In the opening minutes of “Dress To Impress,” the second half of the series premiere of the Roseanne reboot, we see a concerned Dan Conner ask his daughter Darlene about her nine-year-old son, Mark, who often wears skirts, glitter, and colors traditionally associated with girls.
Darlene, who as fans of the 1990s sitcom recall, took on a demeanor often categorized as “tomboyish,” hinted at a double standard at play, noting that her father never had an issue with her wearing “basketball shorts and a Bulls jersey to school every day.” Dan hits right back, quipping, “Darlene, God did not give me this big a head to hold a narrow mind. I’m totally cool with girls who like basketball, boys who like sewing, but you’re dreaming if you don’t think he’s in a world of hurt.”
Roseanne then proceeds to joke that the family couldn’t possibly be bigoted given they have “already come to the terms with the fact that you were gay” to which Darlene promptly shuts down. The humor there does indeed confirm that Mark challenging the rigid gender spectrum forced upon kids around his age that is not the issue. No, it is the hurt that was spoke of. A hurt all of themDan, Roseanne, and Darlene herselffear little Mark will be exposed to on his first day at a new school.
Before Mark is taken to school, “Granny Rose” sits him down to ask a question: “Do you feel like you’re a boy or a girl?”
Mark selects the former, admittedly surprising his granny, but nonetheless leads to a follow-up: “So what’s with the girls clothes?” Mark’s answer isn’t complicated.
“This just feels like me,” he explains. “I like the colors that pop. It’s more creative.”
Roseanne then cautions him that often in life, we have to choose our battles wisely. However, when it is confirmed that Mark’s fashion expression is important to him, Roseanne says, “We’ll back you up.”
Indeed she does because upon hearing Mark referred to as a “freak” by a classmate (Dan didn’t say “kids are assholes,” but the sentiment rings true and his concerns were valid), Roseanne asks the teacher if she can speak to the class. Like any proud grandma, Roseanne boasts that Mark may one day become a big fashion designer “like TJ Maxx” or “That Ross Guy.” Yet, she offers the following warning to the kids who don’t play nice: “I have ways of finding out. I’m a white witch.”
Ah, there she is.
The Roseanne I remember. The Roseanne I’ve missed. The Roseanne that, frankly, I have been grieving in light of the antics of her creator in recent years.
While other hit sitcoms of yore shied away from featuring queer people, Roseanne, and its creative force, Roseanne Barr, offered queer representation at a time of which there was very little. (There isn’t still enough of it on television, but I digress.) There was Nancy played by Sandra Bernhard. There was Leon (Martin Mull), who married Scott (Fred Willard)which, like the another working class sitcom of the 1990s, Roc, was one of the very few gay weddings to feature on primetime. And Roseanne herself kissed a woman on air in an infamous 1994 episode that took place at a gay club.
I loved Roseanne for many reasons. In terms of class, I related more to their working class struggles than I ever did the shows featuring more affluent families; the rich folks were aspirational, but those working white people who often called themselves “white trash” on the show were still more relatable. The queer representation certainly helped to a struggling lil’ gay Black boy living in the South, but it was ultimately an extension of what I would only appreciate about the series with time: it was political.
Unfortunately, the politics of Roseanne Barr in recent years didn’t match with the Roseanne Conner I used to know. Of course, now that Roseanne has become a Trump supporter, a woman who dresses up in Nazi gear, and bashes Muslims to the delight of the alt-right, her character may not be as far right as she’s become in recent years, but she is indeed a deplorable.
It’s been sad to watch, and honestly, I was never quite sure if I would be able to watch the show until the minute I turned it on. I don’t regret the choice. The reboot is good, and the second half in particular showed that maybe, just maybe, I can stick around for the show and indeed engage in the “dialogue” Roseanne Barr claims she hopes the revitalized franchise will bring about.
Having said that, if we are truly to exchange in ideas, Roseanne Barr needs to stop bullshitting herself and the masses about who her 2016 presidential candidate of choice is and what a vote for him means. To wit, in her New York Times profile “Roseanne ConnerHas Become a Trump Supporter. Just Like Her Creator,” she denies that Trump opposes many of the principles championed by Roseanne Conner. She argues that “He doesn’t oppose same-sex marriage” and proceeds to falsely state that he has declared support of it “several times.”
“He’s not homophobic at all,” she declares before she and her representative each interject to “not get into this.”
While his racism, sexism, and xenophobia are undeniable, Donald Trump does indeed have an interesting history with the LGBTQ community. During the 2016 presidential campaign, he did argue than trans people should use whatever bathroom they feel most comfortable using―a stance that certainly set him apart from his GOP counterparts. Moreover, while as a would be presidential contender for the Reform Party he declared marriage to be that between a man and a woman, five years later, he celebrated the marriage between Elton John and David Furnish, writing on his blog, “I’m very happy for them. If two people dig each other, they dig each other.”
His mentor, Roy Cohn, died in 1986 of AIDS complications and one of the few charities Trump actually donated to included those focused on the AIDS crisis in the late 1980s and early 1990s. As for that considered presidential bid in 2000, in an interview withThe Advocate, he supported amending the 1964 Civil Rights Act to “include a ban of discrimination based on sexual orientation. It would be simple. It would be straightforward. It’s only fair.”
Perhaps this is why Gregory T. Angelo, the president of the Log Cabin Republicans, told the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman at the time, “He will be the most gay-friendly Republican nominee for president ever.” The same can be said of Caitlyn Jenner’s defiant support of Sweet Potato Saddam.
My response to Angelo and Jenner then is the same reaction I have to Roseanne Barr in this Q: silly, silly white people, why do I have to know y’all better than y’all ever know yourselves?
Do I think Donald Trump hates queer people and trans people? No, but if you’re Black and Brown, you may want to steer clear of him. In any event, Trump is a narcissist with no true ideology beyond white patriarchy. He may not be able to spell patriarchy on his first try, but he certainly believes white men are the boss and is perfectly fine with you so long as you cling to the status quo alongside him.
Yet, when you don’t have a true belief system and only put self-interests first, everyone is expendable. So, it matters not how Trump feels about any of us personally but rather what he does in the name of the preservation of power. He has aligned himself with people who don’t believe in LGBTQ rights and has allowed them to govern and legislate accordingly. The end result has been a full out assault on LGBTQ people in terms of our rights and our safety.
Something changed in Roseanne Barr and, subsequently, Roseanne Conner. The changed led to both supporting a man whose administration has made it much more harder and far less safer for the grandchildren, a biracial girl and a genderfluid boy, on Roseanne. The Roseannes may have their reasons for why they decided to sacrifice the humanity of others not like them, but that does not negate in Trump’s America, they have it better than we do. That is what is so often lost in the conversation about bigotry be it an active participant or one who decides to be complicit in it: it doesn’t matter if you hate anyone individually if you handed power to those that hates any group collectively.
All jokes aside, if Roseanne is about dialogue, Roseanne Barr, Roseanne Conner, and those who voted like them, all have to stop denying the reality that their actions always posed these consequences and they made a choices anyway―that is, if we’re going to have an honest conversation about any of this.