I was thrilled when Roseanne was set to be renewed.
There, I said it. It’s out in the open. My hyperbolically sensitive self was damn near giddy at the prospect of having the Conners on my TV again. As a kid in Alabama, watching re-runs of Roseanne was a wholesome Saturday night full of laughs and joy at the depiction of real people—my people—on TV. And I’m ecstatic that the reboot of the show has been canceled.
I’ve kept up with the show since it aired this year, and I’ve honestly enjoyed it. The writers—comedy royalty like Wanda freakin’ Sykes—delivered. Before the show premiered, I legitimately hadn’t kept up with the bullshit opinions of Roseanne Barr. Of course I was disappointed by the episode that depicts an Arabic family who has to prove their worth to the Conner family. Of course I hated the pitiful reconciliation plotline between Jackie and Roseanne. Of course I cringed at the depiction of the silent black grandchild used to represent a version of the “I have a black friend” argument. I hated all of these things and I laughed my white trash ass off at the rest of the show in pure camaraderie. Good riddance it’s gone.
Yesterday was Memorial Day, so my sister, brother-in-law, and I packed a cooler full of Dos Equis and Miller Lite and drove over to my mom’s apartment to visit with her, my uncle, and grandmother. We had potato salad, pork shoulder and, obviously, a patriotic red velvet cake. My grandmother and uncle are stereotypical Trump voters, and I say that with a heavy heart because you all know the truth if you’ve read this blog—Trump’s base is much more affluent, educated, and suburban than my people. I managed to steer the conversation toward different arguments, as they’re argumentative folks. We fought about teachers, which they aren’t necessarily proud that I am (because them ‘libral teachers corrupt our youth’), when my uncle couldn’t understand why they didn’t just fire teachers whose students underperform. We fought about the ASPCA, an organization my uncle claims “wants to kill off all the animals because they’re anti-pet ownership,” despite the fact that I’ve volunteered for local chapters. Our moral, political, social, and cultural alignments could not be more different. Save the fact, of course, that we all love Tammy Wynette and NASCAR.
So how, exactly, do I love these folks? I love them in the same way I loved Roseanne. They’re my family, and we’ve had unproblematic laughs over the years about drinking, car chases, and various other shenanigans we’ve all pulled. We’ve enjoyed my grandmother’s cooking and laughed at former wives’ awful casseroles. I’ve threatened to kick my extended family out of my apartment for being racist. I’ve had yelling matches with my uncle over his Islamophobic positions. Mostly, I just don’t spend much time with them when it is in any way avoidable.
I’ve tried to view myself from their perspective. I’m a tattooed, liberal, multiple-degree-holding wild woman with no intentions of marrying, going to church, or having kids. I make them think about difficult topics and refuse to believe simple answers to complex social questions. In my small-town Alabama, I’m Cixous’ Medusa, laughing wildly with a trail of castrated men behind me.
I won’t be able to reconcile my relationship with my bigoted extended family in one write up, nor will I be able to quantify why I enjoyed Roseanne so much while being so thrilled that they finally canceled her Nazi ass. Maybe these feelings are just the requisite product of growing up somewhere where you often have to love—or, shockingly, come to love—some really hateful people. I want them to change. I do what I can to convince them, like when I spent three hours on the phone convincing my grandmother not to vote in Alabama’s Senate election in December because I knew I could never get her to vote for Doug Jones. I can still laugh with them. But we all come to a point of accepting what we cannot change, and sometimes, a hateful family is like problematic TV—too good to give up on, but too hurtful to turn into a pillar of salt for.