'Roseanne's Joke About "Black & Asian Families" Sparked Backlash & This Twitter Thread Perfectly Explains Why
For those wondering why so many people are angry over a Roseanne joke regarding "shows about black and Asian families," writer and actor Kelvin Yu took the time to explain it for you. In a series of tweets on Thursday, Yu, who writes for Bob's Burgers and plays Brian on Master Of None, broke down why the Roseanne joke should make people mad. And his Twitter thread makes an important point about the need for more inclusive representation on TV and perhaps funnier jokes. (ABC declined to comment when Bustle reached out about the joke's backlash.)
On Tuesday's episode, Roseanne and Dan fell asleep on their couch with the TV on, missing everything between "Wheel and Kimmel." Or as Dan jokes, "We missed all the shows about black and Asian families." "They're just like us," Roseanne retorts as she turns off the TV. "There, now you're all caught up."
For many, it might have just be a throwaway joke, but Yu thinks there are a couple reasons why people should pay more attention to what Roseanne's character is saying. "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," Yu wrote in his first tweet of the nine-part thread.
"But the real kicker," he continued, was Roseanne's flippant response, "which implies that the point of any show about a minority family is simply to normalize them. That's it. The stories, the humor, the characters... not important."
It's true, that the character's response belittles these kind of shows, which she doesn't name. Though, based on the context clues — she name-checks both Wheel Of Fortune, which airs on ABC, and that network's late-night host, Jimmy Kimmel — it's easy to assume they're referring to black-ish and Fresh Off The Boat.
For Yu, there's something off-putting about the fact that ABC allowed Roseanne to make that kind of joke that came out of the "mouth of an avowed Trump supporter (not the actress – the CHARACTER of Roseanne)." In his opinion, it's "one stinky little sh*t sandwich of a joke that ABC allowed to be served in their own restaurant."
Mainly because, in Yu's opinion, this joke never had to happen. "Do I think the characters Roseanne and Dan watch Blackish or Fresh Off The Boat? Of course not," Yu tweeted. "Do I think they'd say something PC about them? Probably not." And that's why Yu makes the case that this joke is "not even a joke."
To understand why he feels that way, he asked fans to consider what the punchline of this joke really is. "I'll tell you what it is," he wrote, "it's an endorsement of dismissiveness and disregard. It's a familiarity and comfort with the culture of objectifying and demeaning people of color."
In comedy terms, this Roseanne joke is punching down by going after the minority, which in this case is two groups that don't have the same opportunities to really defend themselves, at least not on mainstream TV. As Yu points out, "Blackish is one of only a handful of shows about Black families on the air," while "Fresh Off The Boat is the ONLY show about an Asian American family." These shows offer an alternate option for families that don't feel represented on TV. Families that aren't just like every other white family.
The case could be made that fans of Roseanne don't consider the Conners to be just another white family either. Fans of Roseanne, not to mention its star Roseanne Barr, have been talking about how the show is offering a voice to conservatives, specifically women who aren't represented on television.
But, conservatives aren't exactly a minority that's struggling to have their story told. In fact, as historian and author Honor Sachs tweeted, conservatives "control all three branches of government, have consolidated single-party rule in numerous state legislatures, literally control the media script, and yet still claim to be an oppressed minority."
It doesn't help that this Roseanne joke comes nearly a month after it was reported that black-ish won't air its episode about athletes kneeling due to “creative differences" between ABC and the show's creator Kenya Barris. But Yu makes the case that ABC didn't want to air the episode because executives feared it would "be divisive and alienating." Something that they arguably didn't worry about with this joke (or at least, didn't worry about enough not to air it).
Yu doesn't think it's farfetched that Roseanne and Dan would respond this way to ABC's diverse lineup. "I'm not saying it's inaccurate to have her do this," Yu added in his final tweet on the matter. "I actually think it's TOO accurate (and also not that funny?)." He even sarcastically teased an upcoming episode idea, knowing that most people wouldn't find the subject funny.
For the record, Yu isn't the only one on the internet to take issue with this particular joke from Roseanne. Other fans voiced their discomfort, whether viewing it as offensive or spiteful.
The point of Yu's thread was to encourage people to ask themselves what the joke's intention is before laughing at it. By giving the joke a little more thought, Roseanne viewers may better understand its cultural implications. The hope being that fans will ask their favorite shows to be a little more mindful in the future — not to mention, a little funnier.