Did you watch “Roseanne” last week? The reboot of the popular show from the ‘90s opened to huge ratings. So huge, in fact, it earned the highest ratings of any network program in the last six years. More than 18 million people tuned in to watch both of the first two half-hour episodes. That’s quite an accomplishment for a show that had a terrible final year and then took a 20-year hiatus.
I am just going to put it right out front. The reason for this huge opening is that both the character of Roseanne Connor and comedian, Roseanne Barr, after whom the show is named, are full-throated supporters of President Trump. Moreover, this is the first positive portrayal of a Trump supporter by Hollywood since he first came on the scene to announce for president. Cast your mind back to that time. Everything about him was treated as a dangerous joke. Very little has changed since then, except the accusations of fascism have taken on a heretofore unseen decibel of hysteria.
Now, however, there has been a disruption in the status quo. For the first time since the election, there are millions of people in America who believe their voting demographic is being represented fairly on screen. Furthermore, the show dealt both humorously and honestly with the fallout from the political tension that split families apart in the second half of 2016 and throughout 2017. Finally, a show that is actually relevant to the current state of political culture in America.
It makes me wonder whether Hollywood will get a clue about why this show opened huge. And why ratings in other shows have been falling. The relentless drum beat of negativity toward conservative voters, that became so rampant under the George W. Bush presidency, has reached an all-time high under Trump. Absolutely no one wants to tune into shows, in their free time, that regularly insult and belittle them. And which, in addition, provide no understanding of their actual circumstances.
This formula seems so obvious that it is stunning that the whole thing has been a mystery to Hollywood. And yet it has been.
Take a gander at this interview with one of the current writers for “Roseanne,” Bruce Rasmussen, that appeared in the popular EW: “[Producer] Dave Kaplan and I were two of the people who had least understood that there are people who voted for [Trump] 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.”
Think about that for a moment. Here is a successful guy immersed in the Hollywood scene, who has written and produced more than 200 mainstream TV shows that influence the normative cultural experience of Americans, and until the “Roseanne” reboot began and was discussed in the writer’s room, he lacked even the basic understanding that his fellow American Trump voters were not racists and misogynists; they were people who actually believed they had good reasons to vote for Trump that did not make them despicable people.
This is remarkable. If only remarkably sad. It shows in black and white just how deaf Hollywood has been to all but its own agenda. Truthfully, it has been so obtuse that it has hurt its bottom line, over and over. And yet, it was ignored.
And it is not just Hollywood. It is many of the cultural institutions in America, including social media, academia and the mainstream media.
Unfortunately, this is not surprising. Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, in his 2012 bestselling book, “The Righteous Mind,” discusses a research experiment he performed to discover how well conservatives and progressives understand each other’s moral arguments. ”The results were clear and consistent,” remarks Haidt. “In all analyses, conservatives were more accurate than liberals.”
It is this slant that falsely puts racist and misogynist ideas in the hearts of their fellow Americans, that then fuels the progressive desire to shut down conservative speech.
At this point, however, it has become a vicious cycle, with progressive control over school curricula, teaching misinformation and prejudice to the youngsters they are there to educate.
So, thank God for the disruption that the show “Roseanne” has provided.
I’ll remain skeptical, however, that Hollywood will choose to profit from this example and move in a more bipartisan direction until I see it happening.