Was Roseanne in the Wilderness Too Long?


New Orleans   It is beyond dispute that Roseanne Barr has gone off the deep end with a string of racist and anti-Semitic tweets along with a tight embrace of a startling array of conspiracy theories and conspiracy promoters.  Did Trump and Twitter finally enable us to see the real Roseanne that has been lurking at the edge forever or is this something new?

You may wonder why I ask, and why do I care?

Fair question.

Mainly because I remember the pre-Trump and pre-Obama Roseanne as something very special.

In 2006, Roseanne spoke at the convention banquet of ACORN’s National Convention in Los Angeles.  She was fantastic.  She embraced our predominately black and brown membership and leadership effusively that summer.  She identified with them as a working-class woman and mother on the same side of the class divide.

She didn’t just talk-the-talk either.  She joined Michael Moore, the documentarian, on a traveling tour in Florida to support the successful ACORN ballot proposition raising the minimum wage statewide by one dollar in that the 2006 election.  She was great.  She was a star.

Ok, that was a dozen years ago.  What happened?

It’s worth remembering that Roseanne has always worked her comedy through the life she lived as a Utah mother firmly rooted in the working class, but also a “domestic goddess,” as she called herself.  The first iteration of her show tried to speak to the grassroots that she knew, so her embrace of what she might have thought was a white working-class surge of resentment and anger at being neglected and without respect was nothing new to her even if it was accompanied by Trump and his dog whistles of racism as well.

For years after her first show ended her efforts at a comeback of any sort seemed perpetually mired in failure.  She had a reputation of being difficult, but part of that was the pushback at her wanting more control – and pay – as a woman in charge.  Who is to know how to sort out Hollywood spin for and against her?  Not me, certainly.

But, it is easy for me to believe that both her huge success and more recent failures had an impact on her better angels.  She was always outrageous, often to affect.  Now she was becoming outlandish and extreme.  She didn’t have to travel a far distance to get there.

A comeback now that asks her to be the media symbol of a flawed narrative about Trump’s support was bound to be trouble.  She has always been a lonely voice in wilderness.  Now she’s the wilderness itself, and it’s a darned shame.

I can’t help but thank Roseanne for standing with ACORN in 2006 anymore than I can’t help condemning her for her current outbursts of racism and anti-Semitism.