How Roseanne Barr Abandoned All Reason and Embraced the Alt-Right
Everybody loves a ‘90s reboot. In a time of political turmoil and increasingly terrifying news, the only thing more comforting than a classic ‘90s rerun is a series revival. It’s a programming bid that banks on name recognition and nostalgia; the assumption that everyone over the age of 25 has a furtive desire to pop on a slap bracelet and revisit the sitcoms of yesteryears.
In May, ABC confirmed that Roseanne, the beloved TV comedy, would be joining the ranks of ‘90s reboots (alongside fan favorites like Will & Grace, Twin Peaks, and The X-Files). Unlike some of its outdated sitcom peers, the Roseanne Barr and John Goodman-starring revival promises to be rather timely. When Roseanne premiered in 1988, it was heralded for its honest portrayal of a working-class family struggling to make ends meet in the Midwest. Back then, making a sitcom about a less than aspirational family unit was a risk. But in 2017, with executives overtly competing over the Trumpster demographic, a TV show about a “normal American family” (read: white people who may or may not read InfoWars) is a newly hot commodity. According to an ABC announcement about the reboot, “The Conner family will continue to deal with the economic challenges of living pay check to pay check in 2018.”
Roseanne Barr, the groundbreaking female comic behind the sitcom, seems to be well aware that her reboot is riding a Trumpian wave. Page Six reported that Barr was overheard at ABC’s upfront discussing how the presidential election results revived the series. Allegedly, Goodman remarked to his co-star that, “I never thought in a million years we’d be back,” to which Barr replied, “I did. As soon as I saw the election results, I knew we’d be back.” Let’s take a minute to soak up the irony of Donald Trump actually bringing back American jobs—not for the working class, but for the famous actors who portray them on TV.
As a funny, accessible take on a much-discussed demographic—think Hillbilly Elegy, but with more laughs—the Roseanne reboot has a lot of potential. After all, the original series changed television for the better, featuring a realistic American family, relatable financial troubles, believable gay characters and overweight protagonists who weren’t written as punchlines. Additionally, the sitcom centered a female comic’s voice at a time when TV shows didn’t often feature—let alone star—complicated female characters. Given Roseanne’s legacy of bringing under-amplified voices to the fore, the sitcom’s revival could actually be a force of forward motion (as opposed to a stagnant nostalgia fest)—an honest, empathetic portrayal that goes deeper than a self-serving politician’s shallow stump speech about the American working class.
Roseanne never shied away from political disillusionment or righteous outrage, and Barr has promised that this new revival will be similarly no holds barred. Before Roseanne 2.0 was officially announced, Barr tweeted that, “Of course I want to do a reboot of Roseanne-new political reality in our country will make for some great jokes!” Naturally, you might assume that the comic turned aspiring Green Party presidential candidate was alluding to Trump jokes—finding humor in a president who seems determined to screw over huge swathes of his poor and working class supporters. Instead, a deep dive into Barr’s (d)evolving politics reveals that the beloved comic may herself be a Trump supporter—or at the very least, dealing in some of the conspiracy theories and hateful rhetoric that facilitated his rise to power.
To be clear: Roseanne Barr’s new politics and the current state of her Breitbart-dotted Twitter feed don’t necessarily negate the contributions she’s made throughout her decades-long career. We can applaud Barr as a female television trailblazer while also maintaining that her current positions are not so good. After all, if you live long enough, you’ll watch a great many of your childhood feminist idols be demoted to problematic faves—although few stars can rival Barr’s sheer number of bad or erroneous takes.
Over the years, Barr’s politics have been…slippery. Her love of Israel has, time and time again, erred into Islamophobia, and her disdain for politics as usual—a cornerstone of her own political campaign—appears to have inspired her to join a community of conspiracy-peddling Trump enthusiasts. While Barr didn’t formally endorse any presidential candidate, she made her feelings on Clinton very clear, insisting that, “Hillary owns the press…people in this country are not allowed to say anything except for that they love Hillary, or they’ll be harassed, especially on social media, until they leave or hang their head in shame…Because if you don’t endorse Hillary, then you’re anti-American, a racist, a sexist, or whatever names her robots throw around.” Additionally, Barr told The Hollywood Reporter that, “We should be so lucky if Trump won, because then it wouldn’t be Hillary.”
Barr’s alignment with Trumplandia seems less motivated by the president’s actual policies, and more by the belief that politicians like the Clintons have screwed over their constituents. Like in the Roseanne days, Barr is speaking up for a consistently derided and overlooked subsection of American society. A March tweet, in which Barr wrote, “Every single attack on [email protected] is really a disguised attack on American voters who rejected Obama-Clinton-Bush’s bleeding of R treasury,” encapsulates how Barr has taken her position as voice of the people to the edge of reason. Barr’s affinity for Trump—or at the very least, for Trumpsters—is undeniable. She retweets Kellyanne Conway laughing her #Ossoff, takes from users with names like “Josey Cov fe’fe” and “Liberals are Icky,” and links selling “Trump Mafia” T-shirts. At times, she appears to have taken on a full alt-right persona, with observations ranging from “#intersectionality is degenerate pseudo philosophy of fake left” to “Mamas don’t let ur babies grow up 2b libtards.”
And then there are the full-on conspiracy theories. Barr has retweeted InfoWars reports on the “5.7 Million Illegals” who they baselessly claim voted in the presidential election. She shared a YouTube video titled, “CONFIRMED: SCALISE IS AT THE SAME HOSPITAL THAT TOOK OUT SETH RICH,” as well as various other Seth Rich-related bulletins. She’s shared articles from The Gateway Pundit and Milo Yiannopoulos’ website, as well as Alex Jones videos. She shared a link that promised to expose “Kamala Harris’ Dirty Sex Secret,” and she’s retweeted transphobic comments and tirades against supposedly violent “Muslim Migrants” that blare, “Americans Don’t Want these Savages in our towns!”
If Barr’s evolution from political outsider to card-carrying Pepe is an understandable—if disturbing—trajectory, her positions on Israel mark a complete ideological 180. Prior to her Trump Twitter takeover, Barr was perhaps most infamous for a photo shoot in Heeb magazine titled “That Oven Feelin.” In the shoot, the Jewish Barr posed as “Domestic Goddess Hitler,” showing off her Nazi armband and pulling burned “Jew cookies” from the oven. While the shoot was eventually pulled from the Heeb website, rest assured that Roseanne’s Hitler spread really puts Kathy Griffin’s latest antics into perspective. Barr has long played fast and loose with accusations of Nazism; in 2009, she wrote a blog post in which she called Israel a “Nazi state.” Two years later, she deemed the country to be a “brutal and undemocratic theocracy…which has the world’s fourth largest army.” She also denounced “the ethnic cleansing that is happening in Gaza right now,” continuing, “I say it’s the entire world’s fault, not just Israel’s and not just the Jews’, for allowing the terrible crimes against humanity.”
But in recent years, Barr appears to have totally split with her former belief system; now Israel’s critics, particularly supporters of BDS (the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel), are the Nazis. When the student government of UC Davis decided to endorse BDS in 2015, Barr tweeted, “I hope all the jews leave UC Davis & then it gets nuked,” adding, “#nukeUCDavisJewHaters.” According to Twitter receipts, Barr has experimented with straight-up Islamophobia, tweeting about “Islamic rape pedo culture” and sharing tweets that equate Islam and Nazism. Unsurprisingly, Barr’s less than P.C.—and often downright offensive—opinions have made her a number of virtual enemies, including Shaun King and Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour (Barr has gone so far as to tweet that “Linda Sarsour=David Duke”).
Then there’s the third category of Jew/Israel-centric Roseanne Barr opinions—those that are simply nonsensical. In August 2016, Barr went on a Twitter rant, writing, “hillary clinton is surrounded by jew haters who make fun of the holocaust & jewish suffering yet her mkultra supporters call Trump a bigot!” She also shared a link alleging that “jew hater hillary clinton’s handler huma weiner is a filthy nazi whore.” She concluded that, “Hillary will be the absolute death of Israel-she will sell #nukes to Hamas next if price is right [sic].” Just a few days ago, Barr took to Twitter to claim that, “No Jew can really speak truth anywhere…No Jew can truly speak as a Jew, yet. But, the time will come.”
Barr has described herself as mentally ill in the past. In a 2011 Oprah interview, she told Winfrey that, “I had, and still in some ways, have and always will have some mental illness,” explaining that she had been prescribed psychiatric drugs in the past—“And the drugs and the combination of drugs that I was given, which were some strong, strong drugs, I totally lost touch with reality in a big, big way.”
Despite assurances that the Roseanne revival “is not about Trump,” it’s hard to imagine an iteration of the sitcom that isn’t an updated reflection of Barr herself. When Roseanne returns in 2018, it will once again attempt to speak to a population that’s rarely represented in mainstream pop culture—perhaps by tapping into a conspiracist id that many would like to see confined to the Twitterverse. In Barr’s own words, “J edgar comey, millions of ‘feminists’ marching in support of women’s subordination,& leftys opposing Russia? gr8 time 4my new/old tv show!”