By Froma Harrop
Roseanne Barr’s divorce from civilization started 28 years ago. Given the honor of singing the national anthem at a San Diego Padres-Cincinnati Reds game, she shrieked the words and, upon concluding, spit at the ground and scratched her crotch. All choreographed for a national TV audience.
Then-President George H.W. Bush called the performance “disgraceful.” So did most good Americans, with conservative commentators of that very different era expressing the most umbrage.
Roseanne’s comedic talents and the public’s short memory enabled her career to rise from the ash heap. Come the age of Donald Trump, her addiction to attention-grabbing attacks on surviving notions of propriety made Roseanne a timely cultural fit. Helping her along, clever TV writers gave her a show that exposed the country’s political and social polarization in a socially redeemable way.
But Roseanne the public personality wasn’t as smart as her writers. She apparently thought that headlining a hit network program would give her license to upchuck just about any vile sentiment crossing her mind.
After all, she had the example of Trump. The Electoral College made him leader of the land despite his tweeting racist lies, his insults against war heroes and evidence of his gross ignorance on matters both foreign and domestic. She may also have assumed that the money “Roseanne” brought in would shield her from serious consequences from whatever she would do.
The basis for that assumption was incorrect. Advertisers were sure to rebel against associating their products with such toxic assertions. Many had already abandoned Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham in the wake of their repellant mutterings. Their support for Trump was never the issue. It was their use of time they paid for to throw gasoline on whatever was left of mainstream America’s sense of decency. “Roseanne” the TV show and Roseanne the Hollywood star were over regardless of how ABC responded.
But economic considerations aside, ABC has been hailed for promptly canceling the show after Roseanne tweeted, “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.” The initials referred to Valerie Jarrett, an Obama adviser who is African-American. This followed a spate of other revolting tweets, including one promoting the obscene lie that progressive billionaire George Soros was a Nazi who turned in fellow Jews to be murdered.
At least half a style point goes to people who stoically own their outrageous behavior and are willing to go down with it. Roseanne is not one of them. She goes for the throat and, when countered in an effective way, grovels at the feet.
And so she started issuing abject apologies for causing offense. “Guys I did something unforgiveable so do not defend me,” she posted. And oh, dear, she blamed her use of Ambien, a sleep medication, for what she posited as unguarded remarks. That might work for some celebrities with fairly clean records who slip. Given her history, this seemed a final act of desperation to dissuade ABC from dumping her show.
Next comes the inevitable self-pity phase. After Bush chastised Roseanne for her gross rendition of the national anthem, she whined, “I have the right to sing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ too.” She also referred to the booing baseball fans as “50,000 drunk a–holes.” She’s now back on Twitter saying she’s “tired of being attacked & belittled.”
The slob culture long preceded the most recent presidential election, but it’s enjoyed a flowering under Trump. Social media will ensure it a permanent place on the American couch, but resistance to the barbarian onslaught at the higher corporate level is most encouraging.
Roseanne is gone. Score one for civilization.
Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.