‘Roseanne’ faces backlash after comments about ‘Fresh off the Boat’, ‘black-ish’

There was a time where “Roseanne” was a progressive show that realistically portrayed working class Americans, had fat characters that weren’t the target of gross humor and included gay and lesbian characters in a time where the LGBT+ community got very little recognition. This was a “Roseanne” that people identified with, that wasn’t afraid to show parts of American life that weren’t considered traditionally acceptable, and the show flourished because of it.

“Roseanne” is back, but whether or not it has the same spirit as the original series is up for debate. In a recent episode, Roseanne and her husband, Dan, wake up after having fallen asleep on the couch, and Dan comments about having “missed all the shows about black and Asian families,” prompting Roseanne to  respond, “They’re just like us. There, now you’re all caught up.”

The comment in question is in reference to two other shows by ABC: “Black-ish” and “Fresh off the Boat,” which are about black and Asian-American families, respectively. The response to the comment has been overwhelmingly negative, including a beautiful Twitter thread by “Bob’s Burgers” writer Kelvin Yu, and, frankly, the criticism is well deserved.

“Fresh off the Boat” and “Black-ish” are two of the only sitcoms that air on a primetime slot on a major network that try to address the complexities of being a racial minority family in America. While it’s great that this representation is there to begin with, it drowns in an ocean of white-lead American sitcoms that don’t have to address issues of equality in the same way.

Allow me to elaborate.  If, say “Full House,” did an episode addressing racial inequality, it would be of their own volition. As a cast of all white individuals, they aren’t required to grapple with racism, but that isn’t extended to shows with predominantly minority casts. Racism is a part of the everyday lives of people of color in America; that’s just a fact of life, and to ignore it would inadequately portray the experiences of these people.

In that sense, these shows have a tremendous weight on their shoulders. “Fresh off the Boat” can no longer just be a fun show about a family and their western-style steakhouse; it’s also expected to represent the quintessential Asian-American experience in a way that a white sitcom will never be expected to.

We need these shows, mind you. We need shows that can explore how complicated, messy, scary and funny it can be to be a marginalized group in America, but we also need to be willing to recognize that they’re taking on a lot. That’s what makes the “Roseanne” comment so obtuse; it fails to acknowledge that these shows are showing, not how POC are like white Americans, but how different the experience is based off of one’s racial identity.

At one point, “Roseanne” might have understood that. The show was, after all, showing how different life was for people in the working class, even if it was still in America. However, these comments illustrate a willingness on the part of the creators to ignore the humanity in differences. We all experience the world differently, and it’s something we have to acknowledge, not shove in the back of the fridge like Roseanne’s leftover takeout.