No matter your political beliefs, it is hard to deny these are culturally divided times. Some in this country cry “Dictator!” if President Donald Trump even sneezes — and they work to aggressively dehumanize anyone who disagrees with them.
Others see this behavior and give the cold shoulder to those who think in such terms.
Yet our nation was built to celebrate differences, especially those of opinion and thought. We have unprecedented freedom of speech, and the free exchange of ideas was integral to the founding of this country.
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Artists and other creative people are supposed to celebrate the exchange of ideas — and take advantage of free speech. In divided times, they have the power to unite through storytelling. They can shine a light where one needs to be shined. They can show us the complexities of human nature and help us understand and accept one another.
They’ve insulted people who disagree with them, openly exploited their platforms, worked to push agendas, and fallen to vile lows in expressing opinions with little or no research behind them.
One show, though, that should give us all hope is “Roseanne,” which returns to television March 27 on ABC.
The series return stirred up controversy when it was first announced Roseanne Barr’s character would be a Trump supporter.
Despite the backlash from many leftists — who hate any sort of sympathy for Trump voters — the move made sense.
“Roseanne” was one of the most popular television programs in the ’90s. It remained so for nine seasons, with its authentic portrait of the American middle class — and that’s exactly who elected the current president.
“Roseanne” will now tackle politics directly, but free of any agenda. There’s no taking down of one side and propping up the other. The goal is to do what it did before — give a real and textured look at American life. And American life today is filled with cultural conflict.
The show has a diverse cast and writers room in terms of political persuasions, which is in sharp contrast to the digital world, where people can easily build echo chambers of information and never interact with those who have other viewpoints.
“We so often surround ourselves with people we agree with, so going into the writers room was often like, ‘Eeeeek,'” comedian Whitney Cummings, who writes for Reboot, told The Hollywood Reporter recently. “We were challenging each other, and I definitely wanted to go back into my Huffington Post or Vulture cocoon where everyone agrees, but it’s really important to be with people you disagree with when you’re writing …”
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As a Trump supporter herself and someone not known for backing down from a fight, Barr also kept a watchful eye on the content of the show.
“I thought everybody was pretty liberal, so I was keepin’ an eye on it, making sure that it was evenhanded. But the day we went to shoot [the pilot], I got with the writers, and I’m like, ‘You guys have to have a Hillary slam.’ ‘Cause they were all Trump slams,'” she told The Hollywood Reporter.
Spoiler alert: She got her Clinton slam into the pilot.
Another aspect that will make “Roseanne” different from other programs: The writing is focused on the characters and how they relate to each other and react to each other’s differences, rather than the specific content they’re discussing.
“There were people who had points of view that you’d consider conservative, and we had those discussions, and they ended up being what goes on between [the characters] Darlene and Roseanne and Jackie,” said producer Bruce Helford.
Actress and producer Sarah Gilbert said later, “People think this show is more political than it is. It’s more about how a family deals with a disagreement like that.”
“Roseanne” could be the first television program to authentically tackle today’s complex times. With Barr leading the charge, this could be a show that, unlike other divisive programs currently airing, helps to heal and unify a divided culture.