When I heard classic tv series “Roseanne” was making its way back to primetime, I immediately thought to myself–YES!
I was nostalgic. There was something about the tv series that brought back good memories. And, importantly, I was excited that the TV stations had purchased episodes of real tv series instead of reality shows–a strategic plan to probably pull folks away from Hulu and Netflix and back to the high-priced cable tv.
So when I discovered there was not going to be one episode last night, but rather two, I stayed up because I’m normally in bed by 8pm and up at 5am every day. Though I laughed, immediately the nostalgia crumbled before my eyes. I realized when the tv show first aired, I was too young to get the messaging behind what was deemed humor. As such, as time changes we learn that many things have grown less funny and are less acceptable.
When we think about things from our childhood, like “Roseanne”, and get all nostalgic, we consider things that make us happy. I recall collecting Garbage Pail Kid stickers; I recall my Monchichi doll; I recall my trainset; I recall getting my first basketball from my dad; I recall I wanted to be a writer, so I asked for a dictionary in 3rd grade–and I got it for Christmas. I recall these things just as I recall phoning a classmate and asking her to prom and hearing her father on the opposite end say, “What do you think the family will say if you take a nigger to prom?” and having her return to the phone and lie for family sakehood. I recall these things coupled with confederate flags waved at me as I picked up a date for another school prom. Yes. I remember that. All of these are images that are burned into my psyche for life.
“Roseanne” brought back these memories–a time and a place where I and my loved ones were deemed lesser than simply due to our Blackness; a time when we were the joke; and a time when it was accepted or ignored due to the lack of vocalization.
I forgot that with “Roseanne” we’d find bigotted individuals who think their common crass, racist language is okay, until it affects their own family. Heaven forbid someone messes with the new Black granddaughter; or the sexually ambiguous grandson in the Connor household. But all that was fairgame to joke about until the family extends–just like my hometown. Everything else is fairgame to joke about–and we’ll laugh, right?
“Roseanne” was the Archie Bunker for my generation, a poor, white overweight racist filled with ignorance of the world and eager to spew prejudged, unvalidated rhetoric forcing us to laugh at it; to laugh at the patheticism in American families; and to laugh because we know people like the Connor family. This family represents the chronically ill and possibly impoverished–mentally, physically, and financially–due to a system they support and enduring but tragically think it only affects minorities. They don’t recognize their own plights.
I recognized these people. These were my friends growing up; my neighbors; my classmates. And there’s really nothing funny behind this living tragedy or mirroring the truth. It was all sad. But still yet, I laughed.
I cringed and I laughed because I know people like her and her family. That’s the family, from my hometown that buys ten 2-liters of Mountain Dew, a box of fun-size doritos; and a dozen frozen pizzas at Walmart and angry they are overweight; the same people who are angry they shouldn’t smoke in their car with their children; or smoke in restaurants; and don’t give a damn or have the proper educational tools to inform them of health hazards; these are the families that want to “build that wall” to keep out the Mexicans from bringing drugs into the US, despite having their own meth lab in their basement in their White neighborhood.
I cringed because of the inappropriateness of it all and what I was immediately reminded of. I cringed because I wanted an escape from political commentary for just one night but I didn’t get it. What I did get was sympathy for the new characters–the Black grand daughter; and the sexually ambiguous grandson. I wanted to snatch them up and hug and protect them from this family who probably doesn’t deserve them at all. And, again, I was reminded of my hometown. And it was sad.
My feeling of nostalgia was gone.