Will Roseanne Barr’s Pity Party Ever End?

Melania Trump, aka “the most bullied person in the world,” meet your competition.

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Roseanne Barr on “20/20” in February (Photo: ABC)

This weekend I belatedly crashed a two-hour-and-13-minute pity party. Comedian and ’90s NewsRadio star-turned ’00s Fear Factor emcee Joe Rogan threw it, and his guest of honor was Roseanne Barr. The duo spent almost the entire duration of the October 11 episode of Rogan’s “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast making excuses for the tweet that led to ABC’s de facto firing of Roseanne by cancelling her revived eponymous sitcom earlier this year..

In fact, moaning while making excuses is pretty much all Roseanne has been doing since her first post-cancellation interview in June and in every interview and public statement she’s given leading up the debut of The Conners, the Roseanne-less Roseanne spin-off, which debuted on ABC on October 16.

Apparently, both the host of “The Joe Rogan Experience” pity party and his VIP guest missed the many memos, so I’ve come to deliver another one. This is why Roseanne’s tweet was undeniably racist, despite her ongoing protestations that it wasn’t: Had her beef been with a blonde white woman, say one of her former Roseanne daughters, Lecy Goranson or Sarah Chalke, she never would have called either a cross between “muslim brotherhood” and “planet of the apes.”

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Roseanne’s insult, which she insists was a political-not-racist dig and a joke, as if that makes it less tasteless and offensive, was so specific and so loaded. Comedy and racist are not mutually exclusive, especially when the punchline is clearly designed to diminish a person of color. It’s like the white woman on last week’s episode of How to Get Away with Murder who reached out to touch Annalise Keating’s hair to see if it was real. That scene never would have happened if Laurie Metcalf were playing Annalise instead of Viola Davis.

Roseanne claims she thought Valerie Jarrett was Jewish and didn’t realize she is black. That’s not completely implausible. Jarrett is light-skinned and biracial, so it’s conceivable that people who don’t know anything about her might look at her and not realize she’s black.

Roseanne, however, likely wasn’t one of those people. She wasn’t criticizing some anonymous random. She was targeting a high-profile woman about whom she knew enough to make the Muslim connection (Jarrett was born in Iran), a connection she never would have made about a fellow white American-made Jew, like, say, Bernie Sanders.

She was targeting a high-profile woman who worked for President Barack Obama, a black man whom her beloved President Donald J. Trump has repeatedly accused of not being American, a black man Trumpians have repeatedly accused of being Muslim, as if that’s the biggest crime a human being — or an ape — could possibly commit.

Roseanne apologized and later blamed her actions on her being under the influence of Ambien, adding a few beers to the culpability mix on the podcast. The minute she started making excuses, she acknowledged she had done something wrong. Yet she’s still insisting she didn’t, pleading not guilty by reason of Ambien… or comedy. It was just a joke, people!

Meanwhile, Joe Rogan repeatedly enabled her during his podcast, declaring that Ambien can make people do the darndest things and suggesting several times that Roseanne’s history of mental illness absolves her of liability.

Joe told the story of a friend who freaked out mid-flight during an Ambien-induced haze who was ultimately deemed not responsible for his actions. So, presumably, being under the influence of Ambien should be a valid defense for everything, from rape to murder to racist tweets.

He repeated that Roseanne is not racist so many times that I forgot I was listening to a podcast and not a broken record. Whether or not Roseanne is racist isn’t even the point. ABC didn’t cancel her for being racist. The network cancelled her over a racist tweet.

Whether the tweet makes her racist is between her and her conscience, but I will say this: There are a lot of racist people walking around who think they aren’t racist because they don’t actively denigrate racial minorities. But does anyone ever identify as “racist”? Many white supremacists probably wouldn’t call themselves “racist.” Like Roseanne (and Trump, and Melania), they’re angry because they feel they are the oppressed ones, the most bullied people in the world. To them, they’re not being “racist” when they fight for Confederate emblems. They’re just claiming Caucasians’ manifest destiny to rule the world.

Attacking outrage culture

During his podcast, Joe also took on outrage culture, which has made the U.S. a place where some, particularly straight white men like Joe Rogan, now have to be extra careful what they say and do, lest they be blacklisted as racists, homophobes, or sexual abusers.

Yes, we’ve heard that poor-me routine, too, usually from people who are finally feeling the sort of social pressure that some of us have been feeling for lifetimes. Oh, so sorry for interrupting your streams of unconscientiousness, your unexamined lives where you once were able to say and do whatever you wanted to say and do unchecked.

While I do agree that the outrage can sometimes get out of hand — cries of “cultural appropriation” rarely hold up in a country that always has been a cultural melting pot — I applaud the masses for exhibiting more consciousness, regardless of the motivation.

Like Joe, I roll my eyes when people use fake outrage as a way to make themselves feel superior to others . If they police the racist actions of everyone else, they don’t have to look in the mirror and see their own racism. Still, I’m OK suffering through the ranting of those hypocritical blowhards if outrage culture brings us closer to justice and accountability for all.

Well, almost all. If you’re a white man running for President or nominated for a Best Actor Oscar or a spot on the Supreme Court, you can still get away with pretty much everything.

Pots, meet kettles

Some of the comments under the pity-party video on YouTube were as misguided as the pity party. Many Trump supporters, and pretty much all of the ones you’ll find lurking on social media, lack a sound political ideology. They’re more like Beyoncé’s Beyhive and Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters, rabid celeb-worshippers blindly and cluelessly following the leader and anyone else, like Roseanne, who is on his side, and shouting “Off with their heads!” to those who aren’t.

Their sheep-like rationalization results in stunning displays of hypocrisy. Republicans/Conservatives/“Right-Wingers” have a frustrating habit of complaining about Democrats/Liberals/“Lefties” who never give them a chance to speak, who only want to hear opinions that echo their own. Pots, meet kettles.

Isn’t that exactly what Republicans/Conservatives/“Right-Wingers” do all the live long day? They aren’t as gracious about hearing out dissenters as they think they are, and I have the hate mail to prove it. They like to cite their First Amendment rights, while denying those same rights to the other side. Freedom of Speech also applies to those who react when you speak.

Republicans/Conservatives/“Right-Wingers” have a frustrating habit of complaining about Democrats/Liberals/“Lefties” who never give them a chance to speak, who only want to hear opinions that echo their own. Pots, meet kettles.

Those who defend Roseanne’s tweet by saying people constantly criticize Donald Trump, sometimes by making animal comparisons, just don’t get it. You can’t apply such simplistic tit-for-tat thinking to a race issue in a country that was defined by racism.

Comparing the 45th President to an orangutan is not the same as comparing the 44th President to one, or any black person to one, just as the N-word means completely different things coming from a white person and a black person.

A journalist, who is not an elected official, saying “F — k you” to a politician is not the same as a congressman, an elected official, physically assaulting a reporter, or the President, also an elected official publicly endorsing said physical assault, which, unlike saying “F — k you,” is a crime. Stop acting like a six-year-old saying, “But he called me names first.”

That “If it’s good enough for the goose…” argument may apply when defending or damning the actions of private citizens, but the entire electorate, not just those who voted for the President, must hold him to higher standards than everyone else. It’s time to shut down reciprocity reasoning for good. It’s as stale as the air in those echo chambers.

Sorry, not sorry…

The fall of Roseanne is a cautionary tale of what can happen when you leave your echo chamber unprepared for the fallout.

My biggest problem with her is that for all her bluster, she doesn’t even have the guts to own her actions or denounce them, which is so un-Roseanne Conner of her. She claimed to be sorry for her “bad joke” shortly after she made it, but she’s been backtracking ever since. Now she doesn’t even believe she did anything wrong because, well, she’s Jewish, and a Jewish person who has relatives who lived through the Holocaust can’t possibly be racist against black people.

Seriously, Roseanne?

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The only time I sympathized with her during the pity party was when she complained about how ABC and her former co-stars took her life’s work, her story, killed her off, and turned it into The Conners.

I have my issues with the Roseanne spin-off, too. I suspect the show ultimately will fail (10.6 million viewers tuned in to the October 16 premiere, compared to the 18.2 million that watched the debut of the Roseanne revival in March), and it probably deserves to. But both Roseanne and Joe need to realize that her co-stars didn’t cancel her, and neither did the public’s outrage. ABC did. And it wasn’t just over that one tweet. It was over a pattern of behavior on social media that culminated in that tweet.

If she had offered a sincere, unqualified apology, if she had stopped defending herself and instead tried to understand why her tweet upset so many people, if she had made amends to Jarrett and to the black community by personally reaching out to both, perhaps we’d still have Roseanne today.

But as long as Roseanne continues to be all about her, her, her, the pity party will continue. Enabling supporters like Joe Rogan will reinforce her narcissism, and she will never fully grasp how her freedom of speech affects other people because nobody knows the trouble she’s seen.

No wonder she loves Trump. He’s just like her.

Written by

Brother Son Husband Friend Loner Minimalist World Traveler. Author of “Is It True What They Say About Black Men?” and “Storms in Africa” https://rb.gy/3mthoj

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