“White Men Can’t Kiss”: All the times Roseanne was racist in ‘Roseanne’
In the aftermath of Roseanne Barr’s racist Twitter rant and the subsequent crumbling of her career, we can only sit here and wonder how it’s taken so long for ABC to cut the Roseanne revival for good (and whether Barr’s over her Ambien hangover yet).
After posting a Tweet in which she likened Barack Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett to the “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes”, the network announced the comedian’s statements were “abhorrent, repugnant, and inconsistent with our values” and hit the bottom line bullet by cutting the show from its slate.
Insisting she sent out the tweets under some sort of crazed Ambien delirium, Roseanne added insult to injury by inferring that making a racial slur was on par with cracking eggs on the wall, stating in her apology, “Not giving excuses for what I did (Tweeted) but I’ve done weird stuff while on Ambien: cracked eggs on the wall at 2am etc.” By that point the damage was done and Roseanne was from ABC’s schedule for good.
We’re surprised no one took action before last year. While Roseanne was commended for covering controversial topics with tact – everything from classism to domestic abuse to abortion and contraception – there were many moments in the show that echoed the type of ignorant racism the comedian presented in her social media interactions last year.
While we’d like to think such discrimination was a thing of the past, to this day TV shows have been pumping hate into people’s homes. To highlight the issue, here are some of the most racially insensitive moments in Roseanne, followed by the same in numerous other comedy shows over the years. Prepare to get justifiably offended. (Or not, if you’re practicing having a thick skin, something we at FD do a lot.)
Fresh Off the Boat
In episode three of the season ten revival, the Roseanne writers took aim at ABC’s minority-led family sitcoms Fresh Off the Boat and Black-ish. After falling asleep on the couch, the conversation goes:
Roseanne: “It’s 11. We slept from Wheel to Kimmel.”
Dan: “We missed all the shows about black and Asian families.”
Roseanne: “They’re just like us. There, now you’re all caught up.”
The publicity surrounding the show’s revival promised politics would be much less of a factor in terms of the plotlines, yet this episode faced severe criticism for its myopic implication that the problems experienced by white families in America are just like the problems experienced by non-white families. Taiwanese-American actor Kelvin Yu — who is also a writer on Fox’s Bob’s Burgers — took to Twitter to explain why the “joke” is problematic:
At the very least, it’s reductive and belittling, as if to say those shows are nothing more than ‘Black’ and ‘Asian’ in their existence. But the real kicker is when Roseanne says: ‘They’re just like us. There, now you’re all caught up.’ Which implies that the point of any show about a minority family is simply to normalize them. That’s it. The stories, the humor, the characters . . . not important.
“White Men Can’t Kiss”
In this episode of Roseanne, DJ (Michael Fishman) complains about having to kiss a girl called Gina for a school play and when Roseanne meets with his teacher to sort out the problem, she finds out the reason he doesn’t want to is because the girl is African-American. Both Dan and Roseanne confront their bigotry later in the episode, including a moment when the latter refuses a black man entry to the Lunch Box until realizing he is Gina’s father.
As Rewire pointed out, “Despite all of the credit and praise heaped upon the original Roseanne series for apparent racial diversity, it more often than not opted for toothless portrayals that favored presenting its central white characters as ‘progressive’ over actual fleshed-out characters of color.”
In addition to Roseanne’s real-life Islamophobic statements, S10E7 titled “Go Cubs” decided to have a go at Islamophobia while it was at it, showing her character jumping to the conclusion that her Muslim next door neighbors are terrorists. In the episode, she even points to a surplus of fertilizer on their lawn as evidence of her theory and calls the neighbors’ homeland “Talibanjistan”.
While Roseanne was (of course) quick to defend the episode, journalist Elham Khatami Tweeted, “This is tired. Roseanne thinking her Muslim neighbors are terrorists isn’t funny. Not even for a second. Muslims deal with that bigotry on a daily basis. And it’s dangerous.”
While we’re on the topic of racial stereotypes in shows, here are some other TV moments that offended on the same scale as Roseanne:
“There’s Something About Dr. Mary”
That time Frasier vented his insecurities about Doctor Mary by impersonating her. Not. Cool. “You have no idea how difficult it is for a black woman living in a white man’s world.” Well yeah . . . that’s nothing to poke fun at.
Sex and the Sh***y
Sex and the City came under scrutiny multiple times for its lack of diversity, never once including a person of color as a series regular. When it came round to Samantha dating a black man named Chivon (Asio Highsmith), the show’s writers did everything they could to fetishize him, telling her friends that he has a “big black cock” and that she thought all hip-hop had a “hard edge”.
Meanwhile, his sister Adeena (Sundra Oakley) was reduced to the angry black woman stereotype, forcing Samantha to stay away from her brother or face getting her ass kicked. There aren’t enough facepalms in the world.
2 Broke Girls was basically run on lazy stereotypes, one of the most offensive being the short, Asian workaholic who manages the restaurant both of the key characters work at. There are so many offensive moments to speak of, a good (or should we say bad) example being the time Max (Kat Dennings) spewed, “You can’t tell an Asian he made a mistake. He’ll go in back and throw himself on a sword.” Unbelievable.