Over the weekend, on What What Happens Live, Sara Gilbert — who is amazing, and who plays Darlene on Roseanne — was asked about what she thought when she learned that “the Conners would be Trump supporters.”
After clarifying that only Roseanne Conner is a Trump supporter (and not the rest of the family), Gilbert went on to state that the show is not about politics:
“The show is not about politics. It’s not about anyone’s position or a policy, it’s really about what happens to a family when there’s a political divide, which is something that I think the entire country can relate to and something we need to talk about. So, with our show, it’s never about ‘doing an issue’ or ‘doing politics,’ it’s: How do these things affect a family unit?”
I suspect that there are a lot of cast members and writers on Roseanne who wish that this were true, but it’s not. It became the most political show in America when Trump-supporting Roseanne Barr’s character, Roseanne Conner — the title character in the series — expressed enthusiasm for Donald Trump on the show and the real Donald Trump and his family expressed approval for the show the next day.
It might have been able to avoid being about politics had the first episode not revolved around Presidential politics. After all, The Middle has been able to run for nine seasons without stirring any political controversy, despite the fact that one of its leads — Patricia Heaton — has expressed some fairly unpleasant political views. Kelsey Grammer, likewise, is a strong conservative, but Frasier remains beloved. Even old episodes of Roseanne are still well-liked by many who abhor the politics of Roseanne Barr.
Why the incongruence? Because the subject of Presidential politics had never come up in the substance of those series before. They never opened the door.
Here, the door was open in the first episode back. It’s like in a criminal trial: Defense attorneys often strongly encourage their clients not to take the stand because if they do, their character can be impeached. Their past crimes and indiscretions can be discussed. It’s no longer about the facts of the case; it becomes about the person.
The pilot episode put Roseanne Barr on the stand by introducing her politics into the series. Now, it’s not about the show. It’s about the person, and the person is an abhorrent human being who can no longer be separated from the character. The show is not only being assessed based on its own substance but the substance of its lead character, one driven by bigotry and conspiracy.
So, yes: Sara Gilbert. The show is very much about politics, because Barr made it about politics by using social media to divide viewers along the same lines that Roseanne’s character and her sister have been divided. It’s 2018, and thanks to the man that Barr supports, everything is about politics, about choosing sides. Hell: Where a company advertises is about politics, and I suspect Gilbert herself would support a boycott of Hulu for advertising on Laura Ingraham’s show or Nationwide for advertising on The Bill O’Reilly Show.
Why then should anyone support a series whose title character supports an agenda that is so hostile to so many marginalized people? We’re not interested in seeing a family debate about that, because right and wrong is not up for debate. All due respect, but the “political divide” that Gilbert believes we should be talking about is not a division between those who support trickle-down economics or wealth distribution; it’s a divide between people who support keeping families together and those who would prefer to split them apart because those families are not white.
We don’t “heal” the country by giving both sides equal weight, or by normalizing bigotry. We heal the country by coming together to elect someone who treats all people equally regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, citizenship status, or religion.