Fans Didn’t Like This Controversial ‘Roseanne’ Joke

Roseanne argues with Jackie

Roseanne argues with Jackie. | ABC

The rise and fall of Roseanne has got to be the craziest television story of 2018. The series returned in March and instantly became a phenomenon, but just two months later, the whole thing came crumbling down, and ABC canceled it.

This was due to the controversy sparked by a racist tweet Roseanne Barr posted. But even before all this happened, the show itself already made a lot of people mad. One joke from this season, in particular, was fairly shocking to hear on ABC, and it instantly sparked a backlash.

Here’s a look at some of the controversy Roseanne caused this season and the one joke in particular that got everyone talking (page 6).

1. Roseanne was always controversial

Roseanne sits with her entire family.

Roseanne has featured its fair share of controversial comments. | ABC

Of course, Roseanne is no stranger to outrage. The ABC sitcom originally aired from 1988 to 1997, and it was often the subject of controversy. After all, it would frequently discuss serious issues like domestic violence, abortion, racism, and mental illness. There was also an episode where Roseanne kisses another woman, which ABC almost refused to broadcast.

It was hardly a sanitized series, and it was one that was frequently the subject of debate. So when the revival was announced, it was fair to assume it might push some buttons. Indeed, it did so right off the bat.

Next: Why the very first episode of the revival stirred up controversy

2. Roseanne supported Donald Trump in the revival

Roseanne stands in the kitchen while talking to Darlene, Jackie, and Dan.

Roseanne’s support for Donald Trump drew some controversy. | ABC

There were already a lot of people angry with the new Roseanne before it even aired. That’s because it was revealed ahead of the premiere that Roseanne Conner would be a supporter of Donald Trump, just as Roseanne Barr is in real life.

The premiere episode of the revived season features Roseanne, who voted for Trump, arguing with her liberal sister Jackie. Roseanne isn’t always depicted in a positive light, to be fair. But the show definitely isn’t overtly disagreeing with her, either, and it is sympathetic towards Trump voters.

On the left, some were upset because they felt the show was normalizing Trump support. On the right, some were upset because they felt the show was implying that those who voted for Trump only did so for economic reasons and it had nothing to do with social issues. So there was something for just about everyone to criticize.

Next: Trump himself even weighed in on this.

3. Trump even called Barr to congratulate her

A collage featuring 'Roseanne' and Donald Trump.

Left: Roseanne | ABC, Right: Donald Trump approved of the show. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Trump became aware of the show’s big return and even decided to reach out to congratulate Barr.

Trump said:

Even look at Roseanne, I called her yesterday. Look at her ratings! Look at her ratings! I got a call from Mark Burnett, he did The Apprentice. He’s a great guy. He said, “Donald, I called just to say hello and to tell you did you see Roseanne’s ratings?” I said, “how big where they?” They were unbelievable. Over 18 million people. And it was about us.

Next: Another revival episode raised eyebrows, but not because of Trump.

4. In one episode, Roseanne supports corporal punishment

Roseanne talking to her granddaughter in her kitchen.

An episode focused on corporal punishment. | ABC

Roseanne‘s focus on politics became less prominent after the premiere, but that doesn’t mean the show stopped upsetting people. In the third episode of the season, “Roseanne Gets the Chair,” Roseanne Conner expresses support for corporal punishment; she argues that kids these days are too coddled because society is so politically correct.

“Your generation made everything so P.C.,” Roseanne says. “You tell them to go over there and think about what they did wrong. You know what they’re thinking? ‘I can’t believe this loser isn’t spanking me.'”

Roseanne’s husband Dan agrees, saying that he once wrote a poem for his dad, only for his dad to hit him with a broom. Dan explains, “And then he said, ‘This broom will do more for you than any poem.’ And that was the greatest generation.”

Later in this episode, Roseanne calls her teenaged granddaughter a bitch and shoves her head into a sink. Naturally, this upset a lot of people, especially because Darlene — who was expressing opposition to corporal punishment — comes around to realizing that she wasn’t being hard enough on her daughter.

Next: There’s another reason this episode upset some fans.

5. This directly contradicts an earlier episode of the series

Roseanne standing in the living room with Dan and D.J.

In the original series, Roseanne regretted hitting her son. | ABC

There was another reason some fans were upset with the corporal punishment episode: it just wasn’t consistent with the rest of the series.

After all, there was an episode of Roseanne’s original run in which we find out that Roseanne and Jackie’s father used to beat them with a belt, which left them traumatized. Roseanne spanks D.J. after he steals the family car, but she ends up regretting it and apologizing. She then promises she will never hit him again.

So it was strange that in this new episode, all of that goes unacknowledged, and Roseanne suddenly supports something that we previously saw her oppose.

Next: This one joke in particular really didn’t go over well. 

6. In the same episode, there is a joke about Fresh off the Boat and Black-ish

Roseanne and Dan asleep on the couch.

Some viewers were outraged. | ABC

The corporal punishment subplot was not even the most controversial aspect of this Roseanne episode, though. There was another joke that same week that was much more contentious.

In a scene, Roseanne and Dan wake up on the couch, having slept for several hours. Roseanne notes that they slept from “Wheel to Kimmel,” which establishes that they were watching ABC. Dan then says, “We missed all the shows about black and Asian families.” Roseanne responds, “They’re just like us. There, now you’re all caught up.”

This was a clear reference to the ABC sitcoms Black-ish, which is about a black family, and Fresh off the Boat, which is about an Asian family.

Next: The reaction this joke received wasn’t pretty.

7. Viewers were outraged by this joke

Roseanne, Darlene and Dan look at a laptop while sitting on a bed.

Viewers had a lot to say about the joke. | ABC

This joke about Fresh off the Boat and Black-ish is still one of the most talked-about moments from the Roseanne revival, and it was controversial for a number of reasons. For one, the comment seems weirdly dismissive, reducing two great fellow ABC shows to being nothing more than “the Asian show” and “the black show.”

It also seemed to suggest that there’s nothing interesting about these shows other than the fact that they’re about people of color. On Twitter, actor Kelvin Yu said that it’s “an endorsement of dismissiveness and disregard. It’s a familiarity and comfort with the culture of objectifying and demeaning people of color.”

The joke isn’t even entirely accurate, either, since the point of those shows isn’t “they’re just like us,” but instead that the families deal with specific challenges and experiences because they are people of color.

Those who took offense called out ABC for being hypocritical by scrapping an episode of Black-ish about kneeling during the National Anthem, seemingly because it would stir controversy, yet allowing this joke to air.

Next: The co-showrunner of Roseanne explains the reasoning behind this joke.

8. Co-showrunner Bruce Helford defended the joke

Roseanne talking to Dan in the kitchen.

The joke sparked a conversation about representation on television. | ABC

In an interview with The Hollywood ReporterRoseanne co-showrunner Bruce Helford explained the reasoning behind putting this joke in the show.

Helford said:

We were commenting on the fact that all sitcoms really want everybody to feel included of all diversities and it’s kind of a funny thing. That’s all. When we did the George Lopez show, we didn’t want anybody to feel excluded because it was about a Mexican-American family. And I don’t think anybody wants to be excluded because it’s [a show about] either a black family or an Asian-American family.

ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey later defended the joke as well, saying, “We felt like the writers were simply tipping their hat to those shows, and it certainly wasn’t meant to offend. I do stand by the Roseanne writers in terms of the decision to include that line. I think they felt that they were expressing a point of view of the Conners in terms of what they would have actually said.”

Next: This other episode with themes of racism also drew a backlash.  

9. Roseanne‘s episode on Islamophobia drew mixed reviews

This episode also drew a backlash. | ABC

The revival touched upon contentious issues again in another episode. Titled “Go Cubs,” the episode follows Roseanne as she encounters her Muslim neighbors and immediately makes some racist assumptions. At some point, she actually wonders aloud if they are a “sleeper cell full of terrorists getting ready to blow up our neighborhood.”

In the end, Roseanne realizes the neighbors, from Yemen, are no different than the Conners — their Wi-Fi password is even “Go Cubs.” Despite that, the episode drew a very mixed response. While some defended the episode, others thought it only furthered racial stereotypes.

Next: Despite the controversy, the show was a big hit. 

10. The reboot was a hit, despite all of the controversy

The revival is getting solid ratings. | ABC

Despite the controversy — or maybe because of it — the revival was a ratings hit. Though the show naturally saw a dip in viewership after its premiere, it continued to hold strong at an average of 12 million viewers per episode.

This is worth noting for a few reasons. TV networks are struggling to produce hits while competing against cable, Netflix and other content providers that have blossomed in the digital age, so this marked a major win for ABC. Plus, the series featured a leading character with conservative political views who often clashes with liberal family members, which makes it an especially timely reboot.

Next: Here’s how the reboot is affecting other networks. 

11. The show inspired revivals of other past favorites

Roseanne inspired the return of Last Man Standing. | ABC

Seeing the success of Roseanne inspired other networks to take a page out of ABC’s book. Fox chairman Dana Walden admitted as such when talking about their recent decision to bring back Last Man Standing, another sitcom about a conservative lead character that previously aired on ABC.

“Everyone took a good hard look at the success of Roseanne,” Walden told reporters. “It reminded us we have a huge iconic star in our Fox family in Tim Allen. And we have been talking to Tim through the year.”

Next: The rumored change for the proposed Season 2.

12. Season 2 was supposed to be less politically inclined

ROSEANNE - "Twenty Years to Life" - Roseanne and Dan adjust to living under the same roof with Darlene and her two children, Harris and Mark, when Darlene loses her job. Meanwhile, Becky announces she is going to be a surrogate to make extra money; and Roseanne and Jackie are at odds with one another, on the season premiere and first episode of the revival of "Roseanne," TUESDAY, MARCH 27 (8:00-8:30 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network. (ABC/Adam Rose)

The show won’t be as political in Season 2. | ABC

After a successful first revival season, it would make sense that the show would stay on the same track after it was initially renewed for a second season. According to ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey, the series planned to back off from politics moving forward and focus more on family dynamics instead.

“I think that they’re going to stay on the path that they were on toward the end of last season, which is away from politics and toward family,“ she said on a conference call, according to Variety.

We’re not so sure Barr herself agreed with Dungey’s thoughts on Season 2. After all, following the controversy surrounding the episode on Islamaphobia, she refused to back down. If anything, she doubled down, taking to Twitter to write, “That’s what I do. Next season will be even more current events — I will challenge every sacred cow in USA.”

Next: A change of heart

13. The show has been canceled

Whitney Cummings with the cast of Roseanne

Whitney Cummings (far left) had previously parted ways with the show. | Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images

Barr won’t get the chance to live up to her promise. Though another season was confirmed shortly after the first began in early 2018, it was later canceled after an offensive Twitter comment from Barr.

The star made an extremely racist comment on social media, and though she deleted it and apologized, the damage was done.

“Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show,” ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey said in a statement.

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