‘Roseanne’ the show isn’t dangerous. But Roseanne Barr is.

 

I always admired Roseanne Conner.

She was strong, smart, flawed and funny. Even as a mere teenager, I recognised she was a passionate, protective, and fiercely loving woman.

Which means that, as most people do, I equated the love of the character with love of the actor, Roseanne Barr.

Obviously, the character was based on her. Dan’s wife, and the mum of Becky, Darlene and D.J. was an expert at tough love, a total egalitarian, a feminist, and all heart. So Barr must have been, too, right?

Barr was certainly a trailblazer. She was one of the first female comics to get her own show. She was outspoken, via her show, about racism and social justice. There were storylines dedicated to domestic violence, alcoholism and financial struggles, all largely taboo at the time – all told with humour.

Barr and the show made millions of working class Americans feel represented. For all of these reasons, in the years it screened from 1988 – 1997, Roseanne became a cult classic. So it was an obvious choice for a reboot recently on the American ABC network.

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The new show, which is coming to Australia later this month on Channel 10, sees the Conners in the era of Trump’s America. Roseanne is a supporter – which is, of course, because Barr herself is pro-Trump. The show reveals that Mrs Conner didn’t vote for the first ever female Presidential candidate, which is disappointing as those of us who know her thought that as a feminist she might have recognised the historical significance over the politics, but that’s the beauty of democracy: people can make choices.

And that’s also the magic of ageing twenty years – your perspectives change.

Roseanne Barr is still as full of personality as ever. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)

So there's nothing wrong with a show about a woman that voted for Trump. If anything, it continues to be in line with the original series that represented middle-America - Trump's main demographic.

And it's not an entirely Trump-focused plot: according to reports, the show depicts a politically-divided family, which again, is very realistic.

It's inevitable that the show's support of America's most controversial President would attract the attention of anyone anti-Trump in the audience. There have been complaints that the overt politics normalises Trump supporters as rational and likeable people.

But we can't avoid the fact that they are the very group who voted Trump in; so they exist, and no matter how much anyone may dislike it, they matter and deserve a voice like everyone else.

What is problematic about the show, however, is Barr herself. Not her politics - but how she arrives at her politics and uses her platform to inform her audience.

This issue was discussed by Mia Freedman and Amelia Lester in this week's Tell Me It's Going to Be OK podcast about the Trump presidency.

The Roseanne reboot isn’t ‘dangerous’ just because it depicts a Trump-supporting family. But Roseanne Barr herself is a different story.

The podcast hosts discuss how after the premiere of the new series, Trump called Barr to congratulate her, "because Roseanne has now become the figurehead for the white working-class Trump supporter."

But that's not a problem in itself. Freedman points out that as herself on Twitter, Barr has "become this real proponent for crazy conspiracy theories".

For example, on March 31, Barr tweeted: "Trump has freed so many children held in bondage to pimps all over the world....he has broken up trafficking rings...notice that...give him benefit of the doubt."

A search of Barr's Twitter account reveals the Tweet has by now been deleted.

A screenshot of the now seemingly deleted Tweet on Roseanne Barr's Twitter account. Source: The Washington Post

After she tweeted that, Barr then immediately retweeted supportive posts and links to articles about the “untold story” of how the administration was breaking up “paedophile rings.”

One link, according to The Washington Post, claimed that “by the second month of Trump’s presidency, police had arrested 1500 criminals nationwide who are connected with these paedophile rings” and that “there are suspicions that not only Hollywood is involved in the paedophile rings, but also politicians.”

Similar information could be found in Barr's reply thread, in meme form, with the hashtags #Pedogate, and, most disappointingly, #Pizzagate, where Hilary Clinton was accused of running a paedophile ring via a pizza bar in Washington D.C.

Like Barr's original tweet, those tweets have since been deleted.

This is just one example of Barr's use of information from dubious sources to influence her followers, but it's also one of the most serious, because Barr's actions did not just credit Trump for addressing child sex trafficking, it also implied he achieved more on the issue than previous presidents ever did - all based on non-reliable news sources.

In the podcast, Lester also discusses Barr's role in 'the Storm' conspiracy theory, explaining that the people who believe in 'the Storm': "think that the Democrats are running a child sex trafficking ring and that Donald Trump himself is personally freeing thousands of children held in bondage around the world, by Democrat-funded pimps."

Which of course is very different to simply being a Trump-voter. And that's a distinction you can't ignore if you choose to watch Roseanne in 2018.

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