Women complain about PMS, but I think of it as the only time of the month when I can be myself.” -Roseanne Barr
The middle class may still be around, even if some are only hanging on by a thread. But on TV, shows portraying the middle class have virtually disappeared. Today, we are bombarded by reality shows about the rich and famous showcasing people who are nothing like the typical American family.
As a society, we have become obsessed with those who have an abundance of wealth and privilege to the point of wanting that same life - even if we can’t afford it. Maybe the desire to have a little piece of that lifestyle has contributed to many Americans biting off more than they can chew by using credit irresponsibly, as well as buying homes, cars and things they can’t afford by adopting a “buy now, pay later” mentality.
At least Roseanne gave us a weekly dose of reality mixed with humor, and I think we were better off for it. Her show grounded us and, for many, made our lives actually look pretty good compared to hers.
For instance, in the show’s pilot, the oldest daughter Becky is taking cans of food to school for a food drive and says it’s for “poor people,” and Roseanne quips back, “Well tell ‘em to drive some of that food over here!” Unfortunately, this show probably has more relevance and “realism” in today’s economy than back when the show first aired. Roseanne was recently quoted in Entertainment Weekly saying, “I’m very proud of it’s timelessness and, you know, the fact that it has a political edge; that it is even more relevant now than it was then.”
I couldn’t agree more. Families like the Conner’s who live paycheck to paycheck are rarely, if ever, seen on television today. The ironic thing is her sitcom is probably more realistic than half of the “reality” shows dominating television right now.
The show dealt with every day, real issues that were taboo for television. Some of the topics included financial difficulties, substance abuse, mental and physical abuse, abortion, depression and equality for women. Roseanne was also the first family sitcom to show a woman, not a man, in charge of the household. In addition, Roseanne brought gay characters to the forefront of American television and paved the way for them on television.
Roseanne Barr sums it up best in her A&E television biography saying, “I was televisions probably first, last and only woman whoever did exactly what I wanted to do, week after week, despite everybody being alarmed, pissed off and against. I still did it!”