The Roseanne revival is in full swing at ABC, but some viewers are torn trying to decide what to make of actor and comedian Roseanne Barr's politics and the character she plays on TV. Co-showrunner Bruce Helford told The Hollywood Reporter that Roseanne Barr and Roseanne Conner should be judged separately, but as fans know, that's sometimes easier said than done. With some of Barr's more controversial political statements, and the clear similarities between her and her iconic character, some viewers wonder if they should even try to distinguish between the two Roseannes.
Helford, who also ran one season of Roseanne during its original nine seasons in the 1990s, was asked by THR if Barr's personal politics influenced the success of the revival series. Barr, like her character, is a vocal President Trump supporter. "I don't discuss her politics, that's her private business," Helford said in the interview published Tuesday. "There's Roseanne Barr and then there's Roseanne Conner." He added later in the interview that he thought viewers should also separate the two when they read or see something about Barr's political beliefs. He explained,
"My feeling is that people should just watch the show and judge it on its merits. Watch the show without the accompanying background noise. Everybody, including Roseanne, wanted the show to be balanced."
(When Bustle reached out, ABC declined to comment on any backlash surrounding Helford's comments, as well as Barr's past behavior.)
Yet the "accompanying background noise" Helford mentioned can sometimes be quite hard to ignore. Just in the short time since Roseanne's 10th season debuted, Barr has posted several controversial tweets. According to IndieWire, Barr reportedly posted a tweet that claimed, falsely, that Parkland shooting survivor and student anti-gun activist David Hogg gave a Nazi salute. (She has since deleted the tweet without comment on the controversy.) In another series of posts, Barr appeared to refer to a right-wing conspiracy, reported the Los Angeles Times. Barr tweeted on March 30:
"President Trump has freed so many children held in bondage to pimps all over this world. Hundreds each month. He has broken up trafficking rings in high places everywhere. notice that. I disagree on some things, but give him benefit of doubt-4 now."
If you're wondering what Barr is referring to, according to the Times, there's a bizarre conspiracy known as "the Storm" that claims Trump is actively breaking up a large pedophile ring that involves Democratic politicians. Trump has not commented publicly on this fringe theory. After many people criticized the tweet, Barr later posted, "I have worked with victims of trafficking for decades & supported the fight against it. Sorry to have mentioned it here. It's not the place."
Barr's controversies, however, go back even earlier. Recently a Heeb magazine photo many consider to be insensitive resurfaced, where the comedian is wearing a Hitler mustache as she takes burnt cookies in the shape of people out of the oven. In 2009, the publisher Josh Neuman defended the picture by calling it "satire" — Heeb was a Jewish magazine and Barr is also Jewish. (In his new THR interview, Helford said he doesn't "know the context of that so I wouldn't make a comment on it," but added, "I know that Roseanne is a very staunch supporter of Israel and she has said as much. I imagine there's probably some amount of parody involved and all that.")
Additionally, Barr has made comments many deemed transphobic on Twitter back in 2011. She has since written on her website that her social media posts were "mischaracterized," and that she was speaking of one specific transperson and not all transpeople in her criticism.
In a recent op-ed for the New York Times, feminist writer Roxane Gay explained that she would not continue watching Roseanne after its debut, despite finding the show funny, because of Barr's behavior. "My first reaction was that the show was excellent," Gay wrote. "But I could not set aside what I know of Roseanne Barr and how toxic and dangerous her current public persona is." She concluded,
"This fictional family, and the show’s very real creator, are further normalizing Trump and his warped, harmful political ideologies. There are times when we can consume problematic pop culture, but this is not one of those times."
Gay's sentiment was echoed by plenty of people on social media. Comedian and Oscar-nominated co-screenwriter of The Big Sick Kumail Nanjiani wrote that he couldn't watch Barr on television without thinking about her public persona.
Other social media users got to the bottom of why they believed it to be hard to separate Roseanne Barr from Roseanne Connor.
In Helford's aforementioned interview with THR, he stated, "There should be an understanding that there is a difference between people's personal politics and what you present onscreen. We're hopefully presenting a wonderful, balanced show that doesn’t have an agenda." He added, "But if her politics bothers them, then they shouldn’t watch the show."
For some people, the personal politics are just too close to the show's politics, and they'll likely be taking Helford's suggestion of not tuning in.