Roseanne Barr has been on thin ice ever since the 2018 reboot of her iconic television show premiered barely a month ago. And now that ice has finally broken.
The actor and the show have received considerable backlash to their pro-Trump stance – a position which many believed is no laughing matter – and thus not a great premise for a sit com.
Of course, Barr made her name for being an opinionated woman, and a feminist. When her show first aired in 1988, she was a trailblazer. She was one of the first female comics to get her own show. She was outspoken about racism and social justice. There were story lines dedicated to domestic violence, alcoholism and financial struggles, all largely taboo at the time.
All of which makes what’s happened this week so disappointing.
But it was also a long time coming. Because merely being a Trump-supporter in itself wasn’t the reboot’s biggest burden to overcome; what it really needed to do to succeed was minimise the off-screen impact of Barr, who had recently revealed herself on Twitter to be a staunch conspiracy theorist.
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.”
But this week, Barr’s Twittering irrevocably crossed a line, which proved the final straw for the ABC television network.
Barr tweeted an appallingly racist comment about former Obama aide Valerie Jarrett looking like the offspring of the “Muslim Brotherhood & Planet of the Apes.” Jarrett, an African-American, was born in Iran to American parents.
The actor apologised for the tweet after receiving a negative response, claiming the likening of a human being to an ape, based on their skin colour, was merely a "bad joke" that was made in "bad taste."
I apologize to Valerie Jarrett and to all Americans. I am truly sorry for making a bad joke about her politics and her looks. I should have known better. Forgive me-my joke was in bad taste.
— Roseanne Barr (@therealroseanne) May 29, 2018
Not surprisingly, no one accepted her 'apology'. Almost immediately, ABC announced the show was cancelled. More specifically, the president of ABC, a woman named Channing Dungey, issued a scathing statement, calling Barr's behaviour "abhorrent, repugnant, and inconsistent with our values."
ABC Entertainment cancels Roseanne Barr's show, calling her comment on Twitter "abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values." https://t.co/2HJA1onFiw [Corrects link] pic.twitter.com/XEdNA8RLft
— ABC News (@ABC) May 29, 2018
And just like that, people started asking who exactly this hero woman Channing Dungey was:
Thank you Channing Dungey!https://t.co/VIlKTF9y7Z
— Viola Davis (@violadavis) May 29, 2018
As I called my manager to quit working on Roseanne, I was told it was cancelled. I feel so empowered by @iamwandasykes , Channing Dungey and anyone at ABC standing up for morals and abuse of power. Bullies will NEVER win.
— Emma Kenney (@EmmaRoseKenney) May 29, 2018
For context, Channing Dungey, the executive at ABC who approved Roseanne’s reboot, and subsequent cancellation, is a Black woman.
She’s already taken heat for approving the show, and now this. I’m stunned, honestly. pic.twitter.com/Sjvy5CHWl0
— Jarrett Hill (@JarrettHill) May 29, 2018
Channing Dungey is the First Black President of a major broadcast TV network (ABC)
Break the glass ceiling Queen! *adjust crown* pic.twitter.com/7BK6uvcMqL
— Strong Black Lead (@strongblacklead) May 29, 2018
Side note I had no idea that ABC's President of Entertainment was a black woman! Rooting for you sis! #ChanningDungey
— Aaron Barksdale (@AaronABarksdale) May 29, 2018
When the head of a network cancels a HIT show for reasons far more important than commerce. Congratulations @ABCNetwork - amazing move to show other networks that it's not all about money. New Ruler, New Rules. #ChanningDungey QUEEN. https://t.co/Brv10vBsnB
— Bojana Novakovic (@bojnovak) May 29, 2018
Dungey isn’t new to the Disney-owned network. She joined ABC Studios in 2004. In 2009, she was ABC Entertainment Group’s drama chief and helped develop and launch numerous hit shows, including Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Once Upon a Time.
In 2016, Dungey made history when she became the black person - and black woman - to be head of a major television network. As president, Dungey was responsible for bringing back Roseanne, and hence its success as the most watched show on television when it debuted in March.
Considering the financial incentive, it would have been especially difficult for Dungey to make the call to cancel. And that just proves even more that she can woman-up when needed to.
Her move was met with significant applause on social media, led by prominent black actor Wanda Sykes:
I will not be returning to @RoseanneOnABC.
— Wanda Sykes (@iamwandasykes) May 29, 2018
Sara Gilbert, who played Darlene Conner on both versions of the show, also tweeted her support:
Roseanne’s recent comments about Valerie Jarrett, and so much more, are abhorrent and do not reflect the beliefs of our cast and crew or anyone associated with our show. I am disappointed in her actions to say the least.
— sara gilbert (@THEsaragilbert) May 29, 2018
Anti-Trump celebrities such as Debra Messing were moved by Dungey's excellent decision:
I just heard #rosanne is cancelled. My reaction— tears. I am so relieved and grateful. The hate that has been spewing from those in Trump’s orbit has really taken a toll on all of our souls and psyches. I didn’t believe it would happen. I had lost faith. Thank you @abc .
— Debra Messing (@DebraMessing) May 29, 2018
The final word in celebration of Dungey's decision went to black comedian Travon Free, who posted this photo as a reminder of what black Americans think Barr represents:
The rise and fall of Barr this year should be a lesson to all high-profile people that in 2018, the more successful you are, the more accountable you are to the public.