Get ready round two because it’s coming
A wiser quipster than I’ll ever be – and I don’t recall who they were – once said: “In America, freedom of speech is mandatory. The ability to refrain when you use it is optional.”
No, I’m not going to blame Roseanne Barr’s racist rant that got a multi-million dollar TV show yanked off the air quicker than you can say re-boot on a sleep aid (Ambien). I even had to smirk when the pharmaceutical manufacturer made a claim that their product has many side effects, but racism is not one of them.
The hate that masquerades as humor that has been spewing from some of those who find themselves in the Donald Trump orbit has really taken a toll on all of our souls and our psyches. I didn’t believe it would get worse. I had lost faith, I had become naive.
I love comedians. I actually went on stage myself back in another life thinking I could pass as a jokester (and I bombed!). I learned the hard way that it really is true what they say: Dying is easy, comedy is hard.
Which brings me to wonder why we are sometimes ‘spotty with the funny’?
Such as how comedienne Kathy Griffin can’t get a TV gig nowadays despite selling out her live shows in major venues across the country, and all because of a photo of a Halloween mask covered in ketchup, and yet Roseanne Barr got a network show deal despite tweeting insane and racist conspiracy theories that I regret to say I think she actually believed!
As a football coach once said of an opponent, “They are who we thought they were.” ABC knew who Roseanne was when they gave her (back) that show. They wanted to translate the Trump/conservative world into show business. So I’m not going to heap praise on network president Bob Iger, or anyone else at the network, when they pulled the plug. They knew exactly what they were getting. They were just willing to put any concerns/issues aside for the sake of ratings and money. But I have to wonder why did this latest outrage become the ‘un-crossable line? It wasn’t enough when Roseanne called one of the Parkland school shooting activists a Nazi, or when she tweeted racist stuff about Susan Rice?
Oh, I know!?! She was just being a comedian.
For ABC’s parent company, Walt Disney, there was much more at stake than just a hit TV show. Disney’s been widely praised in recent years as a leader in efforts to combat racial and homophobic stereotypes through its movies (Black Panther) and TV series (Modern Family). Somehow, if Disney did not act forcefully with regard to “Roseanne,” I think they feared much of that work might have been rendered moot.
But I have a suggestion. Why not try to solve this issue is through diversity in leadership!?! I think ABC’s having an African-American head of their Entertainment division is a good start; and I hope somewhere through all the hubris, the same can one day apply to the “Me Too” Movement.
An NFL quarterback kneels to protest police brutality against people of color.
An iconic rock guitarist calls Barack Obama a “subhuman mongrel” and a chimpanzee.
We just celebrated Memorial Day. Now you tell me what’s supposed to be racist and what’s supposed to be funny!?!
In the meantime, I’ll just wait for the next salvo to be fired straight into our collective consciousness. And somewhere out there someone’s even going to say that whatever it was was funny.
Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at email@example.com or 252-332-7211.