The 'Roseanne' Opioid Addiction Storyline Is Important — But It's Hypocritical When Told By Roseanne Conner
So far, the return of Roseanne has been consistently politically charged, and this week's episode, "Netflix & Pills," tackled yet another particularly fraught issue: opioid addiction, specifically how it relates to America's flawed health care system. It's particularly concerning because Roseanne's commentary on opioids and healthcare are very hypocritical considering both the star's and the character's outspoken political beliefs — though she did end up making a good point about how important it really is to make changes to our health care system.
All season long, Roseanne has been grappling with a knee injury that requires a $3,000 surgery, so instead, she's been taking painkillers as needed — or so her family thinks. After she and Dan celebrate their anniversary, he finds out that she's actually been acquiring extra meds from people she knows and hiding them all over the house, pointing to what must at least be the start of an opioid addiction. The fact that she and Dan can't afford surgery for her knee — which would help ease the pain and get rid of the need for heavy painkiller use — is based on the fact that they can't meet their high deductible. It's an issue that many Americans can surely relate to.
This is just one of the ways that America's healthcare system is called into question in this week's episode; the subplot involving Darlene and Becky mirrors the same point. Darlene ends up taking a job that she doesn't want just because of the insurance benefits it comes with, and Becky points out how desperately she wants a job that offers her those benefits, too, because right now, she's a full-time waitress with no healthcare.
"Netflix & Pill" is obviously attempting to shine a light on both of these very prevalent issues, but is Roseanne the best person for the job? Considering her politics, it doesn't seem like it.
As a Trump supporter both on the show and in real life, both Roseanne Barr and Roseanne Conner would, theoretically, be against a single-payer healthcare system. Trump has tried to shut down the Affordable Care Act since becoming president last year. In fact, Barr tweeted this week, proposing an anti-addictive pain treatment as a solution, but to truly solve the healthcare issues so many people face, a lot more work would need to be done than that. And yet Barr didn't choose to speak out on revamping the healthcare system — and when Dan and Roseanne were struggling to pay for surgery or Dan was lecturing Darlene on the importance of taking a job with benefits whether or not she wanted to, they never once suggested a better solution.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter last month, showrunner Bruce Helford said that the people behind Roseanne want to show all sides of today's political discourse, so it makes sense that the show would include multiple viewpoints. However, it's hard to understand Dan and Roseanne's stringent Republican political beliefs when they're personally being hurt by those beliefs.
Since the original series, the Conners have struggled financially, and part of conquering the opioid epidemic is by confronting the fact that socioeconomic status does have something to do with it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who are part of poor and rural populations are the most likely to face opioid misuse and overdose, so the Conners would definitely be at risk — and since they're unable to pay the deductible for Roseanne's surgery, it would make sense that they wouldn't be able to afford addiction treatment if she needed it, either.
Tackling addiction and the healthcare system is a lot more complicated than what can be done by addressing it in a 30-minute sitcom, but hopefully, this episode of Roseanne can spark more discussions about changes that need to be made. In the meantime, perhaps the Conners should do a little research about the ACA. They may realize that striking it down without a backup plan isn't the best course of action, even if Trump is all for it.