Roseanne Might Be Canceled, But Her Racist Anti-Semitic Spirit Lives On

Roseanne Barr was canceled, in the figurative sense, long ago by reasonable people well aware of her racist histrionics. But yesterday ABC, the network that broadcast the show bearing her name and its revival, canceled her for real after a string of racist tweets prompted a fresh wave of outrage. To that I say: goodbye, Ro. We knew ye too well.

While this is unquestionably a win for human decency, just because the Connor clan and its matriarch will no longer grace the televisions of “real” Americans doesn’t mean that Roseanne — both the woman and the show — won’t live on.

For those just tuning in, here’s the short version: Late Monday night, Barr tweeted “Chelsea Soros Clinton,” implying the former First Daughter was married to a member of the wealthy, liberal, philanthropic Soros family, whose name is often invoked by anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists. She then called former Obama Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett the “child” of the “Muslim Brotherhood and Planet of the Apes,” a clear racist slur which she later deleted.

During the initial uproar over the premiere of Roseanne’s reboot, just three days after March for Our Lives, I simply didn’t have the energy to engage. But faithful fans of the original show who’d subsequently come to know Barr as a fervent Trump supporter, conspiracy theorist, and notorious Islamophobe were furious about its resurrection. Despite the outcry, the premiere garnered monster ratings and season 2 was ordered three days later. At the time, I truly believed nothing could bring down Roseanne — especially not a couple of tweets exactly nine weeks after its premiere.

My disbelief that anything could bring down Roseanne ties directly to the reason I’m so cynical about what the show’s end really means for the acceptance of outright bigotry in mainstream media. As Politico’s Edward-Isaac Dovere pointed out, ABC ordered the first season of the Roseanne reboot knowing she’d called Israel a “Nazi state,” and that she believed in the Pizzagate conspiracy, among other troubling facts, like being a 9/11 truther. Millions of dollars were being paid to a person who showed such clear-cut disdain for marginalized communities — among them people of color, women, Muslims, and Jews — and we weren’t just forced to accept it, but were called “intolerant” for rejecting Roseanne’s version of America.

But as of yesterday, acceptance was no longer an option. Chelsea Clinton swiftly responded to Roseanne on Twitter to clarify that she was not married to a Soros (though her husband, Mark Mezvinsky, is Jewish), which is what first drew me back to Roseanne’s Twitter feed for the first time in months. Shortly thereafter, I saw the vicious Valerie Jarrett tweet, and felt the wheels of outrage turning. “She won’t get away with this,” I said to myself, straight out of the lamest superhero origin story.

It now occurs to me that during the initial outrage, I’d just accepted the show as a symptom of Trump’s America. On a scale of one to John Bolton, it seemed relatively harmless. But seeing the veteran TV star so boldly attack two brilliant women, completely unprovoked, revealed that she fancied herself part of the untouchable Trumpian class. That her words would never come back to bite her because her she couldn’t be bitten. Yet by day’s end, she was out of a job, out of a talent agency, and had multiple rerun syndications canceled.

Trump, on the other hand, remains in place. And so does Barr’s ideology.

When her tweets starting gaining traction yesterday morning, Barr quickly “apologized” to Clinton in two tweets… by doubling down on the Soros conspiracy. Those tweets were then retweeted by the prodigal son himself, Donald Trump Jr.

After news outlets reported his retweets, Trump Jr. played dumb, saying “I did not RT anything that was anti-Semitic.” Despite my long-standing theory that Don Jr. is the least intelligent Trump child, he ain’t this stupid. He broadcast the Soros conspiracy to his 2.8 million followers, a message that will live on even after Roseanne’s show’s demise.

And Trump Jr. isn’t the only one carrying the torch: Eric Bolling, a former Fox News host who was fired last summer for sending unsolicited dick pics to female colleagues, tweeted (then deleted) that there was “no apology necessary at all” for Roseanne’s heinous comments.

Conservative radio show host Bill Mitchell, a ride-or-die Donald Trump groupie, tweeted a photo of a Planet of the Apes character next to Valerie Jarrett, noting sarcastically “ZERO resemblance.” From Trump Sr., Mitchell, Bolling, Don Jr., and too many others have learned not just that apologies are a sign of weakness, but white supremacists don’t apologize for their white supremacy.

In response to Barr’s tweet, Valerie Jarrett so graciously called it an opportunity for a “teaching moment,” and she’s right. From Jarrett’s perspective, it’s a chance to make people aware of “those ordinary examples of racism that happen every single day” and call them out. For me, there’s another layer: the behavior of Barr and like-minded individuals further proves how bigots have been energized in the era of Trump. They have audiences of millions to whom they can broadcast at any moment, and a pesky little network TV contract doesn’t change that.

Roseanne’s character may be be canceled, but she’ll undoubtedly reemerge in the not-so-distant future to play herself.

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