On the day when Starbucks employees nationwide were undergoing racial-profiling training after a discriminatory incident landed the brand in reputational hot water, Roseanne Barr was busy getting canned by ABC after engaging in some racist activity of her own, via a late-night tweet series that included derogatory remarks about a former Obama adviser.
We’re not going to repost the offending tweet, but the fallout was quick and painful for the network icon: within hours, Barr had been dismissed by her talent agency, had her high-ranking new show cancelled, and saw many other networks pull the plug on syndicated reruns of her original series. Meanwhile, scores of other people, including cast and crew members of the “Roseanne” series, lost their jobs on the spot, and several have sounded off in anger—some of them (naturally) via Twitter, including co-star and series co-producer Sara Gilbert.
Emma Kenney, who plays Roseanne’s granddaughter on the show, says she had even decided to leave the show when she first learned of the tweet—before ABC announced the cancellation.
Even Barr herself, who is no stranger to espousing racist views, realized the error of her ways immediately and posted an apology, and even went back on Twitter (after announcing she was quitting the social network for good) to ask people coming to her defense—many alleging political conspiracy—to refrain from taking her side after such an “indefensible” act. (Even though she then went on a dizzying rampage of retweets, giving voice to all those defenders and diluting her “apology.”)
How will Hollywood handle the backlash?
The series has long been hailed for presenting a perspective of working-class America, something that had been missing from TV for many…well, forever. Although ABC took the high ground quickly—and at its own expense, as the show was both a commercial and critical hit—the fallout in the entertainment industry may be just beginning. Just as Barr took down an entire empire of her own making, will she also take down TV’s working-class voice?
Many in the media and entertainment biz were quick to chime in with expected “liberal” voices, citing Barr’s Trump affiliation and her past indiscretions, and exclaiming how we’re all better off without “Roseanne.” “Roseanne’s network wanted to showcase the average Trump voter. And that’s exactly what they got,” journalist Molly Knight tweeted to her 91K followers, the New York Post reported. “I’m glad Roseanne is canceled,” said another tweet from writer/performer Kumail Nanjiani. “Nothing good has come of this entire thing.”
But hopefully the industry will realize that this issue transcends partisan politics and Hollywood culture, and won’t fail to see the forest for the trees. “This is a cautionary tale,” said Darnell Hunt, director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at the UCLA, the Washington Post reported. “There’s no argument for making a trade-off between what is civil and decent and what you think one group might be attracted to and think you’re going to profit over the long run.”
Let’s not get bogged down in all the wrong reasons to learn a lesson here—or in Hollywood’s case, to teach a lesson.