The Oscars might be one of the most-watched shows on television after the Super Bowl, but no one goes into the awards show planning to see the kinds of conversation-starting commercials that are expected to anchor The Big Game. Then, ABC had to go and debut the latest trailer for its Roseanne reboot during the 2018 Academy Awards. Obviously, a sneak peek of a classic comedy’s upcoming reboot should be less-than-controversial. It’s not like Will & Grace made waves when its big trailer hit the internet.
And, yet, the Roseanne trailer, airing ahead of the comedy's 27th March return, immediately proved itself to be a lightning rod of a one-minute video. The issue can be found at roughly the 25-second mark.
In between snippets of lead Roseanne Conner (Roseanne Barr) bantering with husband Dan Conner (John Goodman) and daughter Becky Conner (Alicia Goranson) about looking “fat” in photos and the need for a sleep apnea machine, there’s a text card that reads, “The family that looks like us.” A few seconds later, another card adds, “[And] lives like us.”
The family that looks like us.
It’s difficult to see ABC, a network filled with endearingly inclusive sitcoms like black-ish, Fresh Off The Boat, Modern Family, and Speech-less, posit the cast of Roseanne, originally made up of solely straight white Midwesterners, as the show that finally boasts a “family that looks like us” or even “lives like us.” Especially when those statements only appear between images of white family members. The Connors may be funny and relatable, but they don’t look like my family, or millions of families around the country.
That’s why it’s hard not to imagine the “us” ABC is exclusively speaking to is same group who wants to “make America great again.” After all, Donald Trump’s regressive and dismissive campaign slogan feels uncomfortably close to the Twitter sentiment the Roseanne social media team paired with the trailer: “Some things aren’t meant to change.” Turning back the wheels of time — or keeping them from ever moving in the first place — is a real sticking point with both.
When ABC announced Roseanne would return to television after 21 years off the air, no one was exactly surprised. The biggest TV trend of the 2017-2018 season was brand new military dramas, which felt like a major olive branch to the conservative, blue collar white voters in middle America who helped Trump win the White House in 2016. Those same voters, who were comfortable with proposals like a Mexican boarder wall and a shut-down of Muslim immigrants, can easily see themselves reflected in the conservative, blue collar middle Americans that make up the Conner family. After all, Roseanne star Roseanne Barr has proudly said her famed character would be a Trump supporter.
So, yes, the world of the Roseanne trailer might look like some of us, but it definitely doesn’t represent everyone looking at the video.
This is unfortunate, since the reboot is actually making a few steps towards the future. D.J. Conner (Michael Fishman) will have a biracial daughter named Mary Conner (Jayden Rey), while the son of Darlene Conner (Sara Gilbert) will be a little boy named Mark (Ames McNamara), who enjoys dressing in feminine clothing like dresses and skirts. Characters like Mary and Mark make the Conners look like a 2018 family, but, they barely appear in the trailer. On top of that, teases of what these childrens' progressive additions could mean for a show like Roseanne are avoided in favour of folksy conversations about money.
Roseanne certainly could have a family that looks like the proverbial “us,” we just don’t get to see it in the trailer.
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