a roof over your head or heat is to live in a constant state of anxiety. Poor and working class parents show love by keeping their kids alive in circumstances where not surviving is a real possibility. Yet when parents are always working and constantly exhausted, children may feel robbed of the parental fun and attention that all children need to thrive. To be poor in a country like ours is often to be shit on by everyone, belittled, ridiculed, teased, exploited. The intellectual abilities of poor and working class people are presumed to be inferior to middle- and upperclass people. And then our besieged public educational system reinforces the already classist setup. Everyone I know who grew up poor or vulnerable working class is pissed, anxious, and heartbroken. I grew up mixed class–ultimately working class, but not vulnerable in that way. But I am close enough to a lot of people to see the deep and lasting effects.
Roseanne is the product of that class mistreatment. Her stardom has taken away the conditions that led to the trauma, but not the effects of the trauma. The lie is that to get out of poverty will fix everything. But no amount of money will, in and of itself, heal the trauma. And if the money didn’t fix it, upwardly mobile folks might be looking for someone to blame, or someone to target with all that rage. Sadly, in this year of midterm elections, when the working class needs a real hero, someone relatable who can help interrupt the cycle of scapegoating, Roseanne has appeared just in time to co-sign the deep confusion.
But right now, I care more about our voting patterns than our TV watching patterns. And I hope that when it’s time to vote, people are clear that the GOP’s policies are anti-poor, anti-working class, anti-woman, anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant, anti-family and anti-young people. When the time comes, I hope we all vote our consciences, and our interests, as opposed to our trauma or the most cynical parts of our sense of humor.