“Roseanne”: Sisters Who Reflect Nation’s Divide

The message is clear: Roseanne and Jackie can disagree about Donald Trump, and they can still be sisters. Kathryn VanArendonk, Vulture 

The U.S. is such a divided place right now and Roseanne is the right vehicle to speak to that, the way All in the Family spoke to its divided America in the 1970s. Johanna Schneller, Toronto Star

Although it won’t be for everyone, the new Roseanne, with its Trump supporting lead, has apparently drawn more viewers than Will and Grace‘s return and any other episodic series of the last few years. What’s the attraction?

If you haven’t yet watched the reboot’s initial episode, be forewarned of spoilers ahead.

The HuffPost consoled us in advance: “Don’t Worry, The New ‘Roseanne’ Isn’t All About Donald Trump.” And Todd VanDerWerff‘s Vox headline: “The Roseanne revival is incredibly honest about life in Trump’s America: You should watch the series’ first season since 1997 — even if you hate Donald Trump.”

Nevertheless, many potential viewers have worried that real-life Roseanne’s pro-Trump views as represented by sitcom Roseanne would prove unbearable to watch.

So, how does Trump figure in the first episode? Emily Krauser, etonline, explains:

Roseanne has been in a feud with her sister, Jackie Harris (Laurie Metcalf) since the 2016 election because she believes Jackie voted for ‘the worst person on Earth’ and that ‘she was a real jerk about it too.’ The feud is actually pretty spectacular and spot-on for the characters. Roseanne has made a shrine and written an obituary to Jackie, whom she claims is ‘dead to me.’ Jackie, meanwhile, comes over to the house to drive Darlene to a job interview wearing a pink pussy hat and ‘Nasty Woman’ T-shirt, greeting her sister, ‘What’s up, Deplorable?’ They hurl insults at each other…

They argue some more. And later we find out the unexpected. Jackie blurts, “You kept saying what a disaster it would be if she got elected and how I wasn’t seeing the big picture and how everything was rigged, and then I go into the booth and I voted for Jill Stein!”

In the end, the two finally make up, and it’s actually a hopeful look into how people with two very different political beliefs can learn to live together. After all, Jackie just wants to spend time with her family after more than a year away from them, so long as Roseanne doesn’t bully her out of her opinions and call her stupid. And while they can’t see eye to eye on why the other voted the way they did, Roseanne does say she forgives Jackie, which we all know was a small miracle.

What else is currently happening in the Conner household? The financial stress continues, for one, and then there are health conditions, deficient health insurance, grandkids who are mixed race and gender nonconforming, and a whole bunch of other stuff.

In the end, I agree with those who, like Vox‘s VanDerWerff, are intrigued by what the new Roseanne will offer and how “it blissfully wanders into one of 2018 pop culture’s demilitarized zones” by allowing entertainment that doesn’t always reflect every single one of your own views, presents both a comedic and dramatic slice of life involving controversial real-life issues—and shows one particular family surviving.

And for both white progressives and white conservatives who share a family (yes, there are people of color struggling with these political divides in their own families, but this is overwhelmingly an issue for white families), this is a constant fact of life in 2018 America: Can we still love each other? Can we work this out? Should we work this out? The answers are as varied as these families are, but Roseanne takes the simple idea of living in 2018 without killing your family members…and builds a whole season of a TV show around it.

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