The television comedy, Roseanne, has returned to the small screens and viewers were thrilled after its 20 year hiatus. The show has only been back on for two weeks but has achieved more recognition than it anticipated after making a belittling joke about people of color. The joke involved the protagonist, which Roseanne Barr plays the titular character and her husband, Dan, portrayed by John Goodman are asleep on the couch. The couple abruptly wake up from their sleep, to which Dan says “we missed all the shows about Black and Asian families.” A comment, that IndieWire suggests is a reference to fellow ABC sitcoms like Fresh Off the Boat and Blackish. Roseanne responds sardonically, “they’re just like us. There, now you’re all caught up.”
To say viewers were upset is an understatement, as even TV writers like Kelvin Yu (writer for Bob’s Burgers) expressed his discontent for the joke on twitter. Yu called the joke “reductive and belittling, as if to say those shows are nothing more than “Black” and “Asian” in their existence.” Moreover, Yu maintained that the joke, in addition to not being funny, was unnecessary: “Do I think the characters Roseanne and Dan watch Blackish or Fresh Off The Boat? Of course not. Do I think they’d say something PC about them? Probably not, but the point is, they didn’t HAVE to say ANYTHING. They didn’t have to write that joke at all. It’s not even a joke.”
Here’s why the Roseanne joke about “missing all the shows about Black and Asian families” matters. At the very least, it’s reductive and belittling, as if to say those shows are nothing more than “Black” and “Asian” in their existence. 1/9
— Kelvin Yu (@InternetKelvin) April 5, 2018
Co-showrunner of Roseanne, Bruce Helford, when interviewed by Hollywood Reporter commented :
“We were commenting on the fact that all sitcoms 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.”
Former writer and co-executive producer of Fresh Off the Boat, Kourtney Kang wrote a guest column in The Hollywood Reporter, responding to Helford’s explanation. Her explanation is deeply moving as she says at first, the joke meant nothing, but resonated with her and brought back a childhood memory where she was mocked by a classmate who “slanted his eyes and sang, ‘Ching-Chong-Chinese-People’ at me. I didn’t want to be someone who couldn’t take a joke, so I forced a smile.” Kang then goes on to describe taking the high road and attempting to educate her classmate on how she although was of Korean descent she was born in Hawaii. Although, this was to no avail as the classmate responded, “‘It’s all the same’… His message was clear. All that ‘Asian-y’ stuff is the same, but it’s not the same as him.”
Another article in Variety, expressed discontentment with the joke saying, “it’s hard to tell if Roseanne and Dan are mocking ABC’s efforts to diversify their lineup or, more essentially, the simple assertion that families like the Conners might try to relate to families like the Johnsons (of Blackish)and the Huangs (from “Fresh Off the Boat”). Either way, it’s reprehensible — both for Roseanne to mock the other families on the network, and for ABC to allow Roseanne to do so. In the end, this entire experience, should serve as a means to educate viewers that microagressions are never a comedy.
AsAmNews has Asian America in its heart. We’re an all-volunteer effort of dedicated staff and interns. Check out our Facebook page and our Twitter feed, Please consider interning, joining our staff or submitting a story for consideration.