In a shocking turn of events, Roseanne this week covered a controversial topic and enraged a whole bunch of people. Just one more thing that happens weekly in 2018 like presidential scandals and garbage collection. This week, the sometimes-beloved-sometimes-reviled comedy took on Islamophobia and, yes, it got as cringy as you might imagine.
The episode opens with Roseanne spying on her new neighbours who she notes are Muslim and have an awful lot of fertilizer. She wonders if the house “is a sleeper cell of terrorists looking to blow up [the] neighbourhood” because “that’s what people from Iraq and Talibanistan do.” Progressive stuff.
When Dan loses a contracting job because he is underbid by another company using “illegals” the Conners’ payment to their internet service provider bounces and their Wi-Fi is cut off right before Mary needs to Skype with her mom who is serving in Afghanistan. After a few attempts at guessing the neighbours’ password – Roseanne’s best guess being “DeathToAmerica123” – she and Jackie head over to ask if they can use their internet.
Roseanne and Jackie meet Samir and Fatima Al-Harazi and their son Kazim, who are from Yemen and point out Roseanne’s dangerous stereotyping that assumes they have ties to ISIS and a desire to blow up the neighbourhood. Though Roseanne doesn’t budge on her views in the moment, Fatima gives them the password anyway, saying, “It’s the right thing to do. The ignorance of adults shouldn’t punish children.”
Later in the episode, when Roseanne witnesses a grocery store cashier directing racist insults toward Fatima, she calls the cashier “ignorant” and asks to speak to her manager after Fatima leaves (although she still adds in that the Al-Harazis have enough fertilizer to blow up the grocery store).
Some viewers lauded the episode for addressing Islamophobia in such a direct way and questioning racist stereotypes even at the expense of making the titular character look intolerant. Roseanne Barr herself – who we have to remember is not her character, but is very similar — said that she wants to tackle more controversial issues and isn’t afraid to push the envelope (which we definitely knew already). She also tweeted before the episode aired that Anne Bedine, who plays Fatima, is inspiring for the work she does helping Syrian refugees.
i like to do TV episodes about REAL ISSUES & REAL PEOPLE. That’s what I do. Next season will be even more current events-I will challenge every sacred cow in USA.
— Roseanne Barr (@therealroseanne) May 8, 2018
Anne Bedine who plays our new neighbor has been helping her fellow Syrians to reach safety for many years. She is inspiring! #Roseanne
— Roseanne Barr (@therealroseanne) May 9, 2018
Last night’s episode of @RoseanneOnABC was 1 of the best moments in tv in decades! @therealroseanne breaks taboos & true representation of a working class modern family. With season coming to a close I hope @ABCNetwork will permit Roseanne to do some shows on Fox & go out huge! pic.twitter.com/cnU1Ielnp4
— Larry Ferguson (@MrNashvilleTalk) May 9, 2018
So proud of you, @therealroseanne. What a great show with a great message tonight. You get so much flack from those on the political left but they should really be watching your show and hearing what you ACTUALLY believe. Keep talking. I’m listening. #Roseanne #BestShowEver
— Matt Hopkins (@RealMattHopkins) May 9, 2018
This show was never afraid to “go there” and they did so again tonight, just as funny as ever!#MakeAmericaLaughAgain
— Stephanie (@real_Stephanie) May 9, 2018
Roseanne, I just cried when I watched the way your neighbor was treated in the grocery store. FYI: My son served in both Iraq & Afghanistan MANY times. He said that 99.99% of the people there were loving, kind & glad to have us there. They even baked Samoon for the troops.
— 🇺🇸Lisa Smith🇺🇸 (@LisaSmith4680) May 9, 2018
Just watched it. I laughed and was moved as well.
— Nihad Awad نهاد عوض (@NihadAwad) May 9, 2018
Other people weren’t as positive about the depiction, noting that it just doesn’t jive with Roseanne’s (both the character’s and actress’) support for Donald Trump. People also voiced that depicting that kind of bigotry unchecked is dangerous and harmful to the Muslim community. Yes, Roseanne comes to see her neighbours as people, but she refers to them throughout the episode as “terrorists” and “enemies of America.” Deciding that the one Muslim family she knows is not a group of terrorists is not the same as interrogating the bigotry that made her assume all people who look like them are anti-American extremists.
Roseanne thinking her Muslim neighbors are terrorists isn’t funny. Not even for a second. Muslims deal with that bigotry on a daily basis. And it’s dangerous.
— Elham Khatami (@ekhatami) May 9, 2018
It’s 2018 and Roseanne is doing what-if-I’m-racist-but-learn-brown-people-are-human-too sitcoms.
In 2018. And being generally applauded for it.
This show is for the people who were terminally left behind while everyone else evolved.
— Ashley Lynch™ (@ashleylynch) May 10, 2018
•But remember a Blackish episode on taking a knee was “too controversial.”
•Meanwhile American Muslims are suffering record highs in hate crimes due fear & misinfo like this garbage so thanks for piling on @therealroseanne smh https://t.co/fA5yuPjC2t
— Qasim Rashid, Esq. (@MuslimIQ) May 9, 2018
the latest episode of roseanne showed roseanne’s point of view as a useless unnecessary joke. It had absolutely no parallels with the horrible things she says and does in her personal life. And that’s the only way the show can survive. Fuck you roseanne you’re a horrible person
— A-Train (@aaronLebeahm) May 10, 2018
Once again, it looks like people just can’t pin Roseanne down, especially when it comes to the divide and convergence of the character and the actress. One thing is for sure – she’s got people watching and talking about her constantly and in the age of Donald Trump, that seems to be one accomplishment that really matters.