The Atlantic

Roseanne’s Wake-Up Call for the Populist Right

Her outburst of racist invective provided a lesson for the populist right that too few of its members are heeding.
Source: Phil McCarten / Reuters

When ABC rebooted Roseanne, the half-hour comedy’s eponymous star had an opportunity to reinvigorate her career, to earn a pile of money, and to help her country.

Like All in the Family a generation before, the hit sitcom offered families divided by the polarized politics of their era a comedic vehicle to confront and defuse at least some of the tensions that threatened to tear them apart. And the mass audience Roseanne was drawing meant that Donald Trump supporters, like Roseanne Conner, and Hillary Clinton supporters, like Aunt Jackie, were spending at least 30 minutes a week laughing with someone from the other side.

The best version of the show could’ve been good for the country.

But its constructive potential was lost Tuesday when Roseanne Barr, its creator and star, published a vile outburst of flagrantly racist invective on Twitter, where she wrote that Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to President Obama, was equal to the baby of the Muslim Brotherhood and Planet of the Apes.

Just what America needed: another celebrity TV star with no bigotry filter.

ABC quickly canceled. And who can blame the network? Within the space of hours, the show’s lead cast member, whose identity is inseparable from that of its lead character, engaged in virulent racism against a prominent African American a prominent Jew who survived the Nazis of collaborating with them.

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