Roseanne Barr, New York Magazine article “And I Should Know”
by Anna Bird
In this New York Magazine article, the infamous Roseanne Barr talks firsthand about her experience in the TV industry, as well as her bout with depression and learning to handle the loss of her Hollywood stardom. This is a brilliant piece because it is written from Barr’s unique perspective without any cloudy or subversive language. She demonstrates a refreshingly honest take on the patriarchal views and establishments in our society, specifically sexism in the workplace. What is most respectable about this article is her strong voice because it is so clearly her own. For example, when she describes her first impression from Marcy Carsey, she establishes some of her own key ideologies as well as her vision for the show.
I was a cutting-edge comic, and she (Carsey) said she got that I wanted to do a realistic show about a strong mother who was not a victim of Patriarchal Consumerist Bullshit—in other words, the persona I had carefully crafted over eight previous years in dive clubs and biker bars: a fierce working-class Domestic Goddess.
The way she describes herself and others is indignant, without much regard for sensitivity. It is honest, which is a quality lacking in so many writings these days. The brutal, gut-busting honesty that many of us hold back so we don’t go too hard against the grain. But when we lack unbridled honesty, we often put ourselves at risk of losing our unique and personal voice. Now, of course there is a time and place for such truths, but Barr used her personal voice for the perfect reason: to write about her personal experience of trying to keep her voice from being overshadowed.
I loved the article for it’s content, mostly because I am a feminist, but also because I love witty writing–especially when it comes from women. The strong female perspective is just not one we get to experience often, and that’s why “Roseanne” was so popular in its time. It was different, and stood alone in the sitcom genre. There was so much accuracy behind the show, and the honesty in which they delved into real social issues was not only unique, but refreshing. That’s because it was created by Roseanne Barr herself–a woman.
My breakdown deepened around the fourth episode, when I confronted the wardrobe master about the Sears, Roebuck outfits that made me look like a show pony rather than a working-class mom. I wanted vintage plaid shirts, T-shirts, and jeans, not purple stretch pants with green-and-blue smocks.
She talks about how much she had to fight to keep the honesty of the show, and to keep her vision of creating a true, blue-collar family sitcom alive. It was that same realness behind the show that you find in this article as well. It is obvious that Barr is a strong willed character with no hesitance to keep her opinions to herself just to keep the status quo. I think because so much of what we consume is written and produced by men, there comes a point when it all starts to sound the same, or look the same. Barr’s writing is smart, without being fluffy, and witty–giving it an entertaining flow to talk about some serious issues in our society.
When the show went to No. 1 in December 1988, ABC sent a chocolate “1” to congratulate me. Guess they figured that would keep the fat lady happy—or maybe they thought I hadn’t heard (along with the world) that male stars with No. 1 shows were given Bentleys and Porsches. So me and George Clooney [who played Roseanne Conner’s boss for the first season] took my chocolate prize outside, where I snapped a picture of him hitting it with a baseball bat. I sent that to ABC.