Jokes are cool but content (of character) matters

Updated: Oct 24, 2018

When I first met knew of Roseanne I was between 7 and 10 years old, and would have preferred to watch cartoons. Twenty-five years later, I now don’t like Roseanne because she used the peaceful protests of athletes to make a joke against her sister, and it wasn’t funny.

The reason why I’m open to the show today, at 30, is because her grandson wants to wear bright colors, scarves and skirts. I was curious as to how a 65-year-old (white) man from Anywhere, In The World would handle his grandson wanting to dress uniquely. Or, to use the antiquated yet still popular terms of today, “wanting to dress like a girl.” Should I even have repeated it?

There is a way to handle such a situation and there is a way not to. Dan Conner, Roseanne’s husband who is still played by John Goodman, should have handled it better. He gave Mark Conner-Healy, his 10-year-old grandson played by Ames McNamara, a knife to defend himself against the violence of bullies. I know. I get it. We should teach children to use words first. We should teach not to verbally escalate because that tends to lead to violence. But if bullies start with violence we are allowed to defend ourselves, just not with a knife. A black 10-year-old would get five to ten years in juvie if he used a knife.

Darlene Conner, Mark’s mother and Dan’s daughter, spoke to him and the knife was no longer an accessory. But never, not once, in that episode did Dan scold Mark to not dress how he wants. What he did was prepare him for the negativity that would come his way, just not the right way. There was even a minute or two on what masculinity is supposed to be, which is nothing and anything at the same time. (Masculinity isn't supposed to be anything. So than what's left? Nothing.) Roseanne took Mark to school, defended her grandson’s choice to his class and encouraged his creativity.

There’s clearly an attempt to bridge gaps, getting a side to understand the other side. But if there’s a side that claims to be better than the other side, I’m assuming that side will want to understand the other. The reality is a side does claim to know the other, why they do what they do and how they know what they know, and that side has its fingers in its ears and is yelling at or joking about the other.

The problem with the show’s attempt, however, will be if its writers and producers - Barr is still an executive producer - want victims of state-sanctioned violence to understand those who consider themselves free from it.

Like I referenced above, Roseanne asked her sister Jackie Harris, who voted for Jill Stein, if she wanted to take a knee before they said grace. I understood the timing of the question/joke from the other side as this: Jackie, do you want to act like a rebel by peacefully protesting

our ceremonial coming together to show that you feel you are not a part of what we are doing?

Athletes silently took a knee during the singing of the national anthem and waving of the flag to bring attention to state-sanctioned violence, discrimination and the seizing of possessions that more often than not were in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The silent protests were never about the flag; athletes did not take a knee to change the flag.

The goal was to raise awareness and bring about positive change to the ongoing negative situation of people of color. A person was supposed to see the protest, wonder to themself or ask aloud, “why are they doing that?” And when they found the answer they, hopefully, would have thought, “oh well that’s not good. What do I have to do to help get them out of that situation?”

Just vote is the answer. But with that they should also rest assured that money will not be taken from their bank accounts, their homes will not be eminent domained and their children will not be forced into hard labor.

While blue liberals will avoid Roseanne the show with all their might, I’ll tune in from time to time. I want to know what a Trump supporter is saying through comedy to other Trump supporters and his critics about a changing country. I legitimately want to see Roseanne talk about lives she’s never lived yet voted against now that two of those lives are a part of her family. Roseanne’s son D.J. is an Army veteran who’s back from Syria and has a black wife and daughter.

There has to be a very heated debate between D.J. and Roseanne about not just the lives of people who look like his wife and daughter, but the people he fought for in Syria. Roseanne may say she voted for her son who’s in the Army and the prospect of him having a job when he gets back, but her vote was actually against her son because it was against two people he loves: her daughter-in-law and granddaughter.

In comedy, it’s funny because it’s true. I didn’t laugh at the take a knee joke and I won’t laugh if there’s a “just stop resisting” joke. I also wonder if a comedian will continue to break the rule of comedy to poke fun at the other side.

As for the show, I give it an interested “meh.” I laughed a few times. But since I also raised my eyebrows at Roseanne Barr’s tweets I won’t run to the TV to catch the show again. It premiered on March 27 and I saw the first two episodes on April 1. It was unplanned, seriously, but there are no coincidences in life.

I know there are better sitcoms out there. I’ll watch those for the entertainment. But if I ever feel like being a masochist and bring social studies into my living room, I may watch Roseanne.

Update: ABC cancelled the show because of a racist comment from Roseanne Barr about Valerie Jarret, a former high level staffer in President Barack Obama's administration. It's worth noting that ABC pointed to Channing Dungey, the president of their entertainment group, as the one who made the decision. Did she make the decision to bring back Roseanne too?