PRODUCING POPULAR CULTURE FOR HALF THE POPULATION – So it’s only half popular.
As the “Roseanne” reboot smashes TV ratings in the US (18 million viewers and all that), some food for thought for the creative class – maybe the way to reach larger audiences and make more money is not to show contempt for half of your potential consumers? Nah, not gonna happen; it’s a lot more satisfying to use popular culture to preach, and preach to the converted. “Roseanne”, where the main character voted for Trump but her sister is a pussy hat-wearing Women’s Marcher, portrays the complex and multi-dimensional realities of the working class life in America without demonising people – so it’s likely to remain an outlier.
In this context, a very revealing (though not surprising at all) insight into the mind of the show’s creators, from an interview with Bruce Rasmussen, co-executive producer and one of the original writers:
How did it develop that Roseanne was a Trump supporter?
When one of my agents called me to bring up me going back on the show, the way he pitched it was “Roseanne in the time of Trump.” Originally I thought, like everybody else, that she would not be a supporter of Trump. But the moment we got in the writers’ room with Roseanne, she really wanted to be a supporter of Trump, not because she is one herself, but there are a lot of people in the Midwest who voted for him. We had debates and discussions. [Writer] Dave Kaplan and I were two of the people who had least understood that there are people who voted for him who aren’t misogynists or racists and who felt betrayed by other administrations. They really believed Trump was going to do something for them. It made sense when we really talked about it.
Are you saying a majority of the other writers didn’t agree?
Most writers, including me, are more liberal than we are conservative for sure. I’m no fan of Trump at all. Some people were new to the show. We had to keep reminding people that this is not how we feel. It’s how the Conners as real people would react to what they perceive as somebody who might help them out. We are all pretty liberal people so you have to step back and say, let’s not be mouthpieces for what we believe. Let’s deal with who these characters are as people, whether we agree with who she voted for or not.
Once you made that decision, did you find it pretty easy to come up with the Trump jokes? Like the one about the Russian dressing?
It was a balancing act. We didn’t want to overwhelm the episode with a lot of politics, and so the jokes about Trump were easier to get from the room than the jokes against Hillary. But we found them. We had to dig deep.
The inability to understand and empathise with views others than one’s own. Demonising and despising half of your own country. Art as crusading. The creators’ sentiments easily come through their creations, but rarely are their so open about them directly. Read and weep. Good on Rasmussen for forcing himself to do things differently, but should it really be that praiseworthy that intelligent people can resist turning everything into culture war?
In any case, good luck to Roseanne Barr. I religiously watched the original show in my late teens and early 20s, soon after arriving in Australia, and I’m looking forward to watching its return soon.
P.S. Ben Shapiro is not as impressed, from a conservative point of view.