'Roseanne' Wasn’t Canceled Because of Racism. It Was Because Her Character Voted for Trump | Opinion

That ongoing controversy you’ve been hearing so much about isn’t just about Roseanne Barr. Or racism, or media liberals like Joy Reid and Samantha Bee being held to different standards. It’s really about relatability—relatability and the American electorate.

I’m sure Roseanne Barr wishes she’d never hit the button that sent her tweet comparing former Obama White House aide Valerie Jarrett to a character from Planet of the Apes into cyberspace. But she’s been at the center of controversy before and, if she comes through this one she’ll most surely be at the center of controversy again. It’s what she does.

Before getting too far into things, it’s important to note she’s not a conservative. When she ran for president it was with Cindy Sheehan, the Iraq War Gold Star mother who made it a point to be a thorn in the side of George W. Bush at every turn as her running mate. Roseanne’s original show, which was an early adopter of a same sex couple as recurring characters, pushed the cultural envelope leftward. For all her antics, including her bizarre performance of the National Anthem at a baseball game, ABC stood by her.

They’re not standing by her anymore, even though the reboot of her eponymous sitcom scored monster ratings for its initial episode. Bringing the Conner family of Lankford, Illinois back into America’s households looked, even as the ratings came down out of the stratosphere, like a major coup for the network. The suits who came up with the idea probably enjoyed wonderful daydreams about how they were going to spend their bonuses. Then the roof fell in.

You have to be an idiot (or under the influence of something, as Roseanne subsequently claimed she was) not to have realized her comparison was unacceptable. It may have been at one time, just as it was once acceptable for whites to perform in blackface, but those days are thankfully long past. Ms. Barr is paying the price for her offensiveness as the bitch gods who lord over Hollywood are making her a non-person, not just by cancelling the reboot at the cost of tens of millions of dollars but by pulling the reruns of the original series off the air.

All that, though, could have been fixed if the people behind it all had wanted it to be. Samantha Bee still has a show despite what she said about Ivanka Trump, using language that was well over the top even for basic cable. Her apology, unlike Roseanne’s, was enough—leading some to complain once again that Hollywood has a double standard when it comes to the errors, insults, and faux pas of liberals and conservatives.

It does, but that too is not what this is about. Joy Behar is still on The View (which also airs on the suddenly culturally sensitive ABC) despite what she said about Christians, and Joy Reid is still on MSNBC despite what she wrote and tweeted and blogged about a whole bunch of people. Hollywood and the news networks are, for the most part, left-of-center entities with values at odds with those of mainstream America—a demographic ably represented by Dan and Roseanne Conner and not by the actors who portray them.

Roseanne Barr 'Begged' ABC Not to Cancel Show Actress Roseanne Barr attends the Disney ABC Television TCA Winter Press Tour on January 8, 2018, in Pasadena, California. In a tweet posted on May 31, 2018, Barr said she "begged" ABC bosses not to cancel show. Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images

The real issue here is not Roseanne Barr so much as it is Roseanne Conner, a likeable and for the most part relatable character with whom a lot of people in America can identify. She has trouble paying her bills and making ends meet just like many of the rest of us. Her kids have had trouble adjusting to life in the real world, one of them has moved home with her own children, and the responsibilities of caring for an aging parent only adds to the stress of daily life. We can all relate, in some fashion or another, which is where the trouble lies for the folks preaching all out resistance to Donald Trump.

Roseanne Conner voted for Trump. Her husband Dan might have too—though that never came up in the reboot. “He talked about jobs,” she explained to her sister (a pink hat wearing member of the resistance) in the premiere episode.

The Conners believe the American Dream has left them behind. She voted for Trump, perhaps out of desperation, but in any event that sends a signal to the great mass of humanity we call the American electorate that maybe it was okay to do so because, as I said, she’s relatable.

That makes her dangerous (again, we’re still talking about the character on television, not the real person). Her sympathetic attitude towards Trump runs counter to the memes, many of which may have been crafted sub rosa by the image masters who populate Hollywood, that he’s a sexist, homophobic, bigoted, fount of all evil demagogue who must be resisted at every turn.

Having Roseanne Conner—the lead character in a monster hit watched by tens of millions of Americans—say nice things about him, and profess a liking for him because she approves of the things he said he'd do while campaigning, undoes a lot of hard work and money that’s gone into branding him the anti-Christ.

Likability can be transferable. Hollywood found that out when people started to like Archie Bunker, something Norman Lear didn’t intend to happen when he created the socially conscious sitcom that made the character a household name. Fool me once, as they say.

The Trump haters understood that Roseanne Conner had to go. They just had to wait for Roseanne Barr to give them a reason.

Peter Roff is a former contributing editor to U.S. News and World Report and former senior writer for United Press International. He can be reached by email at RoffColumns@gmail.com.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​​

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