Roseanne Barr Crosses a Line, and ABC Draws One

Roseanne Barr Crosses a Line, and ABC Draws One


The “Roseanne” decision, on the other hand, will come at a price for ABC — and like any such step, will have collateral costs. In a Twitter post, Sara Gilbert, Ms. Barr’s co-star and an executive producer of the revival, deplored Ms. Barr’s comments as “abhorrent.” She added that the series was “separate and apart from the opinions of one cast member.”

[ Read the reactions from Ms. Barr’s former castmates, colleagues and other celebrities. ]

There’s some truth to that last comment. “Roseanne,” the revival, was imperfect but complicated, trying to engage with important if volatile issues. At times, it had ugly racial overtones, including a snide swipe at ABC’s sitcoms about “black and Asian families” and references to “illegals.” At other times the show pushed back against her character, or even ridiculed her.

But finally, none of that matters. “Roseanne” is a story. The issue here was the real act of a real person, saying the sort of thing that leads to real corrosion in the real world when it becomes normalized.

Make no mistake: The “Roseanne” decision would also have been expensive if ABC hadn’t canceled the show. It’s just that the costs would have been borne, as they generally are, by vulnerable people whose tormentors would be emboldened by seeing someone famous and powerful get away with it.

For that matter, it would insult people in small towns like the Lanford, Ill., of “Roseanne” — towns like the one I grew up in — for a TV network to imply that the only way to represent them is by indulging racism.

The character Roseanne said something like that a quarter-century ago, when her son was reluctant to kiss a black girl in a school play. “I didn’t raise you to be some little bigot!” she told him. “Black people are just like us. They’re every bit as good as us, and any people who don’t think so is just a bunch of banjo-pickin’, cousin-datin’, barefoot embarrassments to respectable white trash like us!”





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