‘Roseanne’ 2018: How To Spit On The Legacy Of Working Class Sitcom In 30 Minutes Or Less


A family sits on a couch
Roseanne (2018)” was rebooted, but TSL hollywood columnist Ben Havetz PZ ’20 says that was not for the best. (Courtesy of ABC Studios)

How many times after the election did you hear the words “at least comedy will be good for the next four years”?  Claims like these were made by many as a way of coping with the looming threat of four years of President Donald Trump, as well as an odd Bush-era nostalgia for the height of “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report.”  

A year into the Trump presidency this claim has at least been partially true. Television shows are using the Trump presidency as material, but none of it is very funny. The problem with these comedic takes on the Trump presidency is that the comedians’ natural opposition to Trump often results in jokes that are just good points.   

However, with ABC’s recent controversial “Roseanne” revival, it seems that we are getting the first non-oppositional, mainstream comedy of the Trump era, and the results are equally unfunny and morally concerning.

“Roseanne” (2018) takes place years after the original “Roseanne” created by Roseanne Barr.  The show follows Roseanne and her husband, Dan (John Goodman) continuing to struggle with balancing how to take care of their large family with the socio-economic pressures of working class life.

In many ways, the mere fact that the new “Roseanne” attempts to continue the legacy of depicting the struggles of American working class life — as present in the show’s original form — is admirable. The current landscape of network family sitcoms has abandoned even attempting to address economic concerns in favor of progressive social issues.

Progressive sitcoms like “Black-ish,” “Modern Family,” and “Fresh Off the Boat” deal with issues of race, gender, and sexuaility. But the families of these shows seamlessly have a endless supply of wealth that negates any possible class issues.

This is not to say that these shows should not be commended for dealing with the social issues of American life. However, the American sitcom has a rich history of dealing with class issues, evident in classic shows like, “Good Times,” “All in the Family,” and even the original “Roseanne.”

It is clear that the new “Roseanne” is attempting to revive the concept of the American working class sitcom. The four available episodes riff on concepts like healthcare, lack of affordable housing, and inadequate minimum wage.

Unfortunately, this welcomed return to working class issues of the show’s original incarnation is completely undercut by Roseanne Conner’s support for Trump.

The fictional Roseanne Conner’s portrayal as a Trump supporter is most likely due to the real world Roseanne Barr being an outspoken Trump supporter, conspiracy theorist, and member of the Alt-Right.

Since the election of Trump almost two years ago, there has been a massive amount of discussion on the white working class’ support of Trump. The media’s portrayal of Trump being a candidate of a negative working class base would line up perfectly with the portrayal of Trump supporters in “Roseanne” if the idea of Trump being a working class candidate was true.

However, Trump was, and is not, supported heavily by the working class. He was, and is, still a candidate of wealthy whites. Trump’s voter base was widely similar to every other republican candidate: rich, white, and conservative. This narrative of Trump being elected by the working class is a myth perpetuated by wealthy, white Trump supporters, like Barr adopting working class aesthetics, similar to those in the current “Roseanne” show.

The new “Roseanne” is deceitful, immoral, and painfully unfunny. In other words, it is the most emblematic show of the Trump era.

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