Yesterday, I read an interview with Roseanne showrunner Bruce Helford that included talk about last night’s episode, ahead of its airing. During the course of the interview, Lesley Goldberg asked about a particular line airing in last night’s episode.
Here’s his answer:
There was also a nod to ABC comedies Black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat when Roseanne tells Dan, “They’re just like us.” What are you trying to accomplish with that bit?
We commenting on the fact that all sitcoms really want everybody to feel included of all diversities and it’s kind of a funny thing. That’s all. When we did the George Lopez show, we didn’t want anybody to feel excluded because it was about a Mexican-American family. And I don’t think anybody wants to be excluded because it’s [a show about] either a black family or an Asian-American family.
I didn’t think much of that when I read it, except to think, “I’ve never once felt excluded by Black-ish.” In fact, around 79 percent of the audience for Black-ish is non-black, so I don’t think anyone was feeling excluded by Black-ish.
At any rate, whatever Helford’s intent was with that line, when it came out of Roseanne Conner’s mouth on TV last night, it sounded nasty and dismissive. I can’t find video of it, but try to hear Conner’s grumpy, who-gives-a-shit voice and apply it to this exchange with Dan, after they wake up from a long nap:
Roseanne: We slept from Wheel to Kimmel.
Dan: We missed a lot of shows about Black and Asian families.
Roseanne: [Derisively] They’re just like us. Now you’re all caught up.
OK, but like: How are viewers supposed to interpret that line? It felt super reductive to me. Sneering and dismissive. I wasn’t alone.
I’m sure it reflects poorly on me that I wrote a relatively positive review of “Roseanne” and have generally stood by it, but tonight’s snide dismissal of “Fresh Off the Boat” and “black-ish” is probably my bridge too far.— Daniel Fienberg (@TheFienPrint) April 4, 2018
So… Roseanne can agressively turn of the TV when faced with "blacks and asians" and proclaim in a nasty ass tone "They're just like us! Now you're all caught up." But Black-ish can't even acknowledge Kap & modern day social injustice protests?— Liberal Redneck (@Liberal_family) April 4, 2018
Mmmm? K? @ABC
(That reference to the inability of Black-ish to acknowledge social injustice refers to the decision by ABC not to air an episode about Colin Kaepernick.”)
the nerve of roseanne to take potshots at black-ish and fresh off the boat. we never needed another roseanne. we DO need diversity on television.— zoë owens (@punkrockzo) April 4, 2018
Wow, so this revival is just openly racist. “They’re just like us” ? #Roseanne— Anne Thorpe (@misanthrope1969) April 4, 2018
Maybe we’re all reading it wrong. Maybe our “liberal bias” has us reading something into that line that’s not there because we’re poised to be angry at Roseanne, but goddamn, it doesn’t feel right to suggest that the experiences of all those families are the same, or to suggest that “they’re just like us.” The Conners, Johnsons, and Huangs are decidedly not the same. For one: I seriously doubt we will ever see an episode of Rosennae celebrating the 19th of June, the day that the slaves were freed.
And this two-minute clip is better than anything that Roseanne has done in 10 fucking seasons.
“They’re just like us,” huh? Go fuck yourself.