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Mirror, Mirror, Reflecting the Nation

By Gloria Diaz

Check out Gloria's Blog — Edge of Gloria!

Fort Wayne Reader


Back in the day, we were Team Huxtable. That sounds creepy now, in light of Bill Cosby's TranquilRape® history, but we were. My dad was a member of the Greatest Generation, a World War II veteran with a college education who at one point, spoke three languages. He had traveled a bit, liked a variety of music, and read a lot. My mother, a high school dropout, was also a voracious reader, brilliant and had an uncanny way of being right about the future, especially when it came to computers. Never mind that we were Midwestern and lower middle class (POOR) in a tiny house. There was nothing about Dan Conner in my dad, and nothing about Roseanne in my mother. We didn't exchange wisecracks. My parents didn't have kids only to count the minutes until they kicked us out at 18 or high school graduation, whichever came first. So we didn't watch Roseanne in prime time, because aside from the family economics and geographical commonality, there wasn't much we had in common with them. Plus, The Cosby Show had some amazing musicians as guests, and there wasn't a chance in hell that Tito Puente would show up at the Conner household.

My mother and I warmed to Roseanne eventually. In the years before she died, Mom and I had our television routine, which included Nick at Nite. We tuned in to Cosby, and instead of changing the channel while an hour of Roseanne came on before the next Cosby installment, we sat and watched and enjoyed.

I no longer have cable, but finally bought a normal television, where the channel has stayed on Laff, where I watch Roseanne and That 70s Show. I'd heard about the Roseanne reboot, and binge watched the first five episodes this past weekend.

So does it suck? It depends. I felt the actors pretty much picked up where they left off in 1997. Sure, the kids are grown up with kids of their own. (Except for Becky.) Dan and Roseanne are older. The couch and the crocheted throw are still there. Except Roseanne's character, who took down a state representative during a door-to-door “getting to know you” tour years ago, voted for Trump.

It's ironic, because the first episode was chock-full of the kind of infuriating hypocrisy life in America consists of today. Dan (he's ALIVE!) comes home from the pharmacy, with “half the drugs for twice the price” and sits down at the kitchen table to trade pills with Roseanne, who needs pain meds for a bad knee. You get the feeling that a more humane health care system could remedy this, but the Conners would be the first to say single-payer is “un-American, a socialist commie plot, and it's our patriotic duty to suffer.” Roseanne's sister Jackie is cartoonishly dressed in a “Nasty Woman” t-shirt and pink vagina hat. Reflecting many American families, we find out they haven't spoken since the election. We find out Jackie actually voted for Jill Stein, and feels guilty about it. When called on why Roseanne voted for Trump, she said it was because he was talking about jobs. And what does Roseanne do for money these days? She's an Uber driver, a member of the gig economy.

Speaking of jobs, Darlene has lost hers, and in true American style, comes home, with the excuse of helping out her parents, but Roseanne has opened her mail and discovers a severance check. When Darlene admits she's unemployed and feels like a failure, Roseanne pulls her close and calls her a “loser.” Because that's what American parents are supposed to do: call their children losers when things go bad and they come back home. DJ seems to be okay, but Becky is in such dire economic straits, she's trying to be a surrogate mother for $50,000. Dan isn't okay with it, which should come as no big surprise. Becky's eggs are HIS eggs, after all, and Becky's financial future is not as important as Dan's future grandkids, even though she probably wouldn't be able to afford to raise them, should she be able to conceive (this is a bit of foreshadowing here, because I don't want to mention spoilers for those who haven't seen the new episodes yet.)

There's more: the first dinner the entire family has had even has commentary on diets. Jackie contributes a salad, which is acknowledged then ignored. Salads are for liberals! Real Americans eat cheap, starchy food, become obese (like real Americans) then develop health problems that require pills they cannot afford.

I thought the five episodes I've seen so far were pretty funny. I thought the first episode alone would make a great research paper topic, with the amount of issues the writers touched on, which was quite amazing for a 21 minute block of time.

I think what makes this current version disturbing for some viewers is the same thing that made the first few seasons of the show so compelling. It's real. It's like the writers are holding up a mirror to today's society. And it's not exactly pretty. Roseanne clashes with her granddaughter, who, faced with Lanford's less than exciting vibe, steals clothes for her Etsy store in order to save enough money to move back to Chicago. Roseanne, in typical American fashion, snaps at her, claiming “you think you're better than everyone else.” God forbid anyone have any pride, or creativity, or aspirations in this country. If you are not drooling over the prospect of staying in small-town America, working at a convenience store or at Walmart, then you're a spoiled little brat. Real Americans take pride in working a back-breaking job (or three) and are content with their lot in life, even if it means never moving out of the house you grew up in, and are faced with low-paying job prospects. Shame on you for wanting better, you snobby, elitist brat!

That's the message I'm getting from the new Roseanne, or season 10, if you will. Life sucks, it always will, and don't bother trying for anything better. Be happy you have a job, even if you have to pick up total strangers using your own car, and provide your own insurance (health and car). Bitch about the cost of health care, but refuse to vote for better options. Don't eat salad. Salad is for liberals, who are singlehandedly ruining this country.

Will I continue watching? Probably. But it's going to be hard watching a sitcom regurgitate the national zeitgeist. I'm tired of people complaining about health care costs, but are against single-payer, or refuse to brainstorm for a better solution. I'm tired of people complaining about unions, yet are working low-paying jobs that don't provide benefits. I'm tired about people believing that Trump will bring manufacturing back, when anyone with basic math skills knows that if you can pay someone 70 cents an hour to make something, it seems downright foolish to pay someone $7.25 to make the same thing. Watching actors do the same things over and over, hoping for a different outcome is one thing. Seeing citizens do the same thing is another. Will Americans continue to watch?

Of course, because despite the mirror the tenth season of Roseanne is holding up to the nation, Americans won't get it, because it's on television. Is it fake realness, or real fakeness? Whatever it is, it's entertainment at the expense of a nation that enjoys suffering, but will die before admitting it.

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