ABC Cancelled ‘Roseanne’, But Let’s Not Mistake That for Morality

This morning Roseanne Barr made a really racist tweet about Valerie Jarrett, a former aide to Barack Obama. The tweet, “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby = vj” references the fact that Jarret is black and was born in Iran. It’s essentially in really bad taste. It would be hard to pack any more racism into a single tweet without using those (((triple parenthesis))) that the Nazis use around the names of Jewish people.

ABC responded by cancelling Roseanne, the top-rated show on the network, and second in all of television only to The Big Bang Theory. Barr apologized and left Twitter, but the damage had already been done.

Barr was obviously over the line, but she’s been saying crazy bullshit on Twitter for ages. She’s been pushing this insane QAnon conspiracy theory about… I saw a chart posted by one of the people who believes it and Atlantis was on it. Atlantis. Somehow it has something to do with Hillary Clinton protecting pedophiles in the basement of a building that doesn’t have a basement, but by way of Atlantis. It’s basically the newest face of the old Illuminati conspiracy, but without the winking and laughing coat of paint Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson gave it in the 70s with The Illuminatus! Trilogy.

The problem is that Roseanne Barr is basically just an actor on Roseanne, and she’s surrounded by a cast of people who aren’t crazy or racist. The show isn’t a reflection of Barr’s views, it’s written by smart, liberal writers like Wanda Sykes (who, to be fair, said she was quitting over Barr’s remarks), Whitney Cummings, Morgan Murphy and Norm Macdonald. The show didn’t reflect Roseanne’s politics, and most episodes basically featured Barr playing a parody of her public persona.

Of course, it would be impossible to do Roseanne without Roseanne Barr, and I can see why Disney would want to cut ties with her. Roseanne may have been the second-highest rated show on television last season, but Disney has a lot of other, more profitable properties to worry about. They can’t have this affecting the launch of their streaming service or some Marvel movie, it’s bad enough Solo has only made $172 million dollars in five days.

This is, by the way, the same thinking that lead NFL owners to institute new rules against protests during the national anthem. People were mad, wrongly or rightly, and it started to hurt their pocketbooks. Don’t think that ABC or the NFL are on your side or look at these issues from anything other than a cost-benefit analysis perspective.

ABC wants to be the network that supports the values you support, and what Barr tweeted was indefensibly racist. But ABC is also the network that cancelled Ellen, mainly due to complaints from the then-powerful religious right that having a lesbian character date a woman and explore what it means to come out as a lesbian wasn’t appropriate for television. They are not your friend, they are not taking any actions out of some deep-seated morality. This was a business decision to protect a brand. If the political winds were to shift, don’t think for a second that Disney will stay on the side of the angels, they’ll always be on the side of the loudest voices with the biggest wallets.

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