Roseanne on sexism, class and fame

Growing up I watched a lot of TV. It’s strange to remember now, when I don’t have cable, and only watch the occasional netflix show or movie, but as a kid TV was what kept me company. It was always on, in the background when I did homework, as soon as I got home from school. Roseanne, along with a few other shows, were how I spent the majority of that time. I loved her show and I wasn’t even sure why. Now I think I get it.

In a recently published New York Magazine article, Roseanne opens up about her experience in showbiz, mental illness, classism and sexism. It’s an incredible piece. She leads with explaining that the media has been clamoring for her opinion about Charlie Sheen. But she has her own story to tell, about being on top and still getting screwed, about sexism and classism in showbiz.

“Winning” in Hollywood means not just power, money, and complimentary smoked-salmon pizza, but also that everyone around you fails just as you are peaking. When you become No. 1, you might begin to believe, as Cher once said in an interview, that you are “one of God’s favorite children,” one of the few who made it through the gauntlet and survived. The idea that your ego is not ego at all but submission to the will of the Lord starts to dawn on you as you recognize that only by God’s grace did you make it through the raging attack of idea pirates and woman haters, to ascend to the top of Bigshit Showbiz Mountain.

All of that sounds very much like the diagnosis for bipolar disorder, which more and more stars are claiming to have these days. I have it, as well as several other mental illnesses, but then, I’ve always been a trendsetter, even though I’m seldom credited with those kinds of things. And I was not crazy before I created, wrote, and starred in television’s first feminist and working-class-family sitcom (also its last).

Roseanne’s show was an early feminist influence. She was funny, powerful, respected by her family and real in ways that most TV shows are not. The family dealt with their issues in a way that was often painful to watch– with yelling and high pitched emotion. It was painful because it had resonance beyond its role as a sitcom. She says in the piece that her show has even more resonance today, since it focused on working class Americans who were struggling.

She also talks about the serious sexism she faced as a female star, even after she’d hit the top.

When the show went to No. 1 in December 1988, ABC sent a chocolate “1” to congratulate me. Guess they figured that would keep the fat lady happy—or maybe they thought I hadn’t heard (along with the world) that male stars with No. 1 shows were given Bentleys and Porsches. So me and George Clooney [who played Roseanne Conner’s boss for the first season] took my chocolate prize outside, where I snapped a picture of him hitting it with a baseball bat. I sent that to ABC.

Her article shows that despite what showbiz has put her through, she’s still very much the same Roseanne from her show–strong, abrasive and unafraid to give people hell.

Read the whole article here.

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