Last year, I lost a Summer. On Friday 2nd of June 2017 I said “see you on Monday!” to my colleagues and over that weekend I suddenly became so ill that I never saw those colleagues again. It was, in fact, a really sucky time. A good 3 or 4 months went by where I only left the house for medical appointments or absolute necessity, and it was only when I started therapy in October that I realised I had also developed agoraphobia and started really working on getting myself outside. I spent that Summer either on the couch or in bed, and every single day I watched around 5 episodes of Roseanne. Being with my family, watching Roseanne and graduating from University are the only things I can remember about last Summer – or perhaps the only things I want to remember. So when I heard they were bringing her back in 2018, I was absolutely thrilled.
Roseanne had become my comfort blanket. Her family were my family, and I was thrilled to have them returning to my life. On top of that, I looked at the plotlines and character choices and I recognised that Roseanne was taking leaps that many in the 80s and 90s were scared to take. By the standards of the 1980s and 1990s, Roseanne was a leading LGBTQ+ ally, and an advocate for equality. In the episode where DJ was scared to kiss a black girl in the school play, Roseanne preached on an international level about racial equality and the damaging impact of internalised racism within working class families. When Jackie was being abused by her husband, Roseanne and Dan shielded her and told the world that domestic violence is never okay. The show was home to openly gay characters – a conscious decision that Roseanne had made in honour of her brother and sister, who are both gay, in an attempt to normalise homosexuality in mainstream media. You get it. Roseanne was good in the 90s. Ignoring the fact that it is very clear that body positivity was NOT a thing that included fat people back then.
When the Roseanne reboot started, it felt like I had come home to old friends. Darlene remained the Queen of Snark, but was also mother to Harris – who we met before the final season wrapped up, and who was completely and utterly her mother’s child – and Mark. Obviously named after his late Uncle, Mark held a special place in my heart. I am the mother of a boy who loves skirts and glitter, and I loved how absolutely normal he was. In addition to this, I actually respected that they challenged Dan on how uncomfortable he was about Mark’s clothing choices, using their show as an opportunity to educate and inform. I was thrilled. DJ married Geena Williams, who is speculated to have been the same Geena he had been scared to kiss in the aforementioned episode, and he was raising Mary, his biracial daughter, alone while Geena continued to serve in the military. Jackie was wearing a pussy hat, for God’s sake. All in all, I welcomed the Roseanne reboot and all of its familiarity, sass and inclusive nature. Once again it was pushing the boundaries and causing ripples in the social climate, and I was 100% here for it.
And then, y’know, Roseanne happened. The person, not the show. She made a disgusting, racist comment that she hoped to get away with, she rightfully got called on it and her show got canned. My feelings were so mixed. Sure, she was a piece of garbage and deserved to get fired immediately – but that also meant that everybody else was sacrificed because of one woman and her mouth. This show, which had the platform and the plotlines to be a useful tool in educating working class, redneck, Trump-era Americans, was suddenly gone, leaving a giant void of wasted opportunity in its wake.
And that is why I am thrilled that The Conners is coming back on the 16th of October. I love that bigots across the world right now are being told that even one word of racism will not be tolerated. This woman literally created and starred in her own show, and even she was not safe when she ran her mouth. Yet again, Roseanne provided an international teachable moment that stood up in the face of bigotry and racism – but it certainly wasn’t one that went down the way she planned.