Editorial: Freedom, responsibility & sending Roseanne to entertainment’s oblivion.
Free speech is a great thing but with it comes great responsibility. As consumers of the art produced by it, we should demand more from our entertainers and consign those who are offensive and stupid for no other reason then to be offensive and stupid, to entertainment history oblivion.
“In the life of the individual, an aesthetic sensibility is both more authentic and more commendable than a political or religious one.”
― Tom Robbins
The issue of Freedom of Speech in the arts and entertainment has really been dominating the news cycle of late. This has indeed polarized much of America in light of issues like the NFL’s reaction to #TakeaKnee protests, the reaction to Michelle Wolf, Keith Olbermann, Joy Behar and Kathy Griffin when she was photographed holding Trump’s faux-severed head. This, of course, is merely a selection.
So it is now with “comedian” Roseanne Barr’s vicious and downright racist tweetcomparing former Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett to an ape (“Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby = vj,” she wrote in a now deleted tweet) which cost her the reboot of her show.
She half-heartedly apologized after losing her ratings cash cow show after ABC acted very quickly to nip this in the bud and (cue the drum roll)… the train of excuses begin — ending recognizably with Roseanne saying in essence Ambien made me do it (a statement the drug’s maker Sanofi quickly took to Twitter to point out the falsity of), after summarily throwing the cast of her show under the bus (for “throwing me under the bus”), and of course Donald Trump — in true Trumpian fashion — trying to make the whole thing about him. Somehow.
What’s truly surprising in all this is that it took as long as it did for Ms. Barr to stick her foot in her mouth. Again. Anybody recall her Nazi photoshoot titled “That Oven Feelin’” (which we’re told to ignore by her reboot’s producers) where she dressed as Hitler while holding gingerbread cookies she put in an oven (the symbolism being screamingly obvious)? While the context was for a satirical Jewish magazine, this really doesn’t make the shoot itself any more reprehensible from a moral view.
How about her tweeting of Trayvon Martin shooter George Zimmerman’s parents’ address in 2014 (something she was sued over)? Or retweeting a conspiracy theory about Parkland survivor David Hogg and a number of other alt-right tin-foil hat wearing conspiracy claptrap with no basis in reality — and designed only to troll and gain attention to herself? I’d argue there is no redeemable satirical or comedic intent to any of these exploits. How could there be?
While her show may have had some redeeming qualities — certainly the cast, John Goodman and Sara Gilbert among the fine players on the show, and its gritty domesticity resonating with many in middle America — this does not mean that we as a culture should be rewarding a performer who pushes her brand of offensive and stupid for no other reason than to be offensive and stupid.
In a culture of the First Amendment and Freedom of Speech — great things, no doubt — the moral impetus is on us as consumers of the art produced from that to patronize art that is TRULY worth our time. With great freedom comes great responsibility.
In the wake of Roseanne, we should lift our collective and individual aesthetic standards and don’t patronize artists who are “controversial” for no other reason than to gain a pitiable attention to themselves. Let us seek out art that makes us think, makes us empathize with our fellow humans through casting light on important social issues, or puts a new, novel, and thought-provoking spin on something ordinarily viewed as banal and ordinary, and makes us see things in new, fascinating and utterly unexpected ways.
Let us also consign the artistic refuse from this great experiment of freedom to the ash heap of entertainment history through in-attention, not picking Roseanne up on another network as is being talked about, a la the fate of Brooklyn Nine-Nine getting picked up by NBC after being axed at Fox — granted, Nine-Nine was axed so Fox could make room for their football schedule and rejig the schedules of other programs some, not for idiotic comments by the show’s stars.
Ignoring people like Roseanne is truly the fate people like her most fear. We should do just that and demand the best in all the art we consume, regardless of things like political affiliation.
THAT is how we elevate our culture.
Wess A. Haubrich is the contributing editor of the film section of The Nu Romantics and London’s award-winning culture website The 405. He is also a “top writer in movies” on Medium.com. He can be reached on Twitter or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org as he is always looking for cutting edge undiscovered cinema especially and innovative forms of all kinds of art to bring to his readers by probing the minds of their creators in interviews and features.