The reaction to Roseanne shows how stupid we are about fiction

My suspicion is confirmed: Americans want to watch morality plays like a bunch of five-year-olds.

Have you boycotted Shakespeare because Lear was an asshole and a bad role model? No, but the left wing of the mainstream media (hilariously, FOX and MSNBC BOTH call each other the MSM) are telling you not to watch Roseanne because she voted for Trump, no matter how funny the show is.

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Roseanne at a Pride Festival, being a Trump supporting homophobe.

This idiocy is based on a childish idea of what fiction and stories are about. Roseanne is a hero, a working-class hero to be precise, and therefore, instead of showing the thoughts, experiences, and struggles of working-class people in the current year, they want her to act the way they think a heroine should act. You know, hating Trump, urinating on her husband, and voting for Hillary Clinton, even if Hillary Clinton doesn’t appear to have her socioeconomic group’s best interests at heart.

Well, sorry, guys, but in reality, a lot of people who voted for the Clintons the first time are now, in reality, the dreaded Trump voters. And Roseanne is an honest attempt to show you why—to explain how these people feel, not what they should do.

But judging by the uproar, they don’t want to see an honest attempt. They don’t want to know why millions of working stiffs voted for a billionaire dolt who was on reality TV. They just want to see a morality play, where the characters stiffly spout their opinions.

That’s no fun, unfortunately. No one but a child or an ideologue would want to watch that, whether it be aimed at flattering the left or flattering the right. Because being lectured at sucks. Even if you ARE a child. God, I hated religious shit that was aimed at children when I was a kid. Even if it tried to tell a good story, it was lame. Susie was ALWAYS GOOD, and she was always rewarded for it. In real life, I tried being always good, and a lot of bad shit happened anyway.

Well, fuck you, Susie.

A good little Hillary-voting robot Roseanne Barr who thought Trump was a racist just because you told her to think he was wouldn’t be any more fun to watch than Susie. A Roseanne who kept believing that if she was good and voted for the Democrats then they would take care of the working class—after she voted for them again and again and got shat on—would actually be too damn stupid to watch.

A good example of MSNBC (and those who follow their cue in getting their underwear in a bundle) not understanding how fiction and comedy work is their derision toward the following scene (see the video). Roseanne is talking to her sister Jackie, a Hillary voter. Jackie is angrily asking Roseanne why she would vote for the Nazi. Roseanne replies that hey, he was talking about jobs! We almost lost the house, things are really bad! Her opinion isn’t touted as correct: Jackie gets to reply by pointing out that things are even worse now that Trump is president—according to the news, anyway.

Roseanne retorts, “Not on the real news!” The studio audience laughs—part at her, part with her. Because, if you appreciate comedy, that’s how you react to a Trump voter (or, indeed, someone who loyally believes in either half of the MSM): you totally get what they were thinking, but he is a fucking dipshit, let’s be honest. But MSNBC holds this sketch up as evidence that Roseanne is writing propaganda for Trump voters.

No. The show isn’t propaganda. Roseanne may be pro-Trump, but there are dozens of writers working on this show; she may well be trying to climb on a soapbox for all I know, but sometimes writing by committee can actually be good for you. In the end, the writers have produced multiple views espoused by multiple characters, and they make fun of all of them. They’re all simultaneously human and lovable, and goofy caricatures. It’s good TV. It’s somewhat complex, and yet easy to digest.

MSNBC has had a lot of fun shitting on Roseanne, but everything they do shows you how out of touch they are. For example, Joy Reid bourgeois-ly dragged up Roseanne’s absolutely awesome, gleefully proletarian take on the Star Spangled Banner in 1990, in an impotent attempt to show what an asshole Roseanne is. She just showed how adept she is at making fun of herself, which makes the “she means her show as Trumpist propaganda!” line even harder to swallow. Great work, clueless.

If there’s a message in the new Roseanne, it’s this: They’re trying to tell you something about why you lost the election, you fucking idiots. A lot of people, myself included, were much more sympathetic toward the Democrats before they made it blindingly obvious that they don’t care about working people. Not just white working people. But indeed, especially not white working people. Out of all the peasants who can go get fucked, the white ones can go be fucked the hardest. Because every ruling class needs a scapegoat, and one that looks like most of them makes them actually look self-aware. Clever! — but not clever enough. (Makes “I’m watching you” hand gesture.) If you absolutely must see all fiction as a morality play, think of Roseanne as an allegory of the kind of anger you get when you pick out one chunk of the peasantry to make an example of. “Divide and conquer” only works the way you want it to for so long. Is it message-y enough for you yet?

When my Gen-X cult novel NVSQVAM came out, most of the negative reactions were based on what a nasty person the protagonist is. Yes, kids; life is difficult, and sometimes it makes people angry and twisted. My protagonist was stuck raising a kid he didn’t want, in a career he didn’t dream of, pushed into the mold of a loser after almost-almost becoming a rock star. As a grown-up fiction writer, I was writing about what is—not what should be.

It’s the same thing Roseanne is doing. She might be a little strange, but she is writing for reasonably intelligent adults, however rednecked and grimy. Grown-up books and stories examine what life is like and how it makes people feel and think—and sometimes how they flip out, freak out, and fuck up. Good stories are told not to tell you how to live your life, but to amuse you and make you think—however you decide to think about it. Roseanne’s character is the star of the show, but the story itself is on the side of comedy, not her views. The overarching narrator doesn’t always have to pick a side.

But hey, if you don’t want to know why you lost the election, I’m not here to babysit you, and neither is Roseanne. Have a nice 2020.

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