Roseanne Barr has undoubtedly courted controversy with her tweets for several years now, but it all came to a head in May this year, when she compared a black former Barack Obama adviser to an ape in a tweet that sparked outrage.
The classic sitcom Roseanne made its return to the small screen earlier this year, but it wasn't long for this world. Only weeks after it was launched, the show was cancelled and Roseanne Barr was fired from the show.
After the offensive tweet, she blamed the incident on her intake of Ambien that evening, to which Sonofi, the company that manufactures Ambien, replied: "Racism is not a known side effect."
Now, thankfully the cast and crew of the show (excluding Barr) have managed to still retain work, moving onto a spin-off show called The Conners. This new show saw the working class family's lives continue after the death of their matriarch - but it surprised many by explaining Barr's absence by killing the character off.
In the very first episode of the new show, it was revealed that Roseanne had died of an accidental opioid overdose. She had been prescribed the addictive painkillers after a knee injury, though it originally appeared that she had passed away of a heart attack. Barr previously said that she would not participate by giving any opinion of the show, saying in September:
"I'm not going to curse it or bless it. I'm staying neutral. That's what I do. I'm staying neutral. I'm staying away from it. Not wishing bad on anyone and I don't wish good for my enemies. I don't. I can't. I just stay neutral."
However, after the spin-off made its debut on television earlier this week, Barr immediately responded to the episode's decision to kill off her characters. First, she tweeted: "I AIN’T DEAD, BITCHES!!!!" and then she followed up with a more serious post.
In stark contrast to the above tweet, she released a lengthy statement, drafted with her spiritual teacher, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. There, she wrote that the decision to kill her off was "unnecessarily grim" and again criticised the network's decision to remove her from the show, suggesting that her role was necessary in the current political climate.
“While we wish the very best for the cast and production crew of The Conners, all of whom are deeply dedicated to their craft and were Roseanne’s cherished colleagues, we regret that ABC chose to cancel Roseanne by killing off the Roseanne Conner character," they wrote. "That it was done through an opioid overdose lent an unnecessary grim and morbid dimension to an otherwise happy family show."
In her response, she wrote that Roseanne was the only show addressing the "deep divisions threatening the very fabric of our society," and said the show offered important lessons for the country;
“Yet it is often following an inexcusable -- but not unforgivable -- mistake that we can discover the most important lesson of all: Forgiveness. After repeated and heartfelt apologies, the network was unwilling to look past a regrettable mistake, thereby denying the twin American values of both repentance and forgiveness.
"In a hyper-partisan climate, people will sometimes make the mistake of speaking with words that do not truly reflect who they are. However, it is the power of forgiveness that defines our humanity.
“Our society needs to heal on many levels. What better way for healing than a shared moment, once a week, where we could have all enjoyed a compelling storyline featuring a witty character – a woman - who America connected with, not in spite of her flaws, but because of them. The cancellation of Roseanne is an opportunity squandered due in equal parts to fear, hubris, and a refusal to forgive.”
Given that Roseanne had been called out for similar comments in the past, it doesn't seem to have been solely one incident. However, the revival had a significant viewership - many of which are appalled at the decision to remove Barr for her behaviour on social media.
"In the case of The Conners, writing off Roseanne’s character markedly improves the entire show around it," Vanity Fair wrote in their review, while Vox wrote: "Without Barr sucking up all of the oxygen in the show (and its marketing), The Conners is better able to realise much of what the new Roseanne was aiming for.
This latest episode has received generally positive reviews from other publications so far. Whether this translates into the same high viewership Roseanne achieved remains to be seen.