Enough About Roseanne — Let's Talk About Channing Dungey

Photo: Image Group LA/Getty Images.
Just as quickly as Roseanne restarted on ABC after over a decade off the air, it’s over. The chances of it coming back again are slim, thanks to the hateful tweets of its star and creator, Roseanne Barr. On Tuesday, Barr responded to an article posted on a conspiracy theory website by comparing former Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett to an ape. She later deleted her comments and tweeted that she was leaving Twitter and issued an apology. “I am truly sorry for making a bad joke about her politics and her looks. I should have known better. Forgive me-my joke was in bad taste,” she said. But it’s likely that she was only sorry because she got wind of what was coming next. Her show was canceled within hours. But rather than talk about Barr’s misuse of the internet — I can’t imagine being both racist and lacking the discernment not to read conspiracy theory websites — I would much rather get into the Black woman who quickly implemented the consequences of those actions: Channing Dungey.
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The statement issued on behalf of ABC about the cancelation of Roseanne did not come from an anonymous PR rep or spokesperson, it came directly from Dungey, president of ABC Entertainment and the first Black executive to ever run a major network. "Roseanne [Barr]'s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show." The decision came after the show had already revived to huge ratings and was picked up for a second season back in March. Not only has the network been praised for putting ethical values before profit by axing one of its most successful shows, many have been lauding the move as an example of what happens when minorities are represented amongst the highest ranks of a company.
Dungey is the epitome of Black excellence with a career in entertainment that spans decades. Her younger sister is Merrin Dungey, recognizable for her role as Kelly one-half of the Black couple that befriended Doug (Kevin James) and Carrie (Leah Remini) on King of Queens. Channing Dungey moved up the ranks at Warner to become a production executive on films like The Matrix and The Devil’s Advocate. She joined the Disney family, an affiliate of ABC, in 2004 and used her power to get several of my favorite shows, like Criminal Minds, off the ground. She is also responsible for the Hollywood powerhouse that is Shonda Rhimes. It was Dungey, in her role as an executive, that gave Grey’s Anatomy the early support it needed. It is now the longest-running drama in ABC history. But more importantly, Dungey opened the door for another Black girl to walk through it and shine.
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It is worth mentioning that Dungey was indeed part of the executive team that allowed Roseanne, and its controversial creator a primetime slot in the first place. She also told press that the decision to pull an episode of black-ish about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem was a mutual one. Dungey hasn’t turned the entire television establishment on its head by any means. Running a conglomerate like ABC must come with its fair share of compromise and regretful decisions. But still, Dungey’s presence means something.
For me, Dungey is the embodiment of a dream that many of us have for the potential of Black women in an industry that is still struggling to include them, treat them fairly, and give them credit with credit is due. She is changing the face of the gatekeepers who decide who has a seat at the table. We champion diversity today so that one day, Dungey doesn't have to stand alone as the only Black executive of a major network, but one of many who make sure that no more Barrs get to define what it means to be American.
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