Wednesday 23 January 2019

Does Roseanne signal a backlash against the Never-Trumps?

Roseanne and Dan
Roseanne and Dan
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

During the early to mid 1990s, when the internet was still seen as a new fangled gizmo that would never catch on, and mobile phones were the size of a phone book, there was one show which ruled the TV landscape.

Roseanne was - up until its woeful last season - blue-collar comedy at its best, a sort of real-life Simpsons about a working-class family who bickered, loved, fought, forgave and then bickered some more.

It was a traditional sitcom which appealed to those in the heartland - and not just the American heartland. In fact, the show's massive global popularity was precisely because it portrayed something profoundly relatable to any working-class family who spent their time worrying about bills and trying to stretch their latest pay cheque as far as it could go.

Most importantly, it had a lot of heart, which separated it from the gleefully, wonderfully cynical approach of sitcoms like Seinfeld and The Larry Sanders Show.

Loosely - very loosely - autobiographical, things took a turn for the improbable when her character came into a ton of money and people stopped relating to her.

The more money she had, the less funny she became and few tears were shed when the final episode aired in 1997, both the show and Roseanne Barr seemed to have lost their way.

She would meander through popular culture for the next two decades, butchering a national anthem here, starting a Twitter war with someone there, and generally looking like one of those lost souls destined to end up in the where-are-they-now? files.

Yet last Tuesday saw the return of the Roseanne show and it was greeted by a record -breaking 18.4 million viewers for the first half, which increased to 18.9 million for the second episode. That's not so much rare these days as virtually unprecedented and the fact that two million more people tuned into the reboot than bothered with the finale 21 years ago is a massive figure.

That makes for good stories for the trade papers, but what was really interesting about these huge figures was the fact that Roseanne, flying in the face of popular opinion, is a staunch Trump supporter - in real life as Roseanne Barr and in her fictional role as the matriarch Roseanne Conner.

When it was announced that she would be returning as a proud 'deplorable' there was the usual flurry of reflexive outrage.

Comedian Billy Eichner seemed to sum up progressive intolerance best when he tweeted: "If Roseanne is a hit they should do an I Love Lucy reboot where it turns out Lucy loves Stalin."

If anything, Eichner should probably be congratulated for his blistering originality. After all, most of the comparisons involving Trump usually tend to invoke Hitler.

When it emerged that the figures for the show were off the charts, did the Never-Trumps pause to think that while 18.9 million may not be automatically right, they're not automatically wrong? Of course not. Instead, the last few days have seen a growing clamour for a boycott of host network, ABC.

There is a lesson here, if the Never-Trumps and bellyaching, butt-hurt celebrities and comedians ever stopped screaming long enough to listen - nobody cares what they say anymore. I'm not sure they ever did.

In fact, one of the reasons why so many celebrities and journalists in America and, it should be stressed, here in Ireland, have completely lost to the plot seems to be because they weren't obeyed by the oiks.

It's called Trump Derangement Syndrome and it transforms the afflicted from otherwise rational, decent people into frothing lunatics. You can see it in the way that, having grown weary of slamming the man, they now slam the people who voted for the man.

This is no longer just a difference of political opinion, it's a full-on carpet bombing of contempt for anyone who doesn't think Trump is the Devil incarnate.

It's also a ridiculous and needlessly reductive way of looking at the world.

But that, I suppose, is its appeal.

After all, the patently ludicrous battle cry of 'no free speech for fascists' has now become shorthand for simply refusing to debate anyone with a different opinion. And if everyone who voted for Trump is a fascist, a moron or a bigot, that means you don't have to engage with them. So these people stay cooped in their ivory echo chamber, agreeing with like-minded people and sneering at everyone else.

All the might of Hollywood and most of the musicians in America came out to campaign for Clinton. They cajoled and bullied Trump supporters. Even the great Bruce Springsteen, a man who makes music about people like the Conner family, for people like the Conner family, found himself on the wrong side of his fan base when he dedicated most of the election cycle to bashing Trump and endorsing Clinton. He seemed either indifferent or unaware that many of his fans were also the kind of people who were proud to wear MAGA (Make America Great Again) hats.

What did the combined forces of the multi-billion entertainment industry achieve?

Nothing.

One of the great mistakes so many in the Irish media make is assuming that everyone else thinks the way they do. They don't. That's not just my opinion, either.

The nearly 20 million people who tuned into the reboot of a long forgotten sitcom just proved that fact...

Indo Review

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss