Don't ask why Roseanne was cancelled. Ask why it was allowed to go ahead in the first place

Barr’s downfall is the natural consequence of Trump followers being held to a higher standard than he is. When tweeting helped him capture the White House, and he continues to preach invincibility and rarely faces consequences, is it any wonder that his followers cross the line?

Louis Staples
Wednesday 30 May 2018 14:05 BST
Roseanne Season 10 Trailer

US television network ABC has cancelled hit sitcom Roseanne after a racist tweet which said that Valerie Jarrett, an African American aide for Barack Obama, was the child of the Muslim Brotherhood and The Planet of the Apes.

ABC’s Trump-era revival of Roseanne, a show that originally followed a working-class family in 1980s America, was a ratings hit. Its premiere pulled an impressive 18 million viewers, with 13 million Americans tuning in to subsequent episodes.

But the reboot also faced, and perhaps even courted, controversy. Golden Globe-winning comedian Roseanne Barr, the heart of the show, is a vocal Trump supporter. The president’s influence could be felt throughout, with regular references to making America “great again” and other Trump-like soundbites. Trump even told a crowd on 28 March that the show was “about us”, before admitting that he called Barr personally to congratulate her on such “huge” ratings.

Just as Trump has learned to play to his supporter base, Barr catered to hers as the series progressed, brushing off any criticism from viewers who did not like the show’s new direction. After coming under fire for portraying Muslim neighbours as potential terrorists, Barr simply responded that she would “challenge every sacred cow in [the] USA”.

On Twitter, Trump’s platform of choice, Barr became even more outspoken, sometimes even peddling bizarre conspiracy theories. In March she deleted a tweet accusing a survivor of the Parkland shooting of giving a Nazi salute.

But unlike her idol, Barr is now facing consequences for her actions. ABC has finally pulled the plug on Roseanne.

This poses a few uncomfortable questions. For instance: as repugnant and indefensible as Roseanne’s tweets are, what can we expect when the most powerful man in the world is routinely rewarded for deliberately causing offence? From beginning his campaign calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” to his infamous comments about people from “shithole countries” and his recent insistence that gang members are “animals”, Trump and his supporters have embraced offensive rhetoric and often revelled in their divisiveness. But unlike Barr, Trump will likely never face repercussions – and he knows it.

Clip from Roseanne where cast are frightened of their Muslim neighbours

This is not the first time that organisations have severed ties with Trump’s supporters for crossing the line. Radio station LBC confirmed that Katie Hopkins was to leave with “immediate effect” after she used the term “final solution” about Islamism following the Manchester bombing last year. The Mail Online, where Hopkins wrote a column, followed suit shortly after. Publisher Simon & Schuster famously cancelled a book by Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos after clips of the vocal Trump supporter appearing to defend paedophilia surfaced online.

Hopkins and Yiannopoulos had a track record of causing offence before they were offered these platforms, but the same can be said of Barr. In 2016, she likened Barack Obama to a Nazi on Twitter. Last year she peddled a debunked theory, popularly known as “Pizzagate”, that suggested Hillary Clinton was somehow involved in a worldwide sex trafficking and paedophilia ring. While ABC should rightly be applauded for their swift action, it is not unreasonable to suggest that, just like Hopkins and Yiannopoulos, she should have been deprived of such a platform in the first place.

Barr’s downfall is the natural consequence of the president’s followers being held to a higher standard than he is. When tweeting helped him capture the White House, and he continues to preach invincibility and rarely faces consequences, is it any wonder that his followers cross the line?

Barr may be gone from our screens, but the culture that created her and Trump’s other mouthpieces – a culture which rewards cruelty and lies – continues to thrive. While it remains to be seen who will become the next apologist-in-chief for Trump in popular culture, it seems a rather fitting that, after idolising Trump and his rambling tweets, Barr has been eventually toppled by her own.

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