Roxane Gay on Roseanne cancellation: ‘I told you so’

NEW YORK, NY – OCTOBER 04: (L-R) The New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore, writer Roxane Gay, and professor of history at Northwestern University Geraldo Cadava speak onstage at The Hillary Question during The New Yorker Festival 2015 at SVA Theater on October 4, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Thos Robinson/Getty Images for The New Yorker)


Writer Roxane Gay always thought the Roseanne reboot was a problematic train wreck waiting to happen and now it appears she was right.

Tuesday, ABC cancelled comedian Roseanne Barr’s show after she posted a racist tweet comparing former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett to an ape.

“Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show,” ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey said in a statement.

Not realizing that both of her parents are in fact African American, Barr claimed Jarrett, who was born in Iran to American parents, had connections to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Barr wrote “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj,” using Jarrett’s initials and by the end of the day her show was cancelled despite its ratings success.

While many applauded ABC’s actions, Gay isn’t so quick to forget her ongoing history of problematic rants—and the networks propensity to let it go unchecked.

“For once, a major network did the right thing. But before it did the right thing, it did the wrong thing,” Gay writes in a piece for the New York Times. “It is not new information that Roseanne Barr makes racist, Islamophobic and misogynistic statements and is happy to peddle all manner of dangerous conspiracy theories. ABC knew this when it greenlighted the “Roseanne” reboot. ABC knew this when it quickly renewed the reboot for a second season, buoyed, no doubt, by the show’s strong ratings.

The cast, the writers and the producers knew what Ms. Barr stood for when they agreed to work on the show. Everyone involved made a decision to support the show despite its co-creator’s racism. They decided that their career ambitions, or desire to return to network television, or financial interests would best be served by looking the other way.”

While the writer admits she was a fan of the original version of the show and even viewed the first two episodes of the reboot, her social conscious made it impossible to stomach any more of the fictional ‘Roseanne’ while the real life one continued to attack innocent people on social media.

Roxane Gay also points out that ABC’s decision to sever ties may have stemmed as much from a fear of litigation as anything else.

“It was only when Ms. Barr became an immediate liability that everyone involved finally looked at her racism and dealt with it directly,” she writes.

When Barr went on her ill fated tirade against Jetter on Tuesday, Gay could barely contain herself tweeting: “I told y’all about Roseanne. I told you. So.”

The original Conner family was loved because they were a working class family that also had a liberal view of the world. They were surprisingly open minded and  seemed more invested in the greater good of their community than espousing divisive rhetoric.

Which is why their reemergence as Trump-supporting, Islamophobic conservatives almost felt like a betrayal to some, while MAGA loving audiences cheered for their newfound hero.

“[Trump] has behaved as if conservatism and racism are synonymous when, in fact, they are not,” opines Gay. “The problem is that having a major character on a prominent television show as a Trump supporter normalizes racism and misogyny and xenophobia.”

Like Trump, Barr has relied heavily on her Twitter feed to get her message across. But after taking a brief hiatus from the site, the normally unapologetic actress returned with her tail between her legs asking for forgiveness.

“I apologize to Valerie Jarrett and to all Americans,” she tweeted to her millions of followers. “I am truly sorry for making a bad joke about her politics and her looks. I should have known better. Forgive me-my joke was in bad taste.”