Hey! Do you remember Roseanne? Oh, okay, let me remind you: Do you remember when your obnoxious uncles got drunk at Thanksgiving in 1990 and everybody was talking about how this one woman was scary and crazy and bitchy and fat and why can’t she just shut up? But they laughed every time they finished a sentence, like it was so funny what they were saying, and you couldn’t see what was funny about it but you were just starting to get this, you were just starting to get that certain women made men really angry and mean, and those women didn’t do anything wrong, they didn’t like hit men or steal from them or do anything bad that you could see, but certain women were just hated, certain women were just not women that men could ever permit to exist. And you were like, “I don’t really get this, because I’m eight, but it is starting to make me sad and uncertain of my future, because what if I become one of those women without meaning to, what if I’m not pretty, what if I can’t make men like me, it seems like I would just be doomed, and also: I think that whole deal pisses me off?” And also your Mom made you watch that lady’s show, every week. There was an episode where one of the ladies on the show had a boyfriend, and he hit her, and it scared you and made you really sad, and then all of the women gathered around and talked about why you should leave your boyfriend if he hit you, because sometimes they did that, and it was wrong. Your Mom hugged you and said this was an important conversation they were having, and it was good they were having it on TV, and you should listen. So you said, “I think Roseanne is good,” sort of quietly. “I like Darlene,” is something you added. And one of your uncles said, “well, when you’re older, you’ll know better.”
Surprise: You are older now! And you know better! You have partaken of the joys of a futuristic invention known as “Netflix Instant,” whereupon you have streamed yourself some Roseanne, and (a) you were right to like Darlene. OH SO VERY RIGHT, but (b) holy crap, Roseanne starts talking about sexism within the first five seconds of the pilot. George Clooney shows up, and is vaguely sexist, and then Roseanne SYMBOLICALLY EATS HIS VERY SOUL. (It is a donut.) No WONDER dudes hated this stuff.
And maybe they will hate this NY Mag piece by Roseanne Barr. But dudes — as Roseanne would tell you — can be total wimps sometimes. Because seriously, this is the most hardcore thing you will read this week about making a TV show. For example: How do we deal with an inappropriate “created by” credit, Roseanne?
I confronted Marcy under the bleachers on the sound stage when we were shooting the next episode. I asked her how I could continue working for a woman who had let a man take credit for my work—who wouldn’t even share credit with me—after talking to me about sisterhood and all that bullshit. She started crying and said, “I guess I’m going to have to tell Brandon [Stoddard, then president of ABC Entertainment] that I can’t deliver this show.” I said, “Cry all you want to, but you figure out a way to put my name on the show I created, or kiss my ass good-bye.”
That’s right, Marcy. Cry. CRY YOUR PATRIARCHAL TEARS. Then put Roseanne in fucking charge. What else is going on in the world of TV, Roseanne?
To survive the truly hostile environment on set, I started to pray nonstop to my God, as working-class women often do, and to listen nonstop to Patti Smith’s “People Have the Power.” I read The Art of War and kept the idea “He that cares the most, wins” upmost in my mind. I knew I cared the most, since I had the most to lose. I made a chart of names and hung them on my dressing-room door; it listed every person who worked on the show, and I put a check next to those I intended to fire when Roseanne became No. 1, which I knew it would.
Okay. Can we please savor the mental image of Roseanne dealing with her inner pain by hanging out backstage and listening to Patti Smith? Granted: In my mental image, she is not listening to “People Have The Power,” because, oh, how well-meant and progressive of you, Patti, but also: That song is way too goopy. Roseanne is dealing with her inner pain by listening to “Piss Factory,” in my personal mental image of Roseanne. Or “Pissing In The River,” for no particular reason. Mostly I just want an excuse to listen to “Pissing in the River” again. Roseanne!
All right, Roseanne. Can you please illustrate for us further your hardcoreness?
This producer was a woman, a type I became acquainted with at the beginning of my stand-up career in Denver. I cared little for them: blondes in high heels who were so anxious to reach the professional level of the men they worshipped, fawned over, served, built up, and flattered that they would stab other women in the back. They are the ultimate weapon used by men against actual feminists who try to work in media, and they are never friends to other women, you can trust me on that.
DAMN RIGHT THEY’RE NOT. Fuck those ladies. Fuck those ladies, Roseanne! But also: How do we deal with them, in a professional yet assertive manner?
I walked into this woman’s office, held the scissors up to show her I meant business, and said, “Bitch, do you want me to cut you?” We stood there for a second or two, just so I could make sure she was receptive to my POV.
… oh. Oh, okay. That is a little TOO hardcore, Roseanne!
Still. Roseanne wrote a delightful essay, which illuminates her wonderful and complicated legacy, and you should read it. For no other reason than that it gives context to the following line:
I gave Joss Whedon and Judd Apatow their first writing jobs